Friday, 22 November 2019

Ho Ho H.O. ?

What's H.O.? I wondered, and what are H.O. Circulars?

My friend A. had given me some box files, and they were quite heavy. "They're my Mum's knitting patterns" she said - "and I wondered if you could do something with them?" Her Mum was the loveliest lady, and she died a few months back. She was kind, and thoughtful, with a beaming smile, and twinkly eyes and she shared the love of Jesus with everyone she met. And boy did she knit! Even into her late eighties, she was churning out garments and gifts for people [another friend is completing the jumper she had started for her daughter before she became really ill]
What a treasure trove! On Sunday afternoon, I began going through the boxes just to see what was in them. This task is unfinished, but will merit its own blog post.
But then I found something tucked away which was not a pattern
This certificate, over a century old
And underneath it a faded sepia photograph.
I sent a picture to A. "Oh wow! That's my Great-Grandma!" she replied. I do not know which of these ladies is her GG. But how lovely to find these tucked away between the patterns for gloves and jumpers!
During WW1, 90,000 people were trained by the Red Cross and worked in VADs [Voluntary Aid Detachments] up and down the country. 
At the outbreak of the war, many people were inspired to train to help the sick and wounded. Women needed to be taught first aid, home nursing and hygiene by approved medical practitioners. They also took classes in cookery. Men were trained in "first aid in-the-field" and stretcher bearing. Talented VADs could take specialist classes to become a masseuse or use an x-ray machine. VADs had to pass exams to receive their first aid and home nursing certificates. 
VADs carried out duties that were less technical, but no less important, than trained nurses. They organised and managed local auxiliary hospitals throughout Britain, caring for the large number of sick and wounded soldiers. Many were also deployed abroad to help in field hospitals.

Famous women who volunteered for the Red Cross during the war include:
  • Agatha Christie, who served at a hospital in Torquay, saying it was  “one of the most rewarding professions that anyone can follow”.
  • Vera Brittain [author, and mother of Shirley Williams MP] became a VAD in 1915 and was posted to France in 1917.
  • Enid Bagnold [author of National Velvet ] served in London as a VAD.
  • Clara Butt  [legendary singer of the Victorian era], was a VAD nurse in Bristol

A's GreatGran was neither rich, nor famous - but the service given by conscientious ordinary people such as she, in a time of national crisis, was utterly invaluable.
They gave their time freely, and worked incredibly hard, often in appalling conditions, and are fuully deserving of recognition and honour.

[I have yet to discover from A. what HO stands for!]


  1. How super to find that certificate and picture in the box-it definitely took you (&us!) down an interesting rabbit hole of knowledge! I'm reading yet another murder mystery set during WW1& I'm amazed what people did during those times.

  2. Home Office Circulars - they provide information to local authorities on updates to policy and procedures.

  3. How wonderful that A gave the box files of knitting patterns for you to sort through, and you found these special items! A good reminder to look through stuff before you toss them! I wonder if H.O. stands for "home office" or "head office"?

    By the way, what happened to your FOG post from yesterday? I posted a comment on it, last night, and it's not there, today! Did you delete it?

  4. Did the lady have a Civil Service connection? HO circulars were Home Office circulars when I was in the Civil Service.

  5. What a fabulous find!
    And my first reaction to HO was Head Office?

  6. Very interesting! They did an important job. And what a treasure to find that old photo and certificate.


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