First World War VAD Recruitment poster

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Joyce Dennys (b.1893, d.1991): Artist
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This well-known poster was designed for the recruitment of Voluntary Aid Detachments, or VADs, during the First World War. The poster features three VADs in uniform - a member of the British Red Cross, of the Territorial Force and the Order of St Johns. This poster is believed to be the only one designed for the recruitment of VADs during the First World War; the response was so great that another poster design was not necessary.

In 1909, following the passing of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, the British Red Cross began establishing Voluntary Aid Detachments in each country. Women played a vital role during the First World War. Out of the 90,000 VADs, 66,000 were women.

The artist for this poster was Joyce Dennys. She was also a VAD with the British Red Cross during the war. Joyce was a ward maid and served for a year in 1914 at Budleigh Salterton Auxiliary Hospital and then a nurse in a hospital in Exeter for ten months in 1916. She was also an illustrator, playwright and author of Henrietta’s War.

For me, this is an iconic image. The number of countries and variety of the roles listed emphasises the sheer magnitude of support needed. The enormous response from people signing up is very humbling. In a time of such strife, it is heartening to see the humanity and compassion shown by those who signed up to be a VAD.

Audio recording by Alison Faraday (Volunteer Development Manager, British Red Cross).
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Associated Person and Role
Joyce Dennys (b.1893, d.1991)

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