Keep up to date with the latest news and happenings at the Archive and Heritage Collection. Send us your email address to receive notifications of new posts to your inbox, or follow us on twitter.com/RVSarchives
With the start of the famous tennis tournament today at Wimbledon, we thought it would be good to explore our association with the All England Club.
‘When do you think it is going to stop raining?’
‘Where is the nearest laundrette?’
‘Can you sew on my trouser buttons?’
Believe it or not theses were some of the questions asked at the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament information desks, run by WVS/WRVS between 1947 and 2004.
The All England Club allowed the organisation to hold its own annual Lawn Tennis Competition on the courts as a reward for manning the information desks. As well as answering questions on a range of subjects there were many other situations to deal with including reuniting lost children with their parents and even managers with tennis players. Volunteers also had the opportunity to watch matches on Centre Court and Court One during their breaks though they rarely watched a whole match as a volunteer wrote, ‘work must come first’.
During the 1980s one volunteer kept a record of her experiences of a week at Wimbledon. She wrote about a whole range of things including what she ate, there seems to have been a lot of avocado! On Tuesday 2nd June 1985 she wrote:
‘Panic at 6.50 when Leconte’s Manager came asking where he could get hold of Leconte’s coach who was somewhere within the rabbit warren, being interviewed by French Radio … after much phoning he eventually got hold of him’.
At the beginning of May I went to talk to Maureen Jones as part of Voices of Volunteering who was a WRVS volunteer on the Wimbledon Information Desks between 1982 and 1992. You can listen to a clip about one of her experiences at Wimbledon below.
Voices of Volunteering: 75 Years of Citizenship is an exciting new project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund which is collecting the memories and stories of long serving WVS/WRVS volunteers. Our volunteers are also involved, collecting oral histories in their local areas from WVS/WRVS volunteers. We hope to use these stories to inspire younger generations to volunteer through schools resources on volunteering and citizenship.
This month’s extract form the diary of a centre organiser comes from the WVS Bulletin, May 1950
Almost incoherent ’phone call from Miss Bernard at 10 a.m. to say that in spite of more-or-less living in a mustard bath over the week-end she still had a streaming cold and would be unable to pay her usual visit to old Mrs. Draper this afternoon. Decided to do the job myself. Was soon made to feel I was an extremely poor substitute. After doing my best for a very “ sticky ” ten minutes I got up to go. “ Needles,” Mrs. Draper reprimanded me sharply. “ Didn’t Miss Bernard tell you ? No ? She always threads me two dozen or so with different coloured cottons—to keep me going until she comes again.” Fumbled nervously with needles that pricked me, and cottons that assumed the proportions of the proverbial camels for quite twenty minutes ! (All the same, this needle-threading idea is a good one.)
Recipe – from the WVS Bulletin November 1948
Coffee Shortbread Fingers
4 oz. Self Raising Flour. 2 oz. Semolina.
2 oz. Peanut Butter. 1 oz. Margarine.
1 oz. Cornflour. 2 oz. Sugar.
1 tablesp. Coffee Essence. 3 tablesp. Water.
Mix dry ingredients thoroughly. Add coffee essence and water to make a stiff paste. Roll out and cut into fingers with a straight fluted-edged cutter. Bake in a moderate oven for 20 mins. until golden brown and fairly firm to the touch. Cool on a wire tray.
It is with great sadness that we heard of the passing of Dame Mary Soames at the weekend, last surviving daughter of Winston Churchill, she was 91.
It is widely known that Mary was a member of the ATS during the World War Two, but what many won’t know is that she started her wartime volunteering as a member of the WVS, before she resigned to join the more glamorous ATS.
She was a volunteer at Stoke Mandeville hospital, near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, where she helped run the library. The hospital is only a short distance from the Prime Minister’s country residence at Chequers.
How do we know this? Because about five years ago a parcel of documents arrived in the archive which had been found in the loft of an old volunteer. They were what remained of the papers of the Aylesbury centre. In amongst these was the below letter of resignation from Mary Churchill, from her post at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
Dame Mary would returned to WRVS in 1988 to give the address at the 50th anniversary service in Westminster Abbey.