Q&A: VAD records have me confused – when did my relative die?

By Deputy Editor, 27 April 2015 - 10:02am

Our military family history expert Phil Tomaselli reveals the truth behind the death of Roger Bradley's relative Florence Buckley, who served with the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) during the First World War 

Marriage certificates for Julie Ann Green

Nurses and officers of the VAD at a military hospital, 1916

Q: I was excited to find a relative of mine, Florence Buckley, in the recently released Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) records. I am puzzled though. I knew from her probate record that she died on 25 July 1918 in a hospital in Oxford, but the record stated her term of service ended on 31 March 1919. The address on the probate record and the VAD record are the same, so was the 1919 date put on all VAD records or have I made some mistake?

Roger Bradley, by email
 

A: We should always be wary of treating one record in isolation and assuming it’s correct. I’ve seen service records where it’s quite clear that dates are wrong, that a man is recorded as being posted to the wrong RAF Squadron, where there are unexplained gaps and it looks suspiciously like a clerk has picked up the wrong record and erroneously added someone else’s details.

It’s nice to see the VAD records beginning to become available online as these volunteers, who mainly worked in hospitals, have previously been hard to trace. Those who served abroad were usually given a medal and have a medal card, but most, who served at home, did not even get that. Once the records are all online, it’ll be an invaluable resource.

Though the cards available are necessarily a small sample, it’s clear there was no standard procedure for completing them. Lots don’t have the date of engagement or date of termination filled in, some have little more than name, address and where they served and some are crammed with details like “Duties generally useful to the Sister and Senior VAD” and “450 hours at Newley District Hospital; About six weeks at Officer’s Hospital Tansbury; About a month helping with injuries to emplye(sic)s on race course,” when describing what the VAD did.

Since they were volunteers there was probably little legal reason to keep a record and since some records show VAD service ended in 1916 or earlier, but the cards are stamped as received in 1919, they were probably compiled retrospectively from local records, then sent to London. Inevitably there were errors, so I would believe the probate record – a legal document – and assume the card is in error.
 

rebecca_probert_100x120

Phil Tomaselli is a military family history expert and author of Tracing Your Airforce Ancestors

 

 

 

Hit a brick wall with your family history?

Send in your questions to WDYTYAquestions@immediate.co.uk. You can read more from our Q&A section in the latest issue of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, available to download here.
 

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