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President, Kent County War Fund.








{Hon. Col. Kent Royal Garrison Artillery)

All Profits on Sale given to the Kent County War Fund




No nation in the world has the capacity to impro-
vise and the will to compromise so thoroughly as
Great Britain, and these characteristics have never
been shown more fully than during the past ten
months ; that is, since the Great War began.
There is in the British nature a curious instinct of
freedom which, in its highest expression, has made
Great Britain the mother of freedom in govern-
ment in the world, and in its lower form makes
anything like iron discipline imposed by any force
outside the individual himself more than difficult
to apply. The instinct of every British man is to
think for himself, act according to his conscience,
fear God and honour the King ; but he does not
easily lend himself to what has been called " mili-
tarism " in civil life. No doubt he carries that to
an extreme, and organization on an extensive
scale is, therefore, difficult in ordinary times. Yet
his habit of thinking for himself, and of assuming a


personal responsibility, enables him to recover lost
balances in crises like that produced in August,
1914. Given the crisis and the need, action is not
long delayed, and the Englishman can produce
marvels of improvised organization in a quicker
time, with more skill, and with a greater basis of
solidity than any man anywhere in the world. That
he has the defects of his qualities is unhappily
apparent, because he fails to appreciate organiza-
tion for long purposes and for far-reaching ends ;
but when once he gets going, as it were, when once
he begins to organize for his accepted purposes, he
keeps on and on with endless persistence.

It was well known that the Red Cross Society
and the Order of St. John of Jerusalem had an
efficient and well-tested organization, that they
were filled with enthusiastic, capable and skilful
workers ; but they were not organized for a war like
the present. However, the same earnest, far-seeing
souls who realized that a great European war might
come, did something to prepare for the crisis and
arrange a nucleus of purposed effort by establishing
Voluntary Aid Detachments in connection with
the Territorial Force.

I do not think that enough credit has been given


to those who originated this idea, or to the enthusi-
astic people in Kent and elsewhere who worked,
long before there was war, in preparation of hospital
work by trained amateurs, with all the multifarious,
difficult and intricate duties attached to Field
Hospital and Rest Hospital work in war-time.
At the beginning there was the usual half-con-
temptuous chaff, and even sneers, at hospital
amateurs, as there had been at Volunteers and
Territorials, by those who believed that only the
long-term discipline of regular service could pro-
duce effective and skilful organization, units and
individuals. These people forgot, as they always
do, that amateur assistance is drawn from the most
intelligent and the best classes of the community,
with a sense of responsibility, and with voluntary
desire to accomplish a purpose behind ; which
makes up to a considerable degree for a lack
of those prodigiously valuable qualities of the
professional in the army and in hospital work.
There was criticism ; there was jealousy ; there was
even belief that the Voluntary Aid Detachments,
when they were formed, were only playing at
hospital work ; and when war broke out even
responsible people said that they would not be


employed for nursing at all, or, if employed,
their hospitals would only be Convalescent Homes.
All that disappeared like mist before the sun.
Just as the great political parties in the State
composed their differences and compromised with
their prejudices in order to produce an active
national administration, so the British Red Cross
Society and the Order of St. John of Jerusalem
amalgamated for war purposes, and the professional
hospital began to act in sympathy with and to
give encouragement to the V.A.D. hospital.

I can speak for what happened in Gravesend
where we have two V.A.D. Hospitals, where
representatives of the general hospital sit upon
the Executive of the V.A.D., and assist, advise
and co-operate in every possible way.

No better evidence of the capacity for initiative
and for improvised organization may be found than
in the work done by the Voluntary Aid Detach-
ments in Kent County, under the Presidency and
control of the Earl of Darnley. When he assumed
the responsibility the War Office were not
absolutely clear as to the extent to which the
Voluntary Aid Detachments could be entrusted
to do responsible hospital work, and the detach-


ments themselves were only groups of partially-
trained amateurs in nursing and war-work, though
the commandants had shown skill and enthusiasm in
organizing and training their detachments. There
was even discouragement " from above " as to
making ready hospitals for receiving and caring
for patients. This did not deter the detachments
from making due preparation of hospitals in the
certain anticipation that the War Office would use
them at a very early date. Many detachments
believed that their skilled services would be
called upon very soon, when it was remembered
that the hospital organization of the army was only
devised for, at the most, 300,000 men. While
wiseacres deprecated the preparation of hospitals,
and while the Voluntary Aid Detachments were
advised in responsible quarters to abstain from
opening hospitals, yet in places like Gravesend,
common sense and ordinary prevision decided upon
a policy of making hospitals ready. This was done ;
and not a moment too soon, for, on October 13th,
a command came from headquarters to mobilize
all hospitals in Kent. But the Voluntary Aid
Detachments were not taken unawares and re-
sponded efficiently to the call. The account given


in this book, admirably written, and arranged
interestingly, reads like a charming piece of fiction,
though it is but a tender tract of truth, full of
enthusiasm, vitality and graphic description. It
is no fancy picture, but represents British initiative
and improvisation, British energy and character
at its best. And as to the work done, the fact
that the War Office has, since October, continually
sent patients to the V.A.D. hospitals in Kent,
sometimes even crowding them, is good evidence
of their national usefulness and of good things
accomplished. Lord Darnley and his organization
may well plume themselves upon the commendation
given by such hospital experts as Colonel D'Arcy
Power, whose letter to Dr. Yolland on April 27th
(quoted in chapter vm) is a certificate of which the
Kent V.A.D.'s may well be proud. Sir Frederick
Eve, Advisory Surgeon to the War Office, has
also given his warm commendation; but the
warmest commendation comes from the patients
themselves, who have continually praised the skill
of the hospital staffs, and enjoyed comforts which
have been most generously supplied.

This book is no dry account of work done by a
gallant and efficient organization, it is almost a


thrilling story of human effort, suddenly com-
mandeered to perform both military and civil
services ; an effort put forth with a capacity and
whole-heartedness which makes the nation and the
empire its debtor. I commend this book for its
own sake to the generosity of the public, and I
commend it for the cause to which the profits from
the publication will go.




Foreword ...... 15


How the Belgians Came to Kent . 17

A Glance Backward .... 23

Paying the Piper ..... 29

The Call ...... 33


One of Many Vigils . . . .40

Stories ....... 48



A Garden Hospital




The Theatre .....





Organisation .....



Stores ....... 78


Comparisons not Always Odious . . 82


Work of the Detachments ... 91

Headquarters ...... 207


To the County Director of the Kent Voluntary Aid



I am commanded by the Army Council to
request that you will convey their cordial thanks
to the Voluntary Aid Detachments in your com-
mand, more especially to those of the Dover and
Folkestone Districts, for the able assistance
rendered to the Representative of the War Office
during the disembarkation and disposal of the sick
and wounded Belgian soldiers, arriving during the
period 12th to 16th October.

I am to state that the Council much appreciate

the assistance rendered by all concerned, which

materially expedited the handling of the large

numbers of sick and wounded to be disposed of,

and mitigated the discomforts which the Belgian

soldiers were bound to suffer under the conditions

then existing.

I am, Sir,

Your obedient Servant,

(Signed) B. B. Cubitt.

November, l'jlh.

The Rt. Honourable THE EARL OF DARNLEY
County Director, Kent Voluntary Aid Detachments.



" Three more here, please. Qu'est-ce que vous
desirez ? Avec votre ami ? Mais oui, certaine-
ment. Can we squeeze in another ? Carefully
now. . . . Par ici, m'sieur — South Hill Wood
Hospital ; come back here again.

" Cot case ? The Chief of Staff says Memorial
Hospital ? Bring the stretcher along to the
ambulance car, keep the blankets over his feet.
. . . Help them, you other bearers, will you ?
That's the idea. . . .

" Four more for the Masonic Hall ; keep friends
together as much as you can. Two here for the
Dewey Ward, Cottage Hospital, and two here for
St. Mary's "

Scene, Bromley South Station, midday on

Wednesday, October 14th, 1914 — at the end of

the up platform. Scores of motor-cars waiting

along the " goods " roadway ; a grey oppressive

b 17


sky overhead, but the rain holding off whilst
the first trainload of wounded and dishevelled
Belgian soldiers was being detrained with hasty
tenderness by members of the Men's Voluntary
Aid Detachment. The nurses of the Women's
Detachments had already refreshed the valiant
travellers with draughts of hot coffee and Bovril,
the ministrations and sympathy of these quick-
witted smiling angels upon earth being just what
the poor warriors needed so sorely. A memory
must have come to them then, fraught with bitter

All about us was a polyglot tongue : French,
Flemish — the English which we always conceive
to be the only language a foreigner can under-
stand. But, somehow, folk made their meanings
plain, the will to be of service was so irresistible.

Twelve hours earlier Bromley had been its half-
sleepy self, a typical country town, rather con-
scious of its dignity, always eminently respectable,
and consequently more than disturbed by those
persistent rumours of all that Germany was doing
to her very small neighbour. Ugly dreams, sleep-
banishing dreams, although, like all our country-
men and women, we wanted to think them dreams
— that, at the most, exaggeration was responsible
for the greater part of these tales of horror and
f rightfulness. Now, within the span of a night,


the whole town had been shocked into that action
which shows us at our best. No Hymns of Hate.

The Kent Voluntary Aid Detachments had been
steadily preparing for this hour. They had been
mobilised late on the night of Tuesday, Octo-
ber 13th, and had at first scarcely credited the
urgency of the summons. " A false alarm, just to
see if we can live up to all we have professed. Just
to keep us alert."

For years past the Detachments had been
making ready; the members of the British Red
Cross Society, St. John, and the Territorial Force,
all vying with each other, and generally being
smiled upon — tolerantly, by some people. These
detachments were formed to be the link betwixt the
Base Hospital and the Field for the Territorial
Force Association in case of invasion. ... Of
course, we may never be wanted, most of us
thought within our hearts, echoing the opinion
voiced by those outside the movement. Invasion
— isn't it almost inconceivable ? Still, we may as
well go on, in case impossibilities happen. Any-
way, we shall be ready if the call comes. At the
signal, we can fall in.

All throughout England many Red Cross workers
had acted in this fashion, gradually taking them-
selves more and more seriously, fortunately for the
country. Attending lectures, drills, camps — Red


Cross manuals in our pockets, marching about
country lanes with stretchers, sometimes carrying
lazy pseudo-patients. Perhaps a trifle hard on long-
suffering relations with our zealous bandage
practising ! Since the declaration of war on
August 4th, 1914, all of us more energetic than
ever, those who could having joined the Army —
not always the R.A.M.C. Others, not able to pass
the very rigorous tests imposed in the earlier days
of national recruiting, now serving to the best of
their ability. Getting ready, in case. The whole
history of our Voluntary Aid Detachments serves
to demonstrate once again that everything in this
life depends in the main upon intelligent anticipa-

On this mid-October grey day thousands of
trained men and women — trained to discipline,
to self-control, to knowledge (at least) of the
elements of hygiene and home nursing — were
" making good " all over England. In Kent,
which had been mobilised as a whole county,
nearly one hundred Detachments, each with its
commandant, medical officer, quartermaster (and
lady superintendent for the women), pharmacist
and other personnel of all ranks, about forty to
fifty, were active in a labour of love for which they
had taken pains to prepare. The scene at Bromley
South Station was being repeated at every con-


siderable railway centre throughout the country.
Within fourteen hours of the call, over two thou-
sand soldiers, Belgians and British, were com-
fortably in their beds, safe under English roofs,
being cared for in surroundings as pleasant and
fragrant as only the true English woman can
devise. Weary, heart-sick soldiers — many of them
so utterly exhausted as to be beyond caring what
happened to them, either for good or ill. Deep
slumber presently bringing merciful oblivion to
their unheard-of wrongs and anguish of mind.

Wonderful hospitals these of Kent — and merely
examples of what is being done by the Red
Cross everywhere. Yesterday they had been,
possibly, not too beautiful village halls, public
buildings, empty black-windowed houses, forlorn
in the centre of wintry gardens. Church rooms
and village clubs. To-day bright somehow sunlit
palaces, cheery all through, properly equipped —
looking as though they had been Nature's Rest
Houses all their days. About them moved blue-
garbed, white-aproned, sweet-faced women, quietly
doing the work appointed to them by the doctor
and trained nurses, the red-drill-clad commandant
overseeing all, directing here, helping there —
resourceful, able, never at a loss.

The whole atmosphere charged with healing and
love. . . . One might well say (as in The Way of


the Red Cross — the eloquent story of a great
movement told by E. C. Vivian and J. E. Hodder
Williams) that not even the Genie of Aladdin's
lamp could have brought about greater trans-



The British Red Cross Society is successor to
Lord Wantage's " British National Society for
Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War," and the
" Central British Red Cross Council." These were
merged into one on July 17th, 1905, at Bucking-
ham Palace, at the instigation of his late majesty
King Edward VII, when the B.R.C.S. was founded
and placed under the Presidency of her most
gracious majesty Queen Alexandra. The Society
was granted a Royal Charter of Incorporation, by
Letters Patent, on September 3rd, 1908.

Lord Wantage's Society dated back to 1870,
the " Central British Red Cross Council " came
into existence in 1898. The earliest B.R.C.S.
voluntary aid detachments are dated April, 1910.

Of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem it is only
needful to state the fact that a " Hospice for the
Entertainment of Wayfarers and the Reception of
the Sick " was built at Ilcxton in Yorkshire in the
time of King Athelstan, and was still in being in
1099. The sponsor of the Order was John Elcemon,
a Greek Patriarch of great charity, of Amalfi,



who founded a hospital at Jerusalem before the
Crusades. This " Place of Entertainment for the
Sick " had two thousand beds, and was founded
in 1050. It was possibly the first true hospital
ever known. The present St. John V.A.D.'s were
founded in 1910.

The Territorial Force Association had a few
detachments in Kent in 1914, these being practi-
cally drawn either from the ranks of the British
Red Cross Society or the St. John Association.

All these detachments, as will be readily
imagined, are much the same in their methods,
aim and organisation. The main differences are
practically those of uniforms and rank badges.
All stipulate that a member must obtain a First-
Aid Certificate from the ruling body of its Asso-
ciation ere being regarded as other than a pro-
bationer, and all examinations are held after study
from (virtually) the same book — Dr. James Cantlie's
universally known First Aid to the Injured. Mem-
bers of women's detachments are required to
qualify still further after a course of Dr. Cantlie's
" Home Nursing " lectures.

Those in control of the B.R.C.S. and St. John
detachments in Kent came into consultation,
immediately upon war being declared, with the
County Territorial Force Association at Maidstone,
in order to discover whether the detachments

















could not be made even more useful on emergency.
The Admiralty and War Office had long since
agreed that all offers of voluntary assistance should
reach them only through these Societies. The
three administrative bodies in Kent, after a
meeting at Maidstone in the very early days of
August, 1914, decided to join forces for the term
of the war, and the Kent Voluntary Aid Detach-
ments, as we know them, were forthwith united
under a single control. A series of meetings followed,
culminating in an overflow assembly at Bromley
Common on August 12th, at St. Luke's Church,
under the presidency of Lady Northcote.

It seemed better that there should be one
County Director rather than two, and eventually
it was agreed that Dr. Cotton, Deputy Com-
missioner of the St. John Ambulance Brigade
and County Director of the Territorial Force
Association, should be nominated as the Kent
Voluntary Aid Detachments' County Director,
while Dr. Yolland, who had practically created
the B.R.C.S. in the No. 1 division of the county,
should be known as the Chief of Staff. The whole
of the detachments were to be mobilised, when the
signal should come, by the Territorial Force Asso-
ciation, under the presidency of the Marquis Camden.

Gifts and all manner of promises of support
began to pour in at headquarters when these were


opened at No. 53 Bromley Common. It was
apparent that supreme efforts would be needed in
order to deal with the new and vigorous growth
of the Red Cross movement, and, in this connection,
not enough can be said or written in praise of the
organisation swiftly but surely built up under the
whole-hearted guidance of the Chief of Staff.
With his band of devoted workers he mapped
out a complete plan of campaign, every detail
being provided for and all contingencies fore-
seen. Dr. Cotton, who was most unfortunately
taken ill soon after the scheme was well under
way, still rendered much help by virtue of
his great experience and knowledge, when, had
he followed his physician's advice, he should
have been taking complete rest. As a result, to
the great regret of everyone, Dr. Cotton's health
broke down, and, towards the close of August, he
tendered his resignation, after having had the satis-
faction of seeing the Kent V.A.D.'s established as
a thoroughly sound business proposition.

At the suggestion of the Territorial Force Associa-
tion the Right Honourable the Earl of Darnley, him-
self far from being in robust health, came forward
patriotically to fill the gap. He took up the onerous
duties on September 3rd with enthusiasm, labour-
ing for the cause with tact and ability. Working
closely with Dr. Yolland, who visited Lord Darnley


almost daily at Cobham, progress was continued
without a break — and, as there was no time to
register the eager-to-work new detachments, these
were, by a happy inspiration, allowed to carry on
as individual " contingents " to existing detach-
ments. Looking back, one can scarcely understand
how all the vast quantity of work was got through
in those days of the creation of the V.A.D. organi-

Lectures had to be arranged, both for First Aid
and Home Nursing. Medical officers all over the
country came forward self-sacrificingly to give
these, or take the consequent examinations. In
the meantime everybody drilled, and prepared,
and read-up, and practised.

The men's detachments, now drawn practically
from those either too old for military service or
already rejected (for some slight defect), found
themselves able and thankful to be of service in
the hour of need. New members filled the spaces
left by those of military age who had gone to the
Front. In this respect the St. John Association
lost heavily, the members showing themselves
most patriotic and determined, while the Red
Cross Society took upon itself to see that there
should be no consequent loss to the movement.

To each member of the women's detachments was
given a list of articles likely to be wanted should


a hospital be opened in the district ; a most com-
prehensive list, drawn up by the hand of a genius.
Articles of the humblest description were canvassed
for by the ladies of Kent as well as those implying
a more serious obligation. It was part of the
scheme, and the finest part of it, that everybody
should be able to help, from the highest to the
lowest. Every promise received was registered,
then all were classified — the addresses of all friends
were territorially arranged so that the collection
could be made with ease and dispatch. ' Get
ready — get ready " was the constant command—
and soon there was a splendid array of promises
of beds, blankets, mattresses — kettles, saucepans —
every conceivable article that the hospitals were
likely to need. Suitable buildings throughout the
length and breadth of the county were urgently
sought for, and, when discovered, were inspected
and approved. Necessary structural alterations
had to be put in hand, adaptations and improve-
ments and extensions of existent village halls and
other buildings. Luckily there were a few weeks
available in which to perfect all plans, before the
coming of that ever-memorable day for Red Cross
folk of Kent— Tuesday, October 13th, 1914.



It is neither our desire nor our intention to weary
our readers by placing before them statistics, but
it would be impossible to take a complete survey
of Kent's care for the wounded without making
some brief reference to the manner in which
arrangements were made and carried out for placing
the hospitals on a satisfactory financial basis.

When the Kent branches of the three Voluntary
Aid associations amalgamated for the period of
the war, it was generally recognised that the
conversion of public and other buildings into
temporary home hospitals and the cost of their
maintenance would entail an expenditure over
and above the sum realised from the daily allow-

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