What do an Indian princess, a schoolgirl and novelist EM Forster all have in common? They were all members of the British Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) during the First World War.

The VADs are best known for their nursing services on the front line, as documented by famous members such as Vera Brittain. But these doughty women were just the tips of the iceberg.

At the British Red Cross HQ in London are 240,000 fragile filing cards, which contain the details of VAD members who served their country in all manner of ways. Almost inaccessible in their original form, the stories of these volunteers lay buried until now.

In this talk Dr Sue Hawkins will introduce you to a project which gives everyone access to the cards online. She will also reveal some of the initial revelations about the people who knitted, sewed, cooked, drove and raised funds as part of the British war effort.

Sue Hawkins is a Senior Lecturer in history at Kingston University. Her current research focuses on the role of women in society. She has also led a number of digitisation projects, to open up public access to interesting archives.

This event is part of the National Army Museum’s regular Daytime Talks series.


Standard tickets:

Entry to Daytime Talks is free. However, places must be reserved in advance by contacting our customer services team on 020 7730 0717. Bookings will close three days ahead of each lecture.

Events are subject to change. Please check the website closer to the date.

Venue details


Royal Marsden Education and Conference Centre
Stewart’s Grove

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The Princess, the School Girl and the Novelist: Stories from the VAD Archive - Royal Marsden, London