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To Serve at Home and Abroad

Take a close look at this postcard from the Imperial War Museum in London. The image is a reproduction of a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) recruitment poster from 1914 shortly after World War I began. The British Red Cross organized VAD units to train volunteers who could aid the country’s war efforts. Click to enlarge the postcard and look more closely at the images and text, as you consider the following questions:

  • What images appear on the postcard? How do they appear? What do they symbolize?
  • What are the key messages written on the postcard?
  • Who is the intended audience? How do the images and messages appeal to the intended audience?
  • Where may the VAD volunteers work? What types of work are available? Are these similar to or different from the opportunities for women in the United Kingdom during the early 1900s?
  • How have those opportunities changed for careers in nursing today?

Postcard reproduction of a 1914 Voluntary Aid Detachment recruitment poster, England

Produced by Imperial War Museum, United Kingdom
Courtesy National Library of Medicine

The United Kingdom created a career structure for army nurses in 1901. Women found serving in the military rewarding but it was the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD), with its promise of adventure and foreign travel that encouraged civilians to enlist.

Learn more about what a VAD was and what its volunteers did online at “War-time volunteers and personnel records” on the British Red Cross site.

Explore Nurses: On the Go Interactive to view how nurses traveled to work and serve others near and far from their homes.