Sunday, 21 April 2013

Red Cross and Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) - Joan Foster Miller

Prior to her AAWMS service with 2/8 Australian General Hospital, mainly in Jacquinot Bay on Rabaul in New Guinea in 1944-45, Tom's mother Joan Foster Fisher (nee Miller) was a member of the Red Cross as she is pictured here in late 1941 outside her home in Grosvenor Street, Brighton.

Joan Miller in Red Cross uniform October 1941
She later joined the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) and appears to have resided at "Fairhavens" R.G.H. Caulfield from around February 1942 to January 1943.
Joan Miller
about 1942
Joan F Miller VAD
 about 1942

Joan was probably working at Caulfield R.G..H. at the time of this article in The Argus (Tuesday 30 June 1942, page 5)

After working all day at Caulfield Military Hospital VADs find the comfort and homeliness of Fairhavens, Kooyong rd Caulfield both restful and a pleasant change from hospital surroundings. There is a happy friendliness among the girls who work in well with one another. There are 37 VAD's who have been loaned to the hospital and they perform ward duties such as carrying trays to patients preparing dressings, taking temperatures and respirations, dusting wards and some times helping in the kitchen. At Fairhavens the girls have a comfortable lounge room and either sleep in large rooms with 5 or 6 beds or in small rooms with 2 or 3 beds. There are some single rooms. Each girl has her own wardrobe and shares a dressing table. They may obtain a leave pass everyy night of the week though few girls do so. A late pass enables them to stay out till 11.30, a theatre pass till 12,  and a dance pass till 1. They get 6 days a month leave and can take it either each week or save some of it and take annual leave. The girls work 8 hours a day reporting for duty at 6.50 and finish either at 5 or 7. An appeal is being made for more and more VADs to help stafff military hospitals. Applications should be sent to VAD Headquarters 217 Lonsdale st, Melbourne.

Here is "Fairhavens" pictured in February 1942.

"Fairhavens"  R.G.H. Caulfield  V.A.D. Feb 1942
"Fairhavens"  R.G.H. Caulfield  V.A.D. Feb 1942
Pauline Robertson and myself
"Fairhavens" R.G.H. Caulfield Feb 1942
Ward 4 R.G.H. Caulfield March 1942

There was obviously a drive for more VADs  at that time as The Gippsland Times (Thursday 9 July 1942, page 4) and Portland Guardian, (Monday 6 July 1942, page 4) newspaper articles below are in a similar vein glowingly describing their accommodation at "Fairhavens".


Comfort and Companionship At "Fairhavens" 
In a magnificent old Tudor home, not far from the Caulfield Military Hospital, 37 charming V.A.D.'s are quartered. Their grand mansion, which belongs to Mr. John Tait, stands in large grounds midst golden wattles and towering gums. "Fairhavens" it is called. And to enter their new home the V.A.D.'s lift the latch on a great oaken door and step into a spacious high vaulted reception hall, out of which spirals a massive stairway to the floor above.

"Fairhavens" is a mass of bedrooms and dormitories and bathrooms. Some of the girls like single rooms so they have single rooms. Others like companionship so they go into the big rooms that carry half a dozen beds.
These V.A.D.'s have a fine life with lots of luxury thrown in. They are on duty eight hours a day, are free every night after 5 o'clock, and have six days' leave a month. The girls save up some of this leave for an extended annual vacation. They get up to all sorts of fun and games during their "time off." A spot of P.T., a round of tennis, treasure hunts and when the nights are cold they gather round the log fire in the lounge. "Fairhavens" is the ideal home for girls away from home.  The V.A.D. girls are performing very useful duties in connection with the war effort and many more enlistments are urgently required.

"Fairhavens" R.G.H. Caulfield July 1942
Joan Miller is seated in the middle of the couch

"Fairhavens" R.G.H. Caulfield July 1942
Joan Miller is second row, 3rd from left with head near banister
This silent amateur documentary with intertitles was made by members of the Couch family. Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) - Our women of the VAD 1943 provides a little more about the VAD in Australia.

The Australian War Memorial provides a little more background about the VAD's.
The VAD movement had its origins as a civilian nursing movement which was widely represented throughout the major towns and cities of Australia. The movement had close links with the Red Cross and the Order of St John. With the outbreak of war, these community groups formed an auxiliary service to supplement the war effort. While many would later be integrated with the Australian armed forces, and serve overseas, the VAD maintained a strong tradition of service within Australia in large military hospitals and at other civilian establishments. Australian VAD members, and those who also joined the AAMWS, made a vital contribution to the defence of Australia during the Second World War. Some 8,485 served in both categories during the war and many VAD members who served on the home front would later receive the Civilian Service Medal in recognition of their wartime service to Australia.

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