World War I VAD (Volunteer Aid Detachment) Nurses

The first time I read Not So Quiet it was quite a shock. While the work is fiction, Smith, who’s real name was Evadne Price, does not shy away from drawing on the emotional whirlwind that wartime nurses experienced. Price, an Australian who served in the Air Ministry from 1917-1918 expresses visceral and tragic feelings about the war in her prose.

Price’s use of nicknames for the various nurses is an excellent way of making her characters accessible as well as somewhat likable, with the exception of Mrs. B—-, of course! One of the best aspects of this work is its candor. The work opens with references to the food shortages, biting cold, and chronic sleep depravation. The portions about lice and the filth the nurses must deal with are shocking but rigorously authentic.

One of the most engaging things about Not So Quiet is how Price writes with such raw emotion. She is not afraid to tap into the hatred the protagonist feels for her parents and those at home in England who have no idea about the extent of human suffering happening just across the Channel. Helen’s resentment and anger over the harsh conditions is also something the author is very comfortable divulging to the reader.

While this work is fiction, it provided so much information about the real and true conditions that VAD nurses had to cope with during their active service. Many of the secondary source accounts do not include the very unpleasant side of this volunteer position.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *