A nurse in the family

Professional organisations may hold the key

I have been told that my grandmother was a nurse in Liverpool in 1917/18. How can I find out if this information is correct please? Pat Tarrant Ashford Kent

Although the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) was established in 1916, there was no central registration of civilian nurses until 1919 when the Nurses Act was passed and the General Nursing Council (GNC) became responsible for setting up a register of nurses and approved training schools.

It is possible that your grandmother was nursing as a member of a Voluntary Aid Detachment and these nurses were generally known as VADs. The scheme was introduced in 1909, and within the first year more than 6,000 women were trained in first aid and nursing by the British Red Cross Society. During World War I, the VADs worked in civilian and military hospitals as well as in convalescent homes throughout the country. Some records of service of VADs are held by the British Red Cross Society and an application can be made in writing to its Museum and Archive at 9 Grosvenor Crescent, London, SW1X 7EJ. (Please remember to include a stamped addressed envelope.)

Further information can be found in the National Archives leaflet Domestic records information no 79:


Training and structure is recorded, but wartime service means more possible avenues for Pat to research

Civilian Nurses and Nursing Services, which can be downloaded from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk. DH

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