The VAD Carter Sisters of Barnard Castle


Alice Eleanor Carter and her sister Eva Gertrude were found on the Branard Castle Absent Voters list for 1918.  This is what we discovered when we dug a little deeper…

Alice Eleanor was born in 1878 in Barnard Castle and Eva Gertrude in 1887, two of the ten children of George and Mabel Carter. George Carter was a Surveyor living at 42, Horsemarket, who by the 1891 Census had also started selling ale and porter. George Carter died in 1906 and his widow carried on the business as a mineral water manufacturer. Two sons, Henry and George took over the drinks business as the Carter Brothers.

In 1939, the Carter family were still occupying 42, Horsemarket and running a haulage and removal business.  Eva and Alice both joined the General Service VAD in January 1918.  Alice Eleanor served in the 73rd General Hospital in Trouville, France, as a waitress. She probably worked in the medical staff mess. After the armistice, she was transferred to the General Service VAD Hospital in Nottingham Place, London until July 1919. She received her Victory and British War Medals in 1920. Alice never married and at her death, aged 80 in 1958, was living at 3,Wood Street, Barnard Castle.  The beneficiaries in her will were her widowed twin sister Florence May Boyd and her sister Mabel, who was married to Robert Brown, a retired farmer.  Eva Gertrude was sent to the 59 General Field Hospital in St. Omer, France. This was known as the Northern General Hospital and a major centre for treating the wounded. As the front moved forward, this field hospital transferred to Rouen. Eva was also a waitress, and her pay rate was £26 per annum.  

When the war on the western front came to an end, she was sent to Addington Park War Hospital in Croydon. This hospital specialised in the treatment of typhoid and dysentery. She continued her waitress work until her discharge in April 1919 and in 1920 received her Victory and British War Medals.

In 1921 Eva emigrated to Canada, sailing on the S.S. ‘Megantic’ from Liverpool to Quebec, to take up employment as a housemaid at a school in Brockville, on the St. Lawrence river in Ontario. This was a government sponsored scheme and she arrived in Canada with £10. Perhaps Eva saw little prospect of marriage after the loss of so many men in the war and few employment opportunities. No doubt her wartime experiences away from her market town home, had given her a sense of adventure.


 The Voluntary Aid Detachment was formed in 1909 to serve the Territorial Army but was greatly expanded in 1914 as women responded to the war effort and became known as VAD’s. It is a misconception that all VAD’s were nurses. By September 1915 there was a need to release men for military duties by using women in a broad range of roles including orderlies, dispensers, cooks, domestics, drivers and clerks. 

In 1917, with the pressure to release even more men, the potential of women was recognised by the formation of the Womens Auxillary Army Corps, although still restricted to what was deemed ‘women’s work’.

On the home front, many women were now working in munitions factories and had replaced men in  numerous occupations. These jobs were well paid and it became increasingly difficult to recruit VAD’s. In November 1917 an appeal for more VAD’s went out offering the same rates of pay as W.A.A.C.’s. These non-nursing volunteers were called General Service VAD’s. and this is when the Carter sisters of Barnard Castle entered the service.

By June Parkin, volunteer

We would like to find out more about Teesdale people who were involved in the First World War in any way.  For more information on The Bowes Museum’s WWI project, or to volunteer, go to or telephone 01833 690606 ext. 208 (answerphone).