This week’s postcard is a rather splendid image of the patients and staff of a VAD Hospital called Colliton House in Dorchester, Dorset:
Colliton House had been built in the 1600s and in 1914 was opened as a hospital. The house was used as an administration block, but the patients were housed in tents in the grounds. It originally housed 40 patients, but this was expanded to 100 over the war. The hospital had an X-Ray and a “Mechano-theraputic apparatus”.
The majority of those in the postcard are patients, but the hospital staff can be seen across the centre of the image:
My thanks go to my colleague at work, Professor Christine Hallett, who helped me identify the different grades of nursing staff in the image:
Most of the ‘nurses’ are VADs (this was typical of auxiliary hospitals). VADs’ uniforms did have varying colours because they had them made/tailored in different places, and although there was a ‘regulation blue’ a lot of variation in shade was permitted.
Not all VADs stitched a red cross to the front of their aprons. This was not required by regulation, but most liked to do it (BTW: some VADs had recruited through the Order of St John rather than the British Red Cross, and so wore a Maltese Cross, though this was rarer).
However, I think the older woman on the right of the Medical Officer/Commanding Officer could well be the ‘lady of the house’ and therefore permitting herself to wear a darker shade of blue. She might have been known as the ‘Commandant’ of the hospital. There was a lot of flexibility in some such hospitals.
The woman on the left of the Medical Officer looks like a fully trained nurse: either Territorial Force Nursing Service or Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve. The best way to distinguish trained military nurses from others is that the former were the only ones permitted to wear a veil.