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Guide to making an enquiry

General tips

  1. If you make an online enquiry we will be able to spend more time on researching your enquiry.
  2. Include as much information as possible in your enquiry, it is always better to include too much than too little and this will save us having to contact you to ask for more information.
  3. Make sure you ask specific rather than general questions. An example of a question that is too general and substantial for us to answer directly through the enquiry service would be 'Can you tell me what WVS did during the war?You should base your question on what you really want to know such as 'What did WVS do in Coventry to help after the air raids?' or 'Were the WVS involved in distributing clothing to evacuees in Bradford?'
  4. We are unable to answer any enquiries over the telephone. To make it fair, we deal with all enquiries made to our enquiry service in the order in which we receive them. If you want an answer to your question within ten working days, you can use our research service.
  5. We are unable to provide information which is less than 30 years old, unless it is from a published source already in the public domain.

Researching individuals

Individual volunteers are extremely difficult to track down within our Heritage Collection, unless they held a titled position within the organisation or were awarded an honour.

The first place to look is at Heritage Online which has names of individuals attached to many of our photographs, which were printed in newspapers and other publications.

We are unable to undertake research into individuals or provide you with information specifically about them, unless:

  • proof that they are deceased is provided
  • proof that they would be over 100 years of age at the time of the enquiry is provided
  • the enquirer is the individual in question
  • The information is in the public domain as it is has been in a published source such as a newspaper.

You will need to provide a copy of a death certificate, birth certificate or proof of identity by email to or by post.

If you are making an enquiry about an individual you’ll need to provide as much information as possible to help us track them down.

As a minimum you will need to provide:

  • their full name (at the time that they were volunteering with the WVS/WRVS)
  • where they were living (town and county)
  • the dates they were volunteering (preferably a defined date or limited date range)

It would also be helpful if you could provide:

  • whether they received an honour (BEM, MBE, CBE etc)
  • what specific WVS centre they volunteered from
  • any other information which you think might be relevant.

Researching places

Researching places is one of the easiest things to do in our Heritage Collection, as most of our material was created and is organised geographically. There were over 2,000 WVS/WRVS centres and we have reports and other information about almost all of them.

If you are looking for information about a particular place during the Second World War, you should start by making a search on our Heritage Online to find out if we hold any Narrative Reports about that city, town or village.

Every Narrative Report, from 1938-1945, in our collection is listed on our online catalogue, but survival of these reports is patchy for some areas, especially London. Remember that if your town or village is not listed, it probably was administered from the next nearest available centre.  You can check your nearest WVS/WRVS centre for EnglandScotland and Wales or by county for England, Scotland and Wales. Also, reports for ‘Rural Districts’ will cover the surrounding countryside and not just the town or village mentioned.

If you find reports on our online catalogue you want to study, you can order copies.

All photographs from 1938-1990 in Heritage Online also include information about where they are taken (if known), so you might find some information on your city, town or village through them. Over 900 photographs have preview images attached, but we are unable to provide copies of those which are not available to view online.

If you can’t find anything about the place you are looking for in Heritage Online, there is other material in our Heritage Collection that the volunteer team will be able to search on your behalf.

When enquiring about the role of WVS/WRVS in a specific place or area, please be aware that the amount of time required to produce a history of WVS/WRVS work can be substantial. To give you an example, our fact sheet History of WVS Bristol in Wartime took 24 hours to research and compile.

Researching services

Royal Voluntary Service has provided more services in the field of Civil Defence and community welfare than there is space to include here. Some of our services ran for a relatively short time, others are still going.

Information on headquarters policy on services, for example Meals on Wheels, is relatively easily obtainable, but information on how services were actually delivered on the ground can only truly be understood through searching the hundreds of thousands of local reports.

Histories of some of our services, such as Meals on Wheels, One in Five and the WVS Housewives’ Service are available as fact sheets.

In making an enquiry about a service, you should try and make your enquiry as specific as possible.