The WVS and WI keep the 'Homefires' burning

With VE Day just gone and the new ITV series Homefires, about the Women's Institute, (WI), on our Sunday night television sets, you might be forgiven for thinking that the WI was the only women’s organisation working on the Home Front in WWII.

The WVS during WWII was led by a grand coalition of over 60 women’s groups, but not including the WI (except for on matters relating to evacuation).  This seems to have been caused by a clash of personalities between Lady Denman and Lady Reading, the leaders of the respective organisations.  This however did not stop the WI and the WVS co-operating closely together at a local level, where central politics was of little consequence to winning a war!

As a follow on to this I thought we would look at the contribution of the WVS to the war effort in and around the Village of Bunbury in Cheshire, where Homefires was filmed. 

Bunbury did not have its own WVS centre, but was part of the Nantwich Borough and Rural District.  The Rural District which covered all of the villages around Nantwich and had representatives in 41 villages and hamlets.  In total nearly 500 WVS members served the area, specialising in canteens for the troops (which on occasion fed over 1,500 troops in a day) first aid post and rest centres, work parties and rural transport.  With 20 members touring the villages collecting for National Savings. 

The WVS did, as everywhere else, just about anything; distributing ration cards, darning socks, undertaking billeting surveys, and providing food and entertainment for troops.  The WVS even had a ‘herb committee’ which was tasked with collecting nettles herbs, rosehips (if which in September 1943 they collected 1 tonne) and other forage. 

Transport in rural counties was also a big issue, as it is today, and over 1,500 passengers were transported by the Volunteer Car Pool (VCP) every month.  This on top of knitting over 300 comforts every month for troops and 30 camouflage nets were woven (when the webbing was available!). 

Jam making is never mentioned, but it may be that in this area the links between the WI and the WVS were not so strong.  Whatever the case, women made an amazing and often unsung contribution to the war effort, and without their sacrifice things may have ended very differently.

Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00 Monday, 04 May 2015.

Labels: Homefires, WI, WVS, WRVS, Heritage Bulletin Blog, Cheshire , Bunbury, Rose Hips, VCP, Comforts, Ration, Canteen

Back to list