Large collecting box in the shape of a British Red Cross VAD

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Audio tour

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Fundraising has always been key to the British Red Cross. The first fundraising appeal was launched in 1870, when the British Red Cross was formed, to provide aid to the sick and wounded of the Franco-Prussian War.

Over time, many creatively designed collecting boxes have been used by the British Red Cross to fundraise. During the First and Second World Wars, volunteers organised house-to-house collections using collecting boxes. This floor-standing collecting box from the 1950s would have been placed in a shop, allowing customers to donate money to the British Red Cross for their work helping wounded soldiers and civilians.

It is in the shape of a British Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse from the Second World War. During the War, VADs worked in various roles - as drivers, clerks, cooks, and laboratory technicians. The majority worked as VAD nurses overseas and in the UK- transporting the wounded, manning dressing stations, and cooking and nursing in both military and auxiliary hospitals to help to treat the sick and wounded soldiers. VAD nurses also worked in the UK to help civilians affected by the war, in air raid shelters, first aid posts, casualty stations and resting stations throughout the country.

When I first saw the collection of items in our archive, I was immediately drawn to this. I’ve seen a lot of collection boxes before, but this one really stood out to me. It was also the first time I learnt about the history of the Red Cross, VADs and more than I’d ever learnt at school during my history lessons. My mum is a nurse and has dedicated many years of service to the NHS, so in a way I think it’s one of the reasons it stood out to me. I could picture myself as a young girl, looking up at my mum before she would leave for work, so when I look at this I only see happy memories.

Audio recording by Nana Crawford (Social Media Manager, British Red Cross).
Collection Type
Catalogue Number
Associated Person and Role
British Red Cross Society. Surrey Branch
Women's VAD Department

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