Home Front

The project recorded the contribution made by the Dawlish Branch of the Red Cross Voluntary Aided Detachment (VAD) which drew on women and men who were finding their own contribution to the war effort. A workshop was set up in the Constitutional Club premises and slippers and clothing were manufactured for hospitals by knitting, sewing and other means.

A major contribution by the workshop was the production of Sphagnum moss dressings for use in field hospitals where it had been known that the moss was an effective deterrent to the spread of infection from dirty wounds. Sphagnum moss was gathered locally by other volunteers and over 35,200 moss dressings were sent away from Dawlish over the war period.

Dawlish VAD also staffed a hospital premises for Belgian refugees who began to arrive soon after the outbreak of war and the destruction of some Belgian towns and villages. A house in Barton Terrace was offered as a hospital for Belgian refugees and a child was born there on 19 November 1914.  About a dozen different families were given refuge during five years, eventually returning to Belgium to rebuild their lives in 1919.

An account of the Dawlish Red Cross VAD appears on pages 26-30 of “Dawlish Remembers the First World War, Part 1, 1914-1915” and material about the lives of some Belgian refugees is included in an appendix, pages 102-117 of the same book. See ‘Publications’ for details of ordering the books.

Since the completion of the project, Lancaster University’s History Department has included Dawlish in a project, “Mapping Loss”, that shows the location of each listed person’s last address on a map. This gives a visual clue to the proximity of families who lost members during the war, adding to our understanding of how this small town may have experienced family loss.