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Navigating through the Narrative Reports

As already discussed in a previous blog, Updating the online catalogue, we have just released the digitised copies of the diaries (1938-1942) from the Hidden Histories of a Million Wartime Women project collectively known as the Narrative Reports. To ensure that everybody has the opportunity to read them, this trusty guide should hopefully help you navigate your way through the thousands of diaries that are available to read online. Before discovering this endless historical source, I advise topping up the midnight oil!

The first stage is to go to the Archive Online page. I would then suggest clicking on Advanced Search as this will help you find your area of interest a lot easier. Due to the geographical nature of the collection, the easiest way to find a diary that will interest you is to search for a town, city or county. Enter your chosen area into the keyword(s) section, (Bath, for example) and then select Narrative Report from the drop down menu in the category section. After clicking search at the bottom of the page your choice of centre should hopefully appear.



If your centre of choice does appear in the search result, it will be listed chronologically. It is important to remember that not all centres were established in 1938, so some places may not have records from the earliest years. Nevertheless, click on your chosen year of preference (I am sure you will end up reading every year anyway) and scroll down to the section named Media Download.

This is where you will find the wonderful stories of the WVS. Simply click on the PDF link and a document containing all the reports for that year will be available to read as many times as you like. Each report has been individually photographed and cropped using our editing software to ensure that you get the best reading experience. I hope that this guide will help you navigate through the abundant memories of the WVS. If you are experiencing any problems or you are have difficulty accessing the Narrative Reports, please contact our enquiry service. We are only too happy to help you read though this unique collection of stories and volunteer experiences.

To help encourage you to start perusing the wealth of the Narrative Reports, here is an interesting little snippet describing the instructions for air raid precautions from a local Housewives’ Section meeting that took place in the city of Bath on 13th July 1942.



Posted by Jacob Bullus. Archives Assistant at 09:00 Monday, 31 July 2017.

Labels: Narrative Report, Bath, WVS, Archive Online

Reports from everywhere - September 1965

This week, a return to Reports from Everywhere’ this time from September 1965. There were so many stories included in this issue of the bulletin, I found it hard to cut down so you have an ‘extended’ selection this week.

Straight to the point
The District Organiser for Lewisham received a letter from a 10-year-old boy in a local primary school. He explained that he was writing an essay about the social work being done in the Borough and he would like to know about WVS. The Organiser invited him to see some of the work if the school would give him permission- WVS was very surprised one morning when the boy arrived with 24 other pupils and his teacher. It proved a very enjoyable morning and the children seemed to ask hundreds of questions and promised they would ask their Mums to help and also to send any cast-off clothing. One small boy asked ‘Do you take ladies who are bored?’

Layettes from Salvage
During the past five years Finchley (a district of the London Borough of Barnet) Centre have made 564 nightdresses, 473 vests and 416 dresses for the Refugee Layette Scheme. This has been accomplished by using the good parts of worn garments destined for the Salvage sack. Shirts and sheets are used to make the nightdresses and vests, summer dresses and underclothes for the little dresses. Hand-made jumpers are undone, washed and re-knitted into shawls; 395 of these have been sent.

Members and friends, most of the latter being elderly, some being disabled and with failing sight, are tireless in sewing and knitting - Their policy is: ‘We are sending a present to these babies, so let us make it as attractive as possible’.

Not once but many times
When we see the students are enjoying themselves at their annual romp and they rattle the collecting boxes before our face, we sometimes forget the enormous amount of good the money will do when they have shared it out among the many local needs.

Money from the Aberdeen students’ campaign and the Welsh Caird trustees took 58 elderly people from Stonehaven on a bus run inland to some of the loveliest villages in Scotland. In a year when the broom and gorse was a mass of blooms they saw whole hillsides covered in golden yellow. Memory pictures to cherish through the dark days of the year.

From unwanted to wanted
One of our ‘Make and Mend’ members in Herne Bay has made about 550 babies’ day and night dresses out of unwanted cotton frocks and skirts in the five years she has been working for WVS; at 82 years of age an excellent record.

A word in time
A member working with the Bath Meals on Wheels service had been delivering meals to the elderly occupants of a very old house. The smell of the house had for some time been slowly getting worse, and when she went one week it was so dreadful that she felt something should be done about it, so she telephoned the Gas Board and asked that someone should be sent along to investigate.

They thought she had made a mistake and should have telephoned for the Sanitary Inspector, but said they would send an engineer along forthwith.

When the gas installations were inspected it was found that all the leads or pipes going into the meter were completely adrift. When they telephoned our member to inform her of this they said that had it not been for her prompt action, undoubtedly all the occupants of this apartment house would have been gassed.

Music in Braille
A blind woman living at Putney, who is being taken care of by a Wimbledon WVS member, is getting on well. Our member is taking great interest in her welfare, and is making every effort to get her some music written in Braille. She is teaching herself the piano and is very keen on music which is one of her greatest joys. She is so happy with her visitor and evidently appreciates this interest in her wellbeing very much indeed.

Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 28 September 2015.

Labels: Braille, Putney, Music, Piano, Bath, Somerst, Meals on Wheels, Gas, Make do and mend, herne bay, stonehaven, Scotland, Finchley, Layettes, Refugees, barnet, lewisham

Reports From Everywhere - June 1955

BATH. One of our old ladies who had been visited for a long time by W.V.S. dropped a hint that she had a birthday the following week. This was duly noted by the member and the landlady. Small gifts of candies, biscuits etc. were produced for the great day and they all had tea together. During the little celebration the old lady coyly announced that it was not her birthday at all but she would like to make sure of it now! Tailpiece—she died before her birthday ; she was over 80.

BURTON-ON-TRENT. The Hat Stall. The Matron at the Andressey Hospital approached the leader of the trolley shop to see if it was possible to supply those mental patients who were able to go out with new hats, as the ones they had were getting very shabby. As nothing appears impossible to W.V.S. our leader went to the manager of one of our large stores to see what he could do. He most kindly agreed to help and sent up a large quantity of hats to the hospital and the trolley helpers held an extra session one evening in the women’s sitting room. It was a most exciting and interesting evening. The patients were frightfully thrilled and tried on the hats with great enthusiasm, matching them with their coats, laughing heartily when the hat didn’t suit. They had been saving up for this occasion and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The helpers and nurses were completely exhausted at the end as there were between fifty and sixty patients. We are wondering what we shall be asked for next.

ESTON (SOUTHBANK). On arriving at the post office one morning the Centre Organiser found a note asking her to telephone a crippled women who wanted W.V.S. help. It was found a self-propelling chair was needed. The Centre Organiser made several enquiries, and then told the woman what to do (all in the same morning). In less than three weeks the woman had been interviewed and examined and found eligible and now, having received the chair, she is so grateful she wants to do shopping for old people not able to do their own.

MORPETH. We have called on 38 old people to see if they need help, and came across many sad cases and some with humorous endings. For example, two poor old sisters over 80 living in most squalid conditions, no bedding, having sold belongings to keep going ; very proud and refusing any help. The National Assistance Board officer was asked to call and the Medical Officer of Health notified. The N.A.B. officer, after a lot of questioning awoke vague memories of money in their minds, and after a lengthy search he and they discovered £400 in notes in an old handbag!

SALISBURY. A little girl, very badly burned was transferred from the Isle of Wight to the plastic ward of Odstock Hospital. W.V.S. Isle of Wight told Southern Region and they passed the message on to South Western Region who asked Salisbury to send a visitor. Within two hours of receiving the request a member was on her way. The child was very ill and of course homesick. Our member quickly established herself as a trusted and beloved “ aunt,” and has been visiting the little girl three or four times a week for more than two months.

Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00 Monday, 22 June 2015.

Labels: WVS, WRVS, RVS, Bath, Burton on Trent, Eston, Morpeth, Salisbury, Hospital, old people, hats, Reports from everywhere

Reports from everywhere - April 1945

A small group of rug-makers is meeting twice a week at Grimsby to make rugs for London homeless.

Kingsbridge have started the keeping of certificates for domestic poultry keepers, to obtain wire-netting.

Biggleswade salvage stewards collected 2,500 old ration books during December.

In 1944 a Bath member did 1,170 hours of hospital work, in addition to being a VCP driver, a mobile canteen driver, and a worker in a static Services Canteen.

At Tavistock a WVS member, refusing to be beaten by the weather, went out on a sledge and collected 450 articles for the Re-homing Gift Scheme.

Henley Services canteen recently served 20,714 hot beverages, 249 soft drinks and 21,685 sandwiches during one month.

During the last three years WVS as voluntary telephonists have done 10,000 hours of duty at the Royal Sussex County Hospital.

WVS members at Smethwick have collected 8,400 stamped envelopes and note paper for the use of wounded soldiers when they arrive in hospital, to notify their relatives.

Two National Savings Centres in Islington, entirely staffed by WVS, have during the past three and two years exceeded the £500,000 and £75,000 marks respectively.

An evacuee train en route through Taunton was able to stop only for eight minutes, but WVS managed to get 630 cups of tea and over 900 buns and sandwiches on board, during those few minutes.

The Army Welfare Officer at Peterborough has asked WVS to operate a “Get you Home Scheme” so that men on leave from overseas who are stranded at the stations at night can be taken home by car.

One work party member at Battle, who very specially “mothered” the relays of men manning a searchlight near her home during the fly bomb attacks, now has an average of seven letters a week from her men now serving overseas.

The WVS Village - Representative at Offley recently received a letter of thanks and congratulations from the Regional Commissioner for the “ excellent services ” rendered by herself and helpers when a Rest Centre had to be opened after an explosion resulting from a collision between two motor vehicles.

Bridgewater Welcome Club are very proud of the mural paintings done by one of the American members. D-Day came before he could finish his picture of the main street of the town, which is left incomplete without the Welcome Club. The Club hope he will come back and put in the finishing touches. He, like so many other of his countrymen, will be sure of a grand welcome.

A large number of gifts from Plymouth for the Re-homing Gift Scheme have been received from people who had been bombed-out themselves and whose offerings entailed real sacrifice. One woman gave some things which she had been treasuring in memory of a sister who had been killed in a raid ; she felt she ought no longer to be sentimental and that the things should be used now to help others.

Ipswich have started a salvage “Something for Nothing Scheme” in which small gifts are exchanged for a certain weight of rags or bones. A bead necklace, for instance, can be “bought” for 56 lb of bones, a teapot for 28 lb of rags, a bicycle bell for 56 lb of paper, etc. The response has been so enormous that the prizes have had to be “put up". Recently, in the same borough, a six-feet pile of bones, which had been stewed down for the dogs, was discovered rotting near a dog racing track and immediately collected !