The work of more than 250,000 Red Cross volunteers will be electronically archived by historians at Kingston University to commemorate the centenary of World War One.
Dr Sue Hawkins and Juliet Warren, from the uni’s centre for the historical record, will oversee the digitisation of a quarter of a million personnel records of Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) – civilians, mainly female, who worked in field hospitals at home and abroad during the conflict.
Dr Hawkins said: “It’s a very exciting prospect.
“From the people knitting socks to nurses and those who ended up driving ambulances in Europe - they’re all there.
“It’s the embodiment of the ‘we’re all in it together’ attitude.
“The National Archives have already digitised large volumes of military records, which have been made available to the public through a commercial organisation, and now the British Red Cross are doing something similar with civilians.
“We’re proud they’ve chosen Kingston University to do this work because they want the resulting resource to be free for everyone to use.”
Dr Sue Hawkins
Each individual record is currently held on a 5x3in card – with the ‘trump’ card being that of former VAD Agatha Christie.
Dr Hawkins said: “Her registration card has been looked at hundreds of times, and I think one of the reasons they want to digitise the collection is to stop it physically falling apart.”
Agatha Christie's VAD card
The project has been handed a grant of £80,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the first set of records is likely to be made public in October.