One Woman’s War

Dorothy Earnshaw Manor House Hospital FolkestoneDorothy Earnshaw was a VAD nurse (Voluntary Aid Detachment, the Red Cross) based at the Manor House Hospital in Folkestone during the First World War. Like many others during this unique and life-changing time, she kept a friendship album.

According to Red Cross records, Dorothy came from Wimbledon, Surrey to serve full-time in Folkestone for two periods between June 1916 and September 1918. Interestingly though her friendship album begins in Folkestone in November 1915, when she was 22 years old.

A small hardback notebook, it is stuffed with signatures, sketches, photographs, poems, letters, newspaper cuttings and heartfelt messages from servicemen from Canada, the United States and Australia as well as Britain. She was clearly popular with her patients and some messages hint at stronger feelings. Extremely personal, it is also a fascinating and poignant glimpse into a time that was to have such an influence on 20th century life.

Take a look at Dorothy’s album here, with the kind permission of Kent County Council.

The Manor House auxiliary hospital opened in October 1914, led by local philanthropist Commandant Florence Daly. The impressive building on the corner of Earls Avenue and the Leas Promenade was originally built for Folkestone’s fifth Earl of Radnor in 1895 but later sold, and loaned for the war effort by new owners.

Auxiliary hospitals were generally smaller, less formal and more homely than military hospitals, making them a very welcome retreat from the Front for wounded and convalescing soldiers. In such close proximity to the battlefields, Folkestone is thought to have had up to 47 hospitals by the end of WW1.

Dorothy’s album is now held by Folkestone Library. The Manor House still stands today, a Grade II listed building containing eight apartments overlooking the Channel towards France.

Learn more about VADs and the various roles women took on during WW1 on the Red Cross website.

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