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Fact sheets

We've produced some useful fact sheets based on the most common enquiries to our Heritage Collection team.  Can't find what you're looking for? Tell us what fact sheets you'd find useful.

Origins of WVS

WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/P/PER/LR014 - Lady Reading sat at her desk in her office at the WVS for Civil Defence Headquarters. 1940
A detailed account of what happened in the months which led up to the formation and founding of WVS in May 1938, compiled from surviving documents in both the Royal Voluntary Service Heritage Collection and The National Archives.

Download Origins of WVS

WVS Housewives Service

WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/PUB/PSTER-HWS-002 – Housewives Section window card. 1943
A history of the WVS Housewives Service from its origins in Ilford in 1938 up to mid 1942 written by Mrs Atkinson, Head of Personnel and Training at WVS in 1942. The Housewives Service was formed to assist the Air Raid Wardens Service and by 1942 had nearly 240,000 members, one on almost every street in Britain.

Download WVS Housewives Service

Hidden Histories of a Million Wartime Women - Kickstarter updates

WVS Mobile Canteen, Sheffield. December 1940
Between 1938 and 1992, members of the WVS wrote monthly Narrative Reports to document their activities in the local community.  

As part of our Hidden Histories of a Million Wartime Women project to digitise the first few years of these diaries (1938-1942), you can now follow their journey through this compilation of weekly blogs.

Download Hidden Histories of a Million Wartime Women - Kickstarter updates

Welfare Work in Hospitals 1938-2013

WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/P/HH/HHLIB005 - Trolley library in hospital 1970
WVS began working in hospitals in 1938 to assist with preparations for war, staff shortages in non-medical jobs, emergencies and recruiting people to fulfil specific jobs such as ward maids or ambulance drivers.

Download Welfare Work in Hospitals 1938-2013

WVS and Evacuation 1939-1944

WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/P/CH/EVCI001 - Channel Island evacuees c.1940

The WVS was instrumental in the preparations, billeting and ongoing care of millions of children evacuated from cities and high risk areas to the countryside during the Second World War. This booklet written in1973 by the women who helped organise the evacuation gives a fascinating insight into the forgotten role of the WVS. 

Download Summary of Government Evacuation Scheme

Story of WVS Bristol 1939-1945

WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/P/CD/EMFE079 - WVS members cook on trench, hotplate and hotplate with oven cookers constructed by the local authority in Muller Avenue, Bristol during an emergency feeding exercise code named Operation Quail. 17/12/1952

WVS provided an essential service to communities in Bristol during the war; they set up static and mobile canteens to feed the dockers and those affected by air raids that hit the city. Clothing depots and 'make do and mend parties' provided clothing for evacuees and a Housewives Service was created which helped with all aspects of war, such as salvage and blood transfusions.

Download Story of WVS Bristol 1939-1945

Salvage on the Home Front

WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/P/SAL/COG007 - School children collect salvage for COG Scheme at Droop Street School. 1939-1945

Between 1940 and 1945, the WVS helped assist the National Wartime Salvage Scheme. Thousands of members devoted considerable time and effort to ensure that salvage became a daily activity.

Download Salvage on the Home Front

Roll of Honour

WRVSA&HC/WRVS/ROH – Detail from watercolour in WVS Roll of Honour 1949

The WVS Roll of Honour lists the 245 members of the WVS from Great Britain and Northern Ireland sadly killed during the Second World War. It includes their names, WVS centres, WVS occupations and how they were killed. The original is on display in Westminster Abbey.

Download Roll of Honour

History of the Roll of Honour

WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/P/CS/40AN018 - 40th Anniversary service, Bedford 1978
Information sent to the press after the unveiling and dedication of the Roll of Honour in 1951 by HM Queen Elizabeth.

Download History of the Roll of Honour

Origins of Meals on Wheels

WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/P/F/MOW042 - Meals on Wheels, Lincoln. January 1955
A detailed account of the starting of the first Meals on Wheels service in Welwyn Garden City in 1943, using records from the Heritage Collection and reports in the Welwyn Times.

Download Origins of Meals on Wheels

WVS Uniform

Elaine Paige and the Bella Donnas pose in Second World War WVS Uniforms with period motorcycles on the South Bank, London for the Royal Voluntary Service 80th Anniversary. November 2018
A detailed and illustrated look at the development of the WVS uniform from its inception in 1939 through to 1945. Compiled using documents and surviving examples of uniform of the time from the Heritage Collection.

Download WVS Uniform

A history of the uniform of Royal Voluntary Service

Watch our short film about the evolution of our uniforms from 1939 right through to the modern day.

Darby and Joan Clubs

WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/P/OPW/DAJC049 - Darby and Joan Club, Grove Park, Mrs Ramsley's 90th birthday. November 1967
A brief history of the concerted start of WVS’ work for older people in 1946 and the beginnings of the WVS Darby and Joan Clubs; day clubs where older people could go for a friendly chat and a cup of tea and perhaps a quiet game of cards or half an hour with the wireless. Compiled from records held in the Heritage Collection.

Download Darby and Joan Clubs

Ten Years' Work 1938-1948

WRVSA&HC/WRVS/OBJ/OBJ-097 – Details from WVS Tree watercolour 1947

A copy of ‘Ten Years' Work’ published in 1948 by WVS detailing thematically, by activity, the work of the service over the previous ten years.

Download Ten Years' Work 1938-1948

One in Five

WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/P/CD/OIF012 - Refuge room display at the North East Royal Show. 03/07/1962-06/07/1962
A history of the WVS and WRVS One in Five (1955-1985) which demonstrated how to cope during the event of a nuclear war.

Download One in Five

WRVS Court Canteens

WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/PBY/MKTP/PRIS/CCAN001 - Wakefield Magistrates Court Canteen Late 1990s
Between 1964 and 2005 WVS/WRVS ran hundreds of canteens and tea bars in HM Courts up and down the country. This fact sheet explores their humble origins in Derby, their rise over three decades and their end in the new millennium as the nature of our work began to change.

Download WRVS Court Canteens

History of the WVS/WRVS Association

Members of WVS Association at a meeting

The WVS/WRVS Association was set up following the death of WVS founder, Lady Reading, to encourage local groups of members to meet through reunions and events. Members would reunite "not only to remember the past, but to keep in touch with old friends and with those who were carrying on the ideals of our founder against the background of an ever-changing society with varying needs."

Download History of the WVS/WRVS Association

Narrative Reports

Narrative Report from Haltemprice Rural District South, 1944 with silver pen on top and WVS hat and scarf
A brief overview of the Narrative Reports, their inception, purpose and importance.

Download Narrative Reports

Books on WVS and WRVS

WRVSA&HC/WRVS/HQ/P/COM/BKB002 - Book binding in Essex. Feb 1949
Bibliography of printed sources for information about WVS and WRVS from all periods of our history, with brief descriptions of their subjects.

Download Books on WVS and WRVS

NOTE: Some of these files are large and may take some time to download.