Published: 10:20, 21 October 2014
Photographs released this week show the amazing contrast between Red Cross organisations in war-time and modern-day Maidstone.
The pictures, both taken outside Marsham Street's Community Support Centre (formally West Kent Hospital's nurses' home), shows the voluntary aid detachment during the war and its modern day equivalent, Voluntary Action Maidstone.
They were released to mark the launch of the charity's online database which will eventually include the details of 236,000 Red Cross volunteers who worked during the war.
The archive, launched yesterday, currently details 30,000 volunteers with the full amount becoming available over the next year. It can be accessed for free at www.redcross.org.uk/ww1.
VADs performed all sorts of roles at home and abroad during the war, from driving ambulances through the trenches and searching for the missing to knitting socks and providing meals and medication for the wounded.
In Kent, their work included the transport of the wounded as they arrived back from the battlefields, the organisation of hospitals and the collection and supply of clothes and other items for patients.
A total of 80 Red Cross auxiliary hospitals were set up in the county, providing 4,730 beds to recuperating patients and treating 125,000 over the course of the war.
Jemma Lee, archivist at the British Red Cross said: “100 years after the start of the First World War, we are paying tribute to the VADs’ humanitarian service by opening up access to their index cards, which are the only comprehensive record on who served as a volunteer, what sort of work they undertook and when.
“People regularly contact us saying that they know a relative worked for the Red Cross during the war but they have no idea what they did – the first place we look for further information are these cards.
“By digitizing these records we are making them instantaneously accessible for the first time, as well as preserving them for years to come.”