Somewhere in France

Somewhere in France

Friday, August 29, 2014

VAD L268--Update on Dorothy Pearson Twist

Yesterday I wrote a short blog about Dorothy Pearson Twist. Little did I know, but there was a Red Cross service card enroute to me with more details about this remarkable VAD's life. Not all voluntary nurses nursed! Many did clerical work as well. That was the case for Dorothy. What is even more interesting is that the clerical work she did was in an area of tremendous importance to many soldiers--in particular, prisoner's of war. Beginning in May 1916, VADL268 as she was known, was secretary to Lady Evelyn Grant Duff, head of the "Berne Bread Bureau," a voluntary organization providing much needed bread to prisoners of war in Germany. As John Lewis-Stempel writes in his book The War Behind the Wire: The Life, Death and Glory of British Prisoners of War:

“The blessedly white bread in the Red Cross ration was mainly courtesy of the redoubtable Lady Evelyn Grant Duff, who arranged shipments of flour from Marseilles to Switzerland, where it was baked into loaves. Known to POWs as ‘Swiss Dodgers’, Lady Evelyn’s moist, white loaves were delivered into Germany by road and rail. By 1917 her “Berne bread Bureau’ was packing 15,000 loaves a day and had been supplemented by a Copenhagen Bureau to supply camps in the north of Germany. In summer, when bread tended to go mouldy quickly, the bakeries substituted hard biscuits or rusks for Lady Evelyn’s baps.”

Twist must have been committed to this work; she went on to work with the Prisoner of War Committee from February 1917 to August 1917. At that point, perhaps out of the growing need for nurses to care for flu victims, the VAD was transferred to the Frensham Hill Military Hospital, Farnham. Sadly, she came down with pneumonia and died at the hospital on September 26, 1918.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Forgotten VAD: Dorothy Pearson Twist

In an excellent article entitled "Filling the Gaps, Canadian Voluntary Nurses, the 1917 Halifax Explosion, and the Influenza Epidemic of 1918," scholar Linda Quiney says that there were approximately 2000 Canadian VADs who served in during the Great War, of which 500 served overseas. (There were 23,000 British VADs.) "VAD" stands for Voluntary Aid Detachment--these were groups of voluntary nurses (usually with very limited training) who worked for the Red Cross during the Great War. These nurses came to be known individually as "VADs."

In her article, Quiney describes several Canadian VADs who died during and just after the Great War. One of the Canadian VADs who gave her life was Dorothy Pearson Twist. Dorothy died September 26, 1918 in Aldershot, England. According to the British 1911 census, she was born in Prescott, Lancashire. Her father Pearson Gill Twist was a “woolen manufacturer’s agent”. At sixteen in 1911, Dorothy was working as a “pupil school teacher.” Her father was 52, her mother 42. She had an older brother Geoffrey (23), older sister named Phyllis (21), younger brother Hugh (11) and a younger sister Cicely (9). They were living in Prescott, Lancashire at 15 Station Road. Dorothy was born in that same place. The family immigrated to Canada in 1913 to Shawnigan Lake, BC, where Dorothy's father worked as a realty clerk. Sometime during the Great War, Dorothy signed up as a Canadian VAD and was sent overseas. Little is known about the circumstances of her death, except that she died at Aldershot, the location of a Canadian military base during the war. I have written to the British Red Cross to learn more about Dorothy; when I receive more information, I will post it on this site.