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Updated: Jun 26, 2022

Voluntary Aid Detachments in Falkirk District

Voluntary Aid Detachments (known as VADs) were set up by the British Red Cross across Britain following an appeal from the government in 1909 in anticipation of future warfare at home. By 1911 there were six women's and one mans VAD detachment in Falkirk District. The main purpose of the VADs was to provide volunteers who would be available for the formation of clearing hospitals and ambulance trains in the event of invasion. Upon the outbreak of war in August 1914 the Red Cross Society called on those established VADs to provide hospitals and convalescent homes throughout Scotland. Each VAD also had to be registered with the War Office.

Women were trained in first aid, home nursing, hygiene and in cookery. The men were trained in first aid in the field and stretcher bearing. All had to pass examination to receive their certificates. Specialist training on how to be a masseuse or in the use of x-ray equipment was also available.

The registered VAD's, as mentioned above each VAD had to register with the War Office, were given a number for female detachments this was an even number and for male detachments this was an odd number. Each VAD detachment also belonged to a County of City and were known by their County or City name which was followed by their registration number and they also had a local name added and would be known within their County or City by that local name i.e. Stirlingshire VAD 24 (Larbert 1).

This is a list of all the VAD Detachments in Falkirk District that had been recognised by 1917: (Source: 9th Annual Report of the Scottish Branch of the British Red Cross)

Linlithgowshire VAD 6 - Bo'ness

Stirlingshire VAD 9 - Grangemouth

Stirlingshire VAD 10 - Falkirk 1

Stirlingshire VAD 11 - Denny and Bonnybridge

Stirlingshire VAD 12 - Falkirk 2

Stirlingshire VAD 14 - Falkirk 3

Stirlingshire VAD 16 - Falkirk 4

Stirlingshire VAD 24 - Larbert 1

Stirlingshire VAD 26 - Larbert 2

Stirlingshire VAD 32 - Denny

Stirlingshire VAD 34 - Bonnybridge 1

Stirlingshire VAD 36 - Bonnybridge 2

Stirlingshire VAD 28 - Grangemouth

By 1916 the Government was appealing for VAD's to work in Military Hospitals and the VAD was offered £20 per year plus £4 uniform allowance. Several of those from Falkirk District served with distinction a Grangemouth VAD Miss Alice Wilkinson, who was serving as a probationer at Bellahouston Red cross War Hospital, had her name brought to the attention of the Secretary of State for War as was Miss J Proudfoot. She had been a member of Stirlingshire VAD 14 and had worked at Wallside Auxiliary Hospital and in 1915 volunteered for full-time nursing and was transferred to Cambuslang War Hospital.

It was not possible for all VAD's to take an active part in all the hospitals in the District but the women and men of the detachments, who could not, provided valuable assistance in forming working parties to provide hospital comforts and garments for hospital use. Indeed, Stirlingshire VAD 26 (Larbert 2) became a recognised group under the County Association in January 1916 and was also a registered charity under the War charities Act of November 1916.

Larbert Station Rest Room

The work at the Larbert Station Rest Room, which was set up to provide a room for sick and wounded service personnel, was begun in April 1915 and in December 1915 the Rest Room was registered under the War Charities Act. The work of the Rest Room was carried out by VAD's 24 and 26. Not many sick or wounded personnel used the Rest room it was mainly use for supplying refreshments to those men in the trains from London to the north or to those who had arrived too late to catch their railway connection. The Caledonian Railway Company provided the room for free and a ticket for a VAD member to travel from Stirling to collect and bring back the cups. From April 1915 to June 1918 129,309 service personnel received refreshments at Larbert Station Rest Room.

Hospitals In Falkirk District

Auxiliary hospitals were established in Falkirk District. Falkirk Infirmary, Wallside, Arnothill, Carriden House, Denny Cottage Hospital and Strawberry Cottage. These were largely staffed by members of the local VAD’s, who also ran the Larbert War Hospital Supply Depot, and the Larbert Station Rest Centre.

Negotiations were begun with the school boards to provide temporary hospitals in some of the schools, in Falkirk, Camelon and Denny. The Falkirk Herald reported on the 8 August 1914:

By the Falkirk (Women’s) Voluntary Aid Detachment of the British Red Cross Society arrangements are being made to equip one of the schools in Falkirk as a temporary hospital in case of necessity. As will be observed from an advertisement in today’s issue, a request is made for the loan of single beds and bedding, or blankets and sheets.

However, the government quickly intervened stating that schools should not be used either as hospitals or billets. At the same time the Larbert VADs moved to equip the mansion house of Stenhouse as a hospital, but this was abandoned when it was taken over for military purposes.

Falkirk Infirmary offered its help and it soon became recognised as a military hospital and was attached to Stobhill in Glasgow. By November 1914, there had been added two wooden huts as temporary wards, each holding twenty beds. The war was brought home to the people of Falkirk with the arrival at Grahamston Station, on a Tuesday evening in early November 1914, of a contingent of wounded soldiers. They numbered twenty and included three Belgian soldiers and several Territorials who had been injured during training. Some of the men were able to walk unaided to the waiting vehicles, the others required assistance. A considerable crowd had gathered in nearby Meeks Road and as the car emerged from the station yard they cheered. When the cars arrived at the Falkirk Infirmary on Thornhill Road, the waiting crowd again cheered. The Falkirk Herald reported on the scene of the arrival of wounded:

If anything was needed to bring home to the people of Falkirk the reality of the grim conflict on the Continent the arrival at Grahamston Station, on Tuesday evening in early November 1914, of a contingent of wounded soldiers would have done so. The contingent, which numbered twenty, included three Belgian soldiers. Some of he men were able to walk unaided but others, who had sustained injuries of a graver nature, had to be assisted to the motor conveyances. When the cars drew up in front of the Infirmary the passengers were enthusiastically cheered by a large crowd which had foregathered in the neighbourhood. A police constable aided one of the more seriously wounded, a Belgian, in his passage to the building, and when they reached the entrance the soldier voiced his thanks in his own language.

(Site of the former Falkirk Infirmary on Thornhill Road)

The hospital could not have functioned without the VADs. In all some 55 VAD nurses from Larbert, Falkirk and Grangemouth detachments served at the Infirmary. The Infirmary closed for the reception of wounded at the end of January 1919. Throughout the war the Infirmary was supported by the public with monetary donations and gifts in kind. The Trustees of Lieutenant John George Sherriff, 7/Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, killed in action on 25 April 1915, gave a legacy of £590. The total number of soldier patients treated was 1,798.

(Drawn by Trooper Arthur Sykes and featured in the Falkirk Herald)

List of Military Hospitals in Falkirk District:

  • Wallside Auxiliary Hospital - Located at Tamfourhill, opened on 9 November 1914, for the care of convalescent soldiers. It is interesting to note that Belgian soldiers were the first arrivals. A total of 1,133 patients received care at Wallside

  • Arnothill Auxiliary Hospital - was attached to the Springburn Woodside Military Hospital in Glasgow. It received its first patients on 17 February 1917. It had accommodation for 25 patients. Miss F N Rhind was appointed the resident matron. She had seen active service with the Scottish Women’s Hospital in Serbia. The staff consisted on 10 - 14 VADs. The hospital closed in February 1919 having treated 559 wounded soldiers.

  • Carriden House Convalescent Hospital - Located near Bo’ness opened in April 1915. It could accommodate twenty patients. During its occupancy several hundred's were treated. As well as those from Britain there were soldiers from Canada, Australia, and South Africa. The hospital closed on 30 March 1918.

  • Stenhouse Auxiliary Hospital - The hospital was established by the two VAD branches at Larbert. Through their contacts they secured from John G Sheriff his empty mansion house and with a sum of £169 raised from sources began to kit this out. However, in early 1915, the house was requisitioned by the military for billets. All the equipment was donated to Falkirk Infirmary and the remaining funds were used in supplying comforts for the sick and wounded from Falkirk District.

  • Denny Cottage Hospital - This was a small hospital of only ten beds and opened in August 1914. It was used as a convalescent hospital. The occupancy rate was low. Local soldiers continued to be treated here after the end of the war as out-patients.

  • Strawberry Cottage Soldier's Home - This was an empty cottage located in Penders Lane off West Bridge Street, Falkirk. It was leased to the East Stirlingshire Soldiers' and Sailors' Convalescent Fund and was supported financially by the Falkirk and District Choral Union. the home was managed by the Red Cross Society and The East Stirlingshire branch of the Soldier's and Sailors Families Association (SSAFA) was a partner. The East Stirlingshire POW Fund used Strawberry Cottage from July 1915 to December 1916 for packing and despatching comfort parcels to Falkirk District POW's, they subsequently moved to the Library Hall located on Hope Street. When Arnothill Auxiliary Hospital opened Strawberry Hill became superfluous.

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