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One of WVS’s main wartime activities was
salvage; many of the WVS Centre Organisers kept fairly extensive notes on
their salvage activities. Their activties were usually described within the monthly Narrative Reports. Occasionally however, some of the
original reports written by WVS Salvage Officers which influenced those reports were retained and sent to Headquarters.
The Salvage Officer for Melton Mowbray (in Leicestershire) is just one example as many of her monthly accounts have been kept
in the Archive & Heritage Collection alongside the monthly Narrative
Reports they accompany. These reports provide a detailed account of the salvage
activities Melton Mowbray during the Second World War. Lets take a closer look at some of those reports.
Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, January 1942 (Page 4)
It is clear from this report that Melton Mowbray had improved its salvage activity compared to the previous year. This was largely due to the fact that the town engaged in creating salvage awareness. Equally impressive, was the collation of information regarding local businesses and their methods of paper disposal. This would have allowed the WVS to have access to a greater amount of paper that could be salvaged and consequently re-pulped. The efficiency of Salvage Organiser is not to be underestimated.
Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, April 1942 (page 10)
This report illustrates how the WVS in Melton Mowbray contributed to persuading the nation of the importance of salvage. For example, members of the WVS visited Nottingham University to listen to a well-attended lecture on salvage activities. After listening to the speech, they set up their own series of lectures within local schools. This was to help facilitate the Cog Scheme, which encouraged children to participate in salvage collection. These talks proved to be highly successful, as salvage collections in every borough began to increase significantly. After these early accomplishments, the WVS introduced rewards to continue to encourage children to help with the collections. For example, badges representing a cog-wheel was an excellent way of rewarding the most enthusiastic children. Melton Mowbray’s Salvage Organiser was also highly keen on winning the regional waste paper competition.
Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire October 1942 (page 24)
Despite having a population of only 12,000 citizens, Melton Mowbray had managed to collect 14cwts of bones in the month of September In today’s terms, this works out as 711kg. This figure was considered to be a considerable achievement by the WVS in Melton, because bone collection had always been the most difficult of all the salvageable materials to obtain. This was partly due to the fact that people did not enjoy the smell and general unpleasantness surrounded by food waste. To counteract this problem, the WVS responded accordingly by introducing bins for bones that would contain the odour issue.
Overall these reports illustrate the importance of salvage to Melton Mowbray and the effort WVS went to during the Second World War to boost moral and reach targets for collecting salvage. The stories told from the point of view of the salvage office have been retained and survived for over 70 years. They have been digitised and published online, you can go to Archive Online and search for them or use our handy Guide to Archive Online page. Hopefully you will discover many more stories about salvage.