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"We really didn't do very much"

While running the Voices of Volunteering project I talked to many volunteers who had helped many people including refugees and who thought they had only made a very small contribution. This week is National Refugee week so I thought I would share some stories from volunteers about their experiences of working with refugees. As you will see they did rather a lot.

WVS were working with Refugees from the start of the Second World War, greeting them and finding billets or accommodation.

“War was declared, I was fifteen and my brother was seventeen. I suppose like all stupid young people it was exciting, frightening in a way but quite exciting. And we lived in Weymouth and a lady called, I don't if it's Mrs Sewell or Miss Sewell advertised for volunteers because a lot of, people were coming over from the continent and the Channel Islands to get away from the war. So both my brother, Bob, and me volunteered and we were making beds for people. We actually helped at the birth of a baby which was quite a shock to both of us, but there was no point in, there was no, we couldn't hang around because it was imminent. Anyway, that's my introduction to the WVS as it, as it was called.” – Geraldine Harris Volunteer, Weymouth.

After the Hungarian revolution in 1956 around 200,000 people fled as refugees a number settled in Scotland. In January 1957 the WVS Bulletin reported:

“It is very difficult to make our page of any interest, other than Hungarian Relief Work, but we begin it by telling of the safe arrival of two train loads over the week-end at two camps, one Middle-ton Camp, Gorebridge, the other Broom-lee Camp at West Linton.

W.V.S. set up the clothing issue stores in both camps 24 hours before the expected arrival of the refugees and were then at the station and in the camps to help settle them in for the night. W.V.S. are now on duty issuing clothing and giving every possible assistance.”

When Idi Amin expelled the Asian Community from Uganda in 1972 many came to the UK and of course the WRVS was there to welcome them with clothing suitable for the British weather.

“we really didn't do very much except sort clothes, which came in from the public. There were so many clothes, we didn't know what to do with. But they all had to be sorted because some of them were not fit to give to anybody, and some were absolutely, really super clothes. And these were all sorted into men, women, children’s and babies. And we had one, one school sent us in with the children’s clothes, in the coat pockets were, was a toy in every one, which was lovely.” – Maureen Jones Volunteer, Epping

When Kosovar Refugees arrived in the UK in 1992 once again the WRVS was there to provide clothing to them.

“The Kosovars were based in Calderstones Hospital which was just on the verge of clothing [sic], closing and there was an appeal out for clothing and it came in in droves, we were really overwhelmed. We thought we were making some progress and then another lot would come in. Some really good things, new things, and we were sorting out the rubbish as well, which you also get some rubbish. But we never, we never finished it. They, eventually the, the clothing was taken into another part of the building and arranged as a dress shop or a men’s shop so they could come in and choose enough clothing to help them through.” – Kathleen Ashburner Volunteer,

These stories and more can be found on the Archive Catalogue search the Voices of Volunteering or Bulletin collections.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 12:00 Sunday, 26 June 2016.

Labels: Refugees, WVS, WRVS, Hungarian, Kosovar, Ugandan Asians

Reports from Everywhere - November 1955

This month’s reports from everywhere are all on the topic of Darby and Joan clubs.

ERITH
Copy of a letter from a Darby and Joan Club member: “Dear W.V.S., Thank you very much for my birthday card received September 3rd from the No. 1 Darby and Joan Club. It is very nice to think you are not forgotten. I have not been able to come to the Club for over twelve months. I have been very ill, but I am very pleased to say I am much better, but am not allowed by the Doctor to go into any crowded places, so I don’t go anywhere on my own these days. I miss my Friday meetings very much. All you folks made me feel so much at home with you all. You made me feel you really wanted us all there, not just putting up with us. Good luck to the Club and God bless all the W.V.S. that work there, also all the others that make it a success.”

FARNHAM
The Gostrey Club was recently opened. This is a scheme upon which we have been working for over a year. The Club provides a hot lunch, chiropody and library services and tea to people over 60 years of age. The Council have been most helpful in agreeing to let the old Civic Restaurant to us at a low price, and gifts have been received from a number of sources. W.V.S. members worked hard cleaning, putting up curtains and making all the preparations. The opening was attended by 18 old people and many visitors, since which the membership has increased to 45. It was pleasant to hear an old lady saying to a friend, “Yes, I’ve just been to my Club. Oh, it’s like heaven. The chairs are so comfortable and we sit with our feet on a carpet!”

GLOUCESTER
The following letter of thanks has been received from one of the old people to whom we deliver meals-on-wheels : “I am writing a few words of thanks to you and all the kind and willing helpers for their grateful service for we old people and the pleasant faces and the bit of pudding and dinner. Hoping you will not be offended at my writing but you deserve a word of praise for your kindness.”

MAIDSTONE R.D
The one hundredth Darby and Joan Club in Kent was opened on October 5th at Boughton Monchelsea. To commemorate the occasion a silver cup is being given to the Club by the Regional Old People’s Welfare Specialist.

WORTHING
An amusing story comes from Goring Darby and Joan Club. One of our members plays chess regularly with one of the old men. They continued their game during tea, and the Darby became so excited that his opponent suddenly saw he was trying to eat a chessman instead of his cake!

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

Labels: Erith, Gloucester, Maidstone, Worthing, Darby and Joan, Goestry, WVS, WRVS, RVS, Chess, Farnham

Spinach and Beet - Part 16

Today’s Diary of a Centre Organiser is from April 1950

Tuesday

A survey of the town has revealed a “corner” of it which is out of reach of any existing Darby and Joan Club. Mrs Ream has energetically pushed a leaflet into the letter-boxes of all houses there known to be inhabited by one or more people over sixty, inviting them to a meeting to discuss the possible formation of a Club. “I’ve been so busy doing this and that, I even forgot to get my husband’s dinner to-day,” she confessed, and added: “He says the leaflets have gone to my head and that I’ve got a one tract mind!”

Wednesday

It is often difficult to curb Mrs Catte’s bitter tongue, but perhaps a newcomer, Mrs Stranger will prove equal to the task. During this afternoon’s Work Party Mrs Stranger - at our invitation - was telling us a little about herself and the work she had been doing for W.V.S. in the Centre she came from. In addition she told us about her son who had won scholarship after scholarship and had just received promotion after only a few months in his first job. “Isn’t it wonderful how lucky your boy is?” Mrs Catte purred silkily, but there was a glint in her eyes. “Yes,” Mrs. Stranger retorted instantly, “isn’t it wonderful? The harder he works the luckier he gets.”

Friday

Sudden outbreak of a particularly nasty type of feverish cold amongst the helpers, coinciding with an unexpected number of requests for “Meals on Wheels” for ex-hospital patients. Everbody - myself included - rushing around madly, trying to cope with the deliveries by car, bicycle and even perambulator. Returned to the office to find amongst the letters one written in the third person : “Mrs Appleton would not mind a ‘Meal’ on a ‘Wheel,’ provided it arrives really hot and that the food is freshly cooked and not merely re-heated. She never touches liver and does not care for steamed puddings.” “Would not MIND ...!!’

Recipe

from May 1950

Meringue Cake

1 1/4 cups plain flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 egg yolks, unbeaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons milk
4 tablesp. butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For meringue top
2 whites of eggs
1/2 cup sugar.

Sift flour once, then measure, add baking powder and salt, sift together three times. Cream butter thoroughly, add sugar gradually, and cream together until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition until smooth. Add flavouring. Put into greased baking tin. Beat egg whites until foamy throughout, add sugar, 2 tablesp. at a time, beating after each addition until sugar is thoroughly blended. Continue beating until mixture stands in peaks. Spread over the cake batter. Bake in a moderate oven for about 50 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes to cool, then remove carefully from cake tin.

Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 26 October 2015.

Labels: Meals on Wheels, Darby and Joan Club, Meringue Cake, Recipe, Work Party , leaflets, RVS, WRVS, WVS, Spinach and beet

Long to reign over us

Today Her Majesty The Queen becomes our longest serving monarch, and Royal Voluntary Service, one of the many charities of which she is Patron, wishes her every happiness.

We have a long association with the Royal family, in fact back to before our foundation. Our first Patron in 1938 was Queen Mary, who was so instrumental in galvanising and leading Home front efforts in the First World War and who had a profound influence of on our founder Lady Reading encouraging and supporting her in the formation of the WVS ahead of that second terrible 20th century conflict. She would be followed later that year when Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) who consented to be our president, a position she actively held until her death in 2002.

It was not until 1953 on the death of Queen Mary and her ascent to the throne that Queen Elizabeth II became our Patron. But this was not the first or the last time that the WVS would be associated with our current reigning monarch. As Princess Elizabeth, our members were always ready to help, and in early 1948 were responsible for sorting, packing and sending out over 1,0000 parcels a day of gifts of food sent to Princess Elizabeth from the Dominions and Colonies at the time of her wedding. WVS was also entrusted with the task of dusting the Royal Wedding Presents while they were on view at St. James's Palace.

The Royal Wedding was a huge occasion in the long hard years of recovery after the war and one celebrated to the fore by members of the WVS. In all they collected £901 18s 10d, the majority of which was used to buy the Princess a refrigerator.

In 1966, on August 4 to be precise, Her Majesty conferred on the WVS the honour of adding Royal to their name, a thank you for the sacrifice of members during the Second World War and in the long recovery afterwards. It is a title we still treasure to this day.

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

Labels: Wedding presents, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary, Colonies, Dominions, Food gifts, Heritage Bulletin Blog, RVS, WRVS, WVS

The conservation problems of Molly Blake!

This week I thought I would bring you something a little different from the ordinary.

As regular readers of this blog may know I have been (for nearly two years now, in between other things) working my way through and digitising for preservation purposes copies of our WVS/WRVS Bulletin. I have now got to the 1970s and the issues from these years are dominated by the beautiful illustrations of Molly Blake.

Molly worked for WRVS for many years in the property department at our offices in Old Park Lane, London, but also provided illustrations for posters, books, and not infrequently on her memos.

Not only do we have the published versions of her illustrations, but also some of the originals. One might naturally assume that the originals will be better than the printed versions, but this as you will see is not the case.

Like many artists and illustrators (myself included, I was an archaeological illustrator in a former life) we cheat a lot of the time. Molly’s drawings, usually in pen and ink on drawing film or paper provide an interesting example of the ravages of time, on both ink and glue. Changes to drawings, like in the example below, often involved drawing a new character and then literally pasting it with glue into the scene. The completed drawing could them be copied by the printer and it would look like a seamless illustration done all in one.

Unfortunately in the 40 odd years since these illustrations were done the glue has yellowed, ruining the illusion and in some cases the characters are falling out of their scenes as the glue has become brittle and ineffective. The other issue is bleeding of the ink, as you can see below, where the illustrations have got damp, not being stored in the best conditions for much of their life.

 

Printed copy from the WRVS Magazine

Original version, with bleeding ink

We are doing our best to preserve these precious illustrations for the future and properly packaged and stored hopefully the ink won't bleed anymore, the glue though is another problem!

I hope you liked this brief look at Molly’s work, and hopefully I can bring you some more in the future.

All illustrations copyright © Molly Blake.

Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00 Tuesday, 18 August 2015.

Labels: Washing up , WRVS, Molly Blake, Heritage Bulletin Blog, Disabled, Conservation, Illustations, Drawings, WRVS Bulletin

Spinach and beet - Part 14

This week's Diary of a Centre Organiser comes from the WVS Bulletin, November 1951

Thursday

Matron is always glad when a young son or daughter, nephew or niece, accompanies one or more of our Trolley Shop team on their weekly rounds at the Old People’s Hospital. The patients enjoy seeing the children and one of them, 86 year old Mr Croke, gives great joy as a rule by moving sideways on his water-bed so that a glup-glup noise is made as he rocks the contents. Today, however, no smile broke the solemnity of a young visitor’s face when Mr Croke did his trick. Instead, overwhelmed with curiosity, the small boy took a step forward and asked anxiously : “If I put my finger in your mouth, would I feel the water?”

Friday

Have not yet found a niche in W.V.S. for Miss Pheckless. Had wondered whether she could deliver some of our Meals on Wheels, but my eye happened to light on an entry for August (when I was away) in our office Day Book which read : “Police called to ask us to remove some containers which had been standing outside No 5 London Street (an empty, boarded-up house) for some days and which were causing annoyance to the neighbours. Sent Miss Brown to collect them.” A later entry stated : “Miss Brown reported the containers were without lids, were buzzing with flies and smelling violently. Have traced that the meals were left by Miss Pheckless instead of at No 5 London Road.” Felt ashamed of myself for not reading the August entries before: what is the use of keeping a Day Book if nobody reads it? Was glad to discover due apologies had been sent to No 5 London Road.

Recipe

Tunny Fish en Casserole

1 medium size tin tunny fish
1 medium size onion (chopped)
3 packets potato crisps
Pepper and salt
1 tin mushroom soup

Line a casserole dish with one packet of potato crisps. Break the tunny fish into small pieces. Place part of it in the casserole, then a small quantity of the chopped onion; repeat until supply of tunny fish and onion are exhausted. Pour into the casserole the tin of soup (which has previously been heated) and put into a moderate oven for about half an hour. Cover the top with a layer of potato crisps, return to the oven for another ten minutes, garnish with parsley and serve.

Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 00:00 Tuesday, 11 August 2015.

Labels: WVS, WRVS, RVS, heritage Bulletin Blog, Hospital , Old people, Meals on Wheels , recipe, Tunny Fish casserole, Trolley Shop

Anyone who had a heart... Gives us a hand

I have returned to work this morning (from a wonderful holiday) to the sad news that the great singer and entertainer Cilla Black has died and I thought I would make a small tribute .

Back in 1998 Cilla was an ambassador for WRVS in our diamond anniversary year and helped us by supporting our give us a hand Campaign. The campaign sought to encourage people to volunteer with WRVS and to lend a hand in their local communities. A number of celebrities pledged their support by drawing around their hands, cutting them out and sending them to us to hang on a tree. You can read more about the campaign and see some of the celebrity hands on our timeline.

Cilla helped us launch the campaign at the Waldorf Hotel in London along with our chairman Lady Elizabeth Toulson and Cilla presented two of the volunteers who attended with a bottle of champagne! John and Mary Maisey, who volunteered at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, spent the first night of their honeymoon at the Waldorf in 1968 and hadn’t been back since!

Thank you Cilla.

Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:30 Monday, 03 August 2015.

Labels: Give us a hand, Cilla Black, Campaign, WRVS, Women's Royal Voluntary Service

Some recent enquiries...

Here at the archive much of our time is spent answering enquiries from members of the public and Royal Voluntary Service staff and volunteers, in fact we receive about 200 a year. But like London buses they all seem to come along at once.

This month we have had a small deluge of family and local history enquiries, requests from students and media companies to authors and people looking to donate material to the archive.

One of my favourite requests was from a gentleman who has donated 200 Civil Defence Welfare Section recipe cards to the archive (which as I write this have yet to arrive). Each card with a different recipe for feeding 5,000 people at a time, imagine that, the quantities are mind boggling!

We also had request for information on one of our Regional Administrators during the war, Mrs Vera Dart who looked after Region 10 (Cumberland, Lancashire and Cheshire for the uninitiated!) for an author who is publishing a book about her.

A lady rang up asking us to identify what had come in a small white cardboard box, which had “presented by Lady Reading 1940” written on the back. The answer? It was her WVS membership badge. A lucky lady to be presented with it by the Chairman!

We have also lent out this month our entire stock of wartime loan uniforms for events being held by Royal Voluntary Services around the country, they have been at the Dig for Victory Show in Bristol, as wells as other promotional events around the country from Sheffield to Hampshire, the uniforms always attracting much attention.

Finally in this small selection, we have helped an academic who is looking at how our narrative reports might be able to help track changes in society and policy over time. This may turn out to be an exciting project for the future!

Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 27 July 2015.

Labels: Region 10 , WVS, WRVS, RVS, Archive , Enquiries, Recipes, Vera Dart, Lady Reading , Narrative Reports

Spinach and beet - Part 13

This Month’s extract from the Diary of a Centre Organiser and our recipe come from August 1950.

MONDAY

Found a white-faced Miss MacFee hovering in the doorway when I arrived at the office to-day. “ The telephone’s out of order—and he’s in there,” she flung at me and rushed into the street. A most charming-looking little boy beamed a welcome when, greatly alarmed, I opened the door : his fair, curly hair reminding me of the picture of “ Bubbles ” ; and Miss MacFee’s behaviour seemed unaccountable. However, when I subsequently learned his “history” I felt every sympathy with her and her hurry to telephone the Welfare Officer : the small innocent-eyed person had wrung the neck of a chicken, attempted to strangle a kitten and that morning had nearly throttled his younger brother! (His mother, a Clothing Exchange frequenter, had dumped him on us in despair while on her way to the Hospital with his latest victim.)

TUESDAY

So far the meals for our “ Meals on Wheels ” scheme in the suburb of Nearleigh have been cooked by a local cafe : but with a change of management the quality of them has deteriorated disastrously with a resultant dropping in numbers. Have definitely decided W.V.S. shall do the cooking in future (as we already do for the rest of the town). Proprietor of cafe not pleased at decision and had his own explanation for the fall in numbers : “ They’re so excellent, the meals I serve,” he said aggressively, “ and the old folks feel so much better for them, that that’s why they’re not ordering any more.”

THURSDAY

I realise only too well that I am by no means as efficient as the regular “ Meals on Wheels ” helpers and when I—quite humbly—asked if I should take the place of a member who had fallen out at the last moment I was only “ allowed ” to do so after repeated instructions about bringing back the lids of containers and never leaving a meal without getting the money for it. Was horror-stricken, therefore, when old Mrs. Chaw greeted me with the words : “ It’s my free day to-day ”—but subsequently learned she meant she was free from cooking a meal on Thursdays (and how glad she was to be so), and returned triumphantly with her shilling.

Tomato Puffs

6 firm but ripe tomatoes
Pepper, salt and grated nutmeg
A little melted butter, chopped parsley, chives
1 egg.
Milk
Flour
Fat for frying

Skin the tomatoes and cut into thick slices. Then place on a plate, sprinkling the slices with chives, parsley and nutmeg. Prepare the batter for frying one hour before it is needed. Beat the egg, add a cup of milk and enough flour to make a thick batter. Season well with pepper and salt, adding a spoonful of cold water and melted butter. Beat well. Cover then stand aside.

Have the fat smoking hot : dip the tomato slices in the batter and fry, turning until they become well puffed and a rich golden brown.

Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 13 July 2015.

Labels: Tomatoe puffs, recipe, Meals on Wheels, Spinach and beet, WRVS, WVS, Chicken, kitten, Strangulation

Summer enquiry service closure

Unfortunately, due to staff and volunteer holidays we will be unable to offer our Archive enquiry service during the month of July. 

This summer closure will start on Friday 3 July and last until Monday 3 August when the archive enquiry service will re-open.  This will also affect our paid for research service and our image licencing service.  Any enquiries received during this period will be answered within 20 working days of the re-opening of the service on Monday 3 August.

Lots of information on the WVS, WRVS and Royal Voluntary Service is available through the our history pages our website.

We're sorry for any inconvenience caused.


Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00 Thursday, 02 July 2015.

Labels: WRVS, RVS, Enquiry Service