A photograph of Veronica Nisbet
Books

VAD Nurse, Veronica Nisbet’s Scrapbook

Scrapbook
1916 - 1919
SJA383
245mm x 305mm x 40mm (closed)

Nisbet VAD: Some uncensored experiences during the Great War 1916 – 1919

Veronica Nisbet was a St John Voluntary Aid Detachment Nurse during the First World War. Voluntary Aid Detachments were first established by the War Office in 1909 to fill gaps in the territorial medical services: in the event of war, these detachments would be able to staff the auxiliary hospitals and rest stations on the home front. Members of these detachments became known as VADs, and tended to be middle and upper class women, in a position to give their services, at least initially, for free.

As an artist, Veronica documented her wartime experiences through a series of sketches and cartoons which, combined with photographs and newspaper clippings, form the basis of her scrapbook. One of over 45,000 St John men and women who, by 1918, had answered the War Office’s call for Voluntary Aid, Veronica captures, from a very personal, and often humorous, perspective, the hospital’s endeavours to heal and care for the sick and wounded soldiers, thus working for the Order’s principle of ‘in the service of humanity’.

As a VAD Nurse, Veronica was taught the basics of first aid, home nursing and hygiene by an approved medical practitioner and many of her cartoons make light of her struggles to put her training into practice! Shortly after completing the statutory three months’ ‘hard work’, which she did at the Command Depot Hospital, Alnwick, a military convalescent hospital in the grounds of Alnwick Castle, Veronica enlisted to serve abroad.

Veronica arrived at the St John Ambulance Brigade Hospital in Étaples, northern France, on 28th March 1917. Containing over 750 beds, it was the largest voluntary hospital serving the British Expeditionary Force, receiving over 35,000 patients throughout the war. Her life at the hospital is well-documented within the scrapbook, with photographs showing her accommodation (a wooden hut), her fellow staff (all members of the St John Ambulance Brigade), and the many pantomimes and performances she took part in to entertain her fellow staff and patients.

As part of a project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Veronica’s scrapbook can be seen in full by clicking here. Additionally, her scrapbook has been re-imagined by twelve St John Ambulance cadets, who have produced a learning resource telling her story.

 

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