The transfer of the hospital within Wardown Mansion from the divisional military authorities to the local Voluntary Aid Detachments of the British Red Cross took place on Monday, November 8th, 1915.
It was now to be used for the reception of wounded troops who could not be accommodated in military hospitals elsewhere. Initially they were to be drafted there from Aylesbury. The hospital had to provide 50 beds for wounded soldiers, with an additional 12 beds to be reserved for soldiers stationed in and around the town.
Apart from voluntary contributions from outside, the Red Cross would received three shillings per day from the military authorities for each soldier treated to cover all medical attendance, nurses, food etc. Infectious cases occurring at Wardown would be transferred to Spittlesea.
The two V.A.D. detachments - 12 and 14 - had received a notification that their services would be called upon for day and night duties by the nursing staff. The voluntary staff would be supplemented by a matron-in-charge and two highly trained nurses from London. Sister Cooper was in charge.
Medical and surgical arrangements were to be in the hands of Dr Seymour Lloyd (the medical officer to the detachment), Dr J. W. Bone, Dr C. Harmar, Dr W. Levinson and Dr H. Verdon.
On the ground floor, the dining room, library, billiard and drawing rooms at Wardown had been converted into spacious hospital wards, while upstairs rooms had been set aside as an officers' ward, nurses quarters and the quartermaster's stores. There were few patients at the time of the transfer, but preparations were going ahead for the reception of about 70 wounded men.
Wardown House had been used as a military hospital since October 1914. By the following September, V.A.D. Commandant Mrs Mary Anne Green (wife of Luton brewer Mr John William Green, of The Larches, New Bedford Road, Luton) had received a letter from Col Astley Clarke, Assistant Director Medical Service, 2/1st North Midland Division, suggesting that, with the moving of the Division from Luton, Wardown House should be maintained as a V.A.D. hospital provided rent-free by the Town Council but with the Red Cross paying for fuel, lighting and other services. The Council agreed.
Between November 1915 and its eventual closure as a V.A.D. hospital on May 20th, 1919, more than 3,500 patients passed through Wardown House.
Mrs Green continued as Commandant for the whole period. She had inaugurated the Voluntary Aid Detachment (V.A.D. 12) in Luton in 1911 and was assisted by her niece, Mrs Nora Kathleen Durler (wife of straw plait merchant Robert), Commandant of V.A.D. 14.
Nurses:- Miss Muriel Austin, Miss Mable Barnes, Miss Sarah Bartlett, Miss Margaret Beechener, Mrs Frances Brown, Miss Mildred Brown, Mrs Gilbert Brown, Miss Ivy Brown, Mrs Murry Barford, Mrs Alice Cann, Mrs Estelle Chalkley, Miss Gertrude Chandler, Miss Florence Cook, Miss Eila Cumberland, Miss Gladys Cumberland, Miss Olive Cumberland, Mrs Estelle Chalkley, Mrs Aileen Davis, Miss Beatrice Deacon, Mrs Emma Ebbs, Miss Edith Eustace, Miss Louisa Escott, Miss Florrie Fyson, Miss Winifred Green, Miss Margaret Greatorex, Miss May Gilder, Miss Dorothy Gates, Mrs Margaret Gibbs, Miss Maggie Godfrey, Miss Alice Howard, Miss Stella How, Miss Phyllis Inwards, Mrs Mabel Jackson, Miss Gladys Lye, Mrs Constance Lloyd, Miss Hilda Mayes, Miss Gladys Mitchell, Miss Emmie Payne, Miss Louise Payne, Miss Marjory Plummer, Miss E. Rohner, Miss Gertrude Sheriff, Miss Hilarie Shoosmith, Miss Madge Shoosmith, Miss Elsie Smith, Miss Hilda Sworder, Miss Dorris Tomson, Miss Margaret Tomson, Miss Elsie Trevelyan, Miss Gladys Williams and Miss F. Waller. Miss Agnes Worsley, Miss Mary Wynne
Dispenser (Pharmacist):- Mr George Shuff
Cooks: Miss Anna Batchelder, Mrs Norach Phyllis Brown, Mrs Mary Campion, MIss Elizabeth Crabb, Miss Janet Coupees, Mrs Milner Gray, Mrs Edgar Knowles, Miss D. Knowles, Mrs Mabel Rose, Mrs Ethel Schofield, Mrs Constance Sanderson, Miss Annie Smith, Miss Edith Smith, Miss Winifred Tearle, Miss Amy Tydeman, Miss Ruth Trevelyan, Miss Beatrice Webb, Miss Eleanor Weller, Miss Constance Wilkinson, and Miss Dorothy Williams.
Housemaids:- Miss Beatrice Gertrude Allen, Mrs Gweneth Baker, Miss Florence Barford, Miss Nora Christine Booth, Miss Edna Brown, Miss Gwendolyne Butcher, Miss Edith Cain, Miss Dorothy Coles, Miss Olive Coles, Mrs Maude Cooke, Miss Ida Ordish, Miss Winifred Rudd, Mrs Marion Woodcock
Orderlies:- Mr Albert Beckwith, Mr Alfred Bowles, Mr William Burgess, Mr Herbert Chalice, Mr Alfred Clarke, Mr Arthur Cook, Mr Joseph Shakleton, Mr Archie Smith, Mr Arthur Thorne, Mr Henry Thorne, Mr A Townrow, Mr William Weatherhead,
Three of the nursing staff were in France "on active service". Miss Hilda Sworder had been working abroad since March 18th, Miss Margaret Greatorex was with the headquarters staff, and Miss F. Waller had recently left England to take up duties on the staff of one of the Red Cross stations "somewhere in France".
When it first opened as a hospital, the North Midland Division were in occupation of Wardown Mansion. The 2/2nd North Midland Field Ambulance were the last unit to leave.
Wardown's position and lofty rooms were considered ideal for a hospital but there were problems with ventilation, sanitation and water supply. Extensive improvements were carried out by the military authorities during the occupancy, and by the time of its transfer to the Red Cross the building was considered to be of a very high standard for cleanliness, ventilation, sanitation and other details.
[Bedfordshire Advertiser: Friday, November 12th, 1915; Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph: November 13th, 1915; Luton Reporter: Monday, December 6th, 1915]