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The Women’s Voluntary Service is mistaken for the Women’s Vegetarian Society

October 1st was world vegetarian day and heralded the start of international vegetarian week. Most people probably see dietary requirements and other lifestyle choices when it comes to what we eat as a relatively new and modern concept. However vegetarianism has deep roots from ancient world including the Greeks to the National Vegetarian society (Britain) formed in the nineteenth century. So as you can see it is not new and this means we can share with you some fascinating insights into the thoughts of WVS members on vegetarian’s in the 1940s and 1950s.

Extracts from Spinach and Beet – the diary of a centre organiser

TUESDAY. How careful one has to be when wearing uniform: one's slightest word is taken literally. Among ourselves in the office we have dubbed as "vegetarians" the members who come to peel vegetables for Meals on Wheels. ("How many vegetarians are wanted on Thursday?" "We shall want an extra vegetarian on Tuesday when there's Lancashire hot-pot "-and so on.) Apparently similar remarks were overheard on a 'bus or somewhere equally public, as we were telephoned this morning by someone who wanted to join "The W.V.S. Yes: The Women's Vegetarian Society-such a splendid idea!" - WVS Bulletin No.118 October 1949 p.7

Friday.-Now that Mrs. Young's small boy attends kindergarten in the mornings, she is free to help us and to-day she signed an Enrolment Form. On his first day home from school he said to her excitedly:  "Oh Mummy, there are ever so many foreign children in my class: there's a French boy and a Norwegian, and a Hungarian and- and a Vegetarian. What country does a Vegetarian come from, Mummy?” - WVS Bulletin No.1 48 April 1952 p.6

Extract from Nature and other Notes reports for WVS members serving overseas

A great neurosis about our fauna seems to have swept over England, and even Tothill Street has succumbed! I must admit that the crabs are unprepossessing and the rats not house-trained, but with a little ingenuity and a tin of poison one can avoid having to hob-nob with them.



The rats are not really rats at all. They are large sand-mice called "taboa" (not "jerboa" as appeared in one paper). They are vegetarian and non-disease- carrying. They are incredibly bold, greedy and noisy, and not at all fussy about where they leave their droppings. We have waged chemical warfare against them, and at one stage felt we would have to move. - WVS Buletin No.221 May 1958 p.5


Recipes to try out

Now perhaps you are trying to think of something to eat to celebrate world vegetarian day, so why not try one of these. I am sorry about the tripe as I'm pretty sure this is not a veggie option.




Remember it is #AskAnArchivist day on 4th October Tweet @RVSarchives with your questions.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 02 October 2017.

Labels: vegetarian, WVS, World War II, Bulletin

Salvage reports from Melton Mowbray

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.

Posted by Jacob Bullus, Archives Assistant (Digitisation) at 09:00 Monday, 25 September 2017.

Labels: Melton Mowbray, Salvage, WVS, World War II, Narrative Reports

A Wartime Paper Journey

Throughout the Second World War, rationing became an integral part of British society. Unknown to most, paper rationing had a significant impact on the manufacturing of the WVS Narrative Reports. As I hope to illustrate this week the differences, in the layout and quality of the paper they were written on between 1939 and 1941, are particularly stark.

Above is one of the WVS's earliest reports from Middlesbrough written in November 1938. Interestingly, the original orientation of a WVS Narrative Report was landscape unlike the familiar portrait reports of later years. Under  imperial paper sizes, an original report was classified as foolscap as it measured 13 x 8 inches. The weight and quality of this pre-war paper is also particularly noteworthy as it retains an almost card-like feel compared to later reports.

Looking at this 1939 report above, it is clearly apparent that the layout and quality of the Narrative Report has changed. After its inception in May 1938, the WVS became increasingly prominent in society. The design of the Narrative Reports’ reflect this change as they start to look more official from this year onwards. Due to the outbreak of war, the paper quality of the diaries also begins to decline from around September. As a result, the majority of reports from 1939 have significant differences in paper quality.

1940 brought the introduction of the portrait report. It is clear to see that the WVS has established itself as a formidable organisation, as the top of the report  contained a list of set criteria to help the Centre Organiser write her account. As the WVS were the masters of make do and mend, the new portrait reports returned to the high quality paper of 1938. Whilst we are unsure exactly why this is, it is suspected that the WVS started producing the reports themselves as opposed to outsourcing the printing. With Lady Reading at the helm, it is almost unsurprising that they returned to paper of substantial quality.

1941 marks the most important transition for the design and feel of an original WVS Narrative Report. The organisation continues with the foolscap portrait design until September of that year. After this, the WVS moved to a smaller quarto sized document (10 x 8 inches) that was produced out of thin, poorer quality repulped wartime paper. Naturally, the main reason behind this decision was to ensure that more paper could be produced nationally by trading off the quality of the material. Somewhat ironically, these later reports are substantially more fragile than their earlier counterparts.

Despite this, their stories are of equal significance. To make sure of this, a lot of WVS Centre Organisers were much more inclined to write on the back of the document to ensure everything had been recorded.

After 1941, the quality of the paper remained unchanged until the end of the war. Occasionally however, you do see an original design pop up in later years. The ideas of salvage and recycling were of course still at the back of members minds. I hope you have enjoyed this short Journey through wartime paper and for more stories from the Narrative Reports you can visit and search Archive Online.

Posted by Jacob Bullus, Archives Assistant (Digitisation) at 09:00 Monday, 28 August 2017.

Labels: WVS, Narrative Report, World War II, Paper

"The Effect of a Cup of Tea is magical"

This week we bring you another Heritage Bulletin Vlog, the script can be seen below.

Hello and welcome back to another Heritage Bulletin Vlog  we’ve been very busy over the last few months with lots of exciting projects like the launch of our Narrative reports on our online archive.

In 1950 a report called WVS Work in Hospitals, said that “the effect of a cup of tea is magical” and looking at the many objects which represent tea and its importance to the organisation is like looking down a rabbit hole, you never know what you might find. Here in front of me are just a couple of examples of the mugs and tea pots we have produced over the years.

Providing tea and food during World War II was a main feature of WVS work so I thought I’d share a tea related story with you this week called Caravan Canteen.

“A hospital train pulled into the siding. Stretcher-bearers clambered out. They set their stretchers down and the casualties came to life and converged upon us. We were surrounded. “Coffee? Tea? Soup?”

The soup came out of the tap in a reddish gush into the white mug. An aged man conspicuously labelled fractured femur sniffed at it with the sagacity of an ancient foxhound. “Tomato soup”, I improvised. “Or would you rather have tea?” fractured Femur nodded. I drew off a mugful from the other urn. It swirled into the mug with a deep and greenish look, as if from the dark backward and abysm of time.

“WVS colours, huh?” said a voice in the crowd”. But they drank up, and after the first urn was emptied the tea came out a better colour."

That’s all we have time for but you can read the full story by clicking on the link below.

WVS Bulletin March 1940 page 7

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 21 August 2017.

Labels: WVS, WRVS, Royal Voluntary Service, Tea, Canteen, World War II