Harston's Voluntary Aid Detachment

Agnes Badcock, volunteered at the Shepreth VAD 5703 hours unpaid!!
(M Mellor)
Shepreth VAD hospital
(Shepreth Preservation Society)
Signe Laven

Following the end of the Boer War, there were concerns that, in the event of another war, the medical services wouldn’t be able to cope, so in 1909 the War Office produced a ‘Scheme for the Organisation of Voluntary Aid in England and Wales.’ This estabished male and female Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs).

The detachments were intended to staff auxiliary hospitals and rest stations for which they received no payment
They had to bandage, to do simple dressings, and  to cover basic invalid cookery and hygiene and, in some cases stretcher duties and the transport of sick and wounded.

Before the war began, preparations were under way in Cambridge and the villages and a field day was held at Harston on 25 July 1914 and a the Cambridge Independent Press reported on 14 August that it was likely there would be a joint hospital for the Shepreth, Shelford, Harston and Trumpington detachments. In fact, there were hospitals at both Shelford and Shepreth.

The following from information on www.vad.redcross.org.uk/Volunteers-during-WW1  are the volunteeres from Harston:

Miss Alice Maud Ashby

Miss Annie Ashby

Miss Gladys Ashby

Miss Helen Ashby

Miss A Ashley

Miss Agnes. A. Badcock

Miss Bareham

Miss Barkway

Miss Dorothy Bliss

Mrs Beatrice Chapman

Miss Lillian Clark

Mrs Margaret Collins

Mrs Mary Ann Dilley

Mrs. Lizzie Dowe

Miss Winifred Elsden

Mrs. Augusta Freeman


Mrs Grace Gee

Mrs Mabel L Gee

Miss Helen Greene

Miss Annie Hall

Mrs Alice Hayden

Miss Agneta Holben

Miss E. Hunt

Miss Kathleen Hurrell

Mrs Elizabeth Lawrance

Mr Frank Lawrance

Mrs Louise Lawrance

Mr Victor Lawrance

Miss Signe Elfrida Laven

Mrs Jane Legge

Miss Fanny Levitt

Mrs Harriett Mansfield


Mrs. Emily Merriott

Mrs Catherine Newling

Mrs Rose Newling

Miss Sarah Elizabeth Norden

Mrs Alice Maud Payne

Mrs. Hannah Points

Mrs Jane Ransom

Mrs Maud Rowley

Miss Cicely Smith

Miss Ethel Mary Smith

Miss Winifred Smith

Mrs Jannette Ward

Mrs. Charlotte Wedd

Miss Ada White

Mrs Matilda Willers

Mrs Elizabeth Wisbey

The Harston Detachment was Cambs No24 VAD and its Commandant was Miss Ethel Mary Smith, daughter of Thomas Smith of Harston mill. The majority of Harstonites worked at Shepreth and Shelford with a few going to Cambridge and Royston. The Shepreth VAD hospital was in the village hall and the Shelford one at Mountblow, now Middlefield, off Hinton Way before moving to The Chestnuts, now Browning House, Tunwells Lane.

One person on this list, Signe Laven, probably visited more VAD hospitals around Cambridge than anyone else. An expert in massage, physiotherapy and other new medical treatments, she arrived from Sweden in 1909 for 2 months to treat Mary Greene of Harston House and remained in the village for the rest of her life.

She trained a War Emergency Massage Corps and supervised treatments of massage, galvanism, Faradism, radiant heat, hot, ionisation and exercise at all hospitals. Local press described her as ‘untiring in her efforts on behalf of the wounded ever since the outbreak of war.’

This page was added on 13/11/2018.

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