British Red Cross to digitise First World War volunteer records for centenary

14 January 2014 | Kate Clements

To mark the upcoming First World War centenary, the records of all those who volunteered with the British Red Cross during the war will be digitised.

The records contain the names of the almost quarter of a million people who volunteered.

Thanks to an £80,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the information will be made available to the public for the first time.

Work will soon begin to digitise thousands of index cards stored at the London headquarters of the Red Cross.

The first batch of index cards will be online in a free and publicly available online archive in time for the start of the centenary in August 2014.  New material will be uploaded on a monthly basis.

To complete the work, 100 volunteers will be recruited to digitise the thousands of index cards, which record the names of the volunteers and the work they did.

They joined Voluntary Aid Detachments and were known as VADs. They carried out a range of roles, including nurses and ambulance drivers.

Phil Talbot, director of communications for the British Red Cross, said:

“All these volunteers – whether they worked in auxiliary hospitals, convalescent homes or drove ambulances – played a vital role during the Great War.”

“The index cards are a unique source of historical information. As we approach the centenary, we believe this is a fitting way to pay tribute to those who gave their time in non-military service.”

Among the nearly 250,000 such volunteers are some well-known names, including famous author Agatha Christie.

She worked for the Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment in Torquay during the war. A sound recording of her memories of her wartime work can be listened to via the IWM website.

Find out more about the project on the British Red Cross website.