AT the outbreak of the First World War people from all walks of life took up the call to do their bit for King and country.

While men enlisted in the armed forces, many thousands of women, mainly from the middle classes, signed up to become Red Cross nurses in the new Voluntary Aid Detachments.

Known as VADs, these selfless women took up unpaid positions in military and auxilliary hospitals, both overseas, close to the front, and back at home.

More than 60 such hospitals were created in what is now Greater Manchester, including several in Bury, Prestwich, and Whitefield, ensuring that the women could work near to where they lived.

Incredible research by the We Were There Too Project ­— which explores the impact, experience, and contribution of Britain’s Jewish communities during the First World War ­— volunteer Charlotte Clare, and the Red Cross, has shed new light on the lives and actions of medical workers during the conflict.

Among those to sign up in 1914 was 18-year-old Muriel Elizabeth Henriques, who lived in Hilton Lodge, Hilton Lane, Prestwich.

Muriel came from one of the oldest Sephardic families ­— a community of persecuted Jews from the Iberian peninsular ­— who had fled to Britain from anti-Semitic repression in 17th century Portugal.

Prestwich and Whitefield Guide: VAD card of Red Cross Nurse Muriel Elizabeth Henriques who volunteered at Stanley House Auxiliary Hospital in Whitefield. Photo Courtesy of We Were There Too ProjectVAD card of Red Cross Nurse Muriel Elizabeth Henriques who volunteered at Stanley House Auxiliary Hospital in Whitefield. Photo Courtesy of We Were There Too Project

As a VAD nurse she served at the Stanley House Red Cross Hospital in Whitefield, and later at B.R.C.S. Auxiliary Military Hospital in Northenden.

One of Muriel’s colleagues at Stanley House ­— for whom records exist ­— was Nursing Member Marjorie Jockel, whose VAD card shows she performed “general nursing duties”, and lived in nearby Milton Road, Prestwich.

Another was Nursing Sister Harriet Echersall, of 9 Morley Street, Whitefield, who also performed general nursing duties.

Stanley House where Muriel, Marjorie and Harriet volunteered is one of the most historically significant homes in Lancashire, and still stands in Philips Park Road.

It was originally constructed in the 19th century for the Earl Of Derby and sat in extensive grounds.

At the time of the First World War it was occupied by the Scholfield family, who converted the property to a hospital and convalescence home for Allied servicemen wounded in the conflict ­— records at the Imperial War Museum reveal.

Auxilliary hospitals, like Stanley House, received patients who generally did not have life threatening-injuries, and instead needed minor treatment and time to convalesce.

They tended to be more popular among servicemen than military hospitals, thanks to their less strict discipline, less crowded conditions, and more homely surroundings.

Prestwich and Whitefield Guide:

According to the Red Cross, volunteers at auxilliary hospitals were typically considered too old or too young to work in a military hospital.

Many also had family commitments, and so were unable to leave home for extended periods, but were willing to sign a three-month hospital contract.

After the First World War came to an end, Muriel Elizabeth Henriques married a Cornelis Rissik, and the couple had four children. She died in Hove, East Sussex, in 1986.

While she was serving at Stanley House, her brother, George Lionel Quixano Henriques, had fought with the 16th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment.

He survived the conflict, earning the 1914-15 Star British Victory Medal, and died in Buxton in 1961.

Tragically, George’s son, David, lost his life serving with the Sherwood Foresters in the Second World War.

Another of the incredible medical workers from the borough during the war was midwife Dora Black.

Born into a Jewish family in Fochon, Romania, in 1867, Dora emigrated to to Britain and settled at 11 Mount Pleasant in Simister.

By the time of the First World War she was already established in midwifery, largely practising in the Lower Broughton area, and had cards printed to advertise her services.

Throughout the 1910s Dora worked from home, going to expectant mothers’ houses that were in walking distance, or could be reached by tram.

A night bell was installed in her home which would ring at all times of the day and night alerting her to urgent calls.

Prestwich and Whitefield Guide: Black book belonging to midwife Dora Black in which she recorded details of every birth she attended. Photo courtesy of We Were There Too ProjectBlack book belonging to midwife Dora Black in which she recorded details of every birth she attended. Photo courtesy of We Were There Too Project

Affectionately known as “Nurse Black”, she worked with many of the doctors in the area, including Dr Schlossberg, Dr Graff, Dr Herson, Dr Levi and Dr Saul.

As well as helping new mothers before and during their deliveries, Dora was also renowned for showing them how to bathe their babies ­— sometimes two or three at the same time.

When the baths were emptied, mothers would throw in coppers. These were Nurse Black’s “perks”, or “butt geld” as she called them, from the Yiddish for “bath money”.

During her lifetime Dora kept a ledger detailing each time a child was born, which she called her “black book”.

Inside she wrote entries containing the names of doctors, the name, date of birth and weight of each child, and the mother’s address.

Dora had eight children of her own, with husband Solomon Black, and moved house three times around the Broughton and Cheetham areas.

The couple’s eldest son, Myer, was tragically killed in France in 1917 while serving with the King’s Liverpool Regiment.