Essex Regiment & Essex Militia History

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Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD) at the start of the great War

The VAD was formed in 1909 by representatives of the Red Cross and St John Ambulance.

It spread quickly throughout Britain so that at the start of the Great War in 1914 there were over 2,500 groups which enabled then to help with the war effort.

With the declaration of war the government placed control of VAD to the local military authority in their area which in Essex Was the Essex Territorial Association.

VAD in Essex at the start of the Great War

By 1914 there were 73 VAD's in Essex with over  2,00 members of whom 3/4 were female.

Only 3 of the VAD's were from St John Ambulance.

The President was the Countess of Warwick, County Director was Col R B Colvin CB and Secretary Col G H Coleman VD who operated from a HQ at 74 Duke Street, Chelmsford.

Organisation mirrored the Essex Police Divisions with a Vice President and an assistant managing director controlling operations in the area.

Once the war started there were fears that large numbers of casualties would arrive in the Uk so many buildings were taken over for use as a hospital or convalescent home for the troops to be staffed by VAD nurses.

By the second week of the war the following houses had been earmarked and plans made for their usage.

Easton Lodge at Dunmow, Terling House, Hylands House, Thorpe Hall, Birch Hall, Sewardstone Lodge, Huskards at Ingatestone , Westwood House Great Horksley, Osea Island Hall, Severalls Asylum at Colchester, Palmers College at Grays, Middlesex Hospital at Clacton, Dunmow Workhouse, Halstead Workhouse, Rees & Suffolk Fire Office at  Colchester, Cooper,Taber & Co building at Witham, Riggs Retreat at Theydon, West Ham Hospital, Gt Bardfield Council School, Isolation Hospital at Grays, Westwood Gt Horksley, St Saviours Popular Retreat at Southend, Gt Bentley Council School and Copford Church and Schoolrooms.

The following had actually been fitted out for use

The GER Hotel at Harwich as a base for the no 33 VAD ( Men) under Mr Etherden and no 84 VAD under Mrs Brooks providing 120 beds. The former manager was appointed as Hospital Quartermaster.

The Wivenhoe VAD under Miss Dewhurst have a 12 bed rest station.

Brentwood Grammar School has a 20 bed units run by Brentwood VAD run by Mrs Ravenhill.

A depot was opened at Chelmsford allowing the public to donate clothes and stores for use in the VAD hospitals.

The first case to be dealth with the the VAD was on 14 August 1914  when the GER Hotel at Harwich dealt with a Private from the Essex Regiment who had fallen from a haystack.

That was quickly followed by two privates who were hurst when a horse rolled on top of them causing one a broken arm and the other crush injuries.