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A Surpise Package!

There was great excitement in the RVS Archives last week when a large bubble wrap envelope arrived, along with a small card reading, “Do please use anything you deem suitable and dispose of the rest”. It was my second week volunteering at the archive and a perfect opportunity to learn about ‘accessioning’, in other words, processing new items as they arrive, recording the content and the circumstances, making decisions about what to preserve, packaging it, and putting it safely into storage.

In this instance, it was very clear that our anonymous donor wished to make an outright gift to the archive. Frustratingly, though, there was nobody to whom we could reply to thank them for their kindness. The only clue we had was the postmark, which indicated that the donor came from the Greenwich area.

We carefully leafed through the package, appraising and itemizing its contents. It contained the history of a WVS member, Miss Emma Yellowley, who served with WVS Welfare Services from 1945 to 1952. In addition, the package contained previously unseen reports of the WVS Welfare Services in South East Asia. What a treat for the archivists! Many of the new items processed by the team at the archives are formal documents produced by the WVS offices, so it was a real privilege for me to share their genuine enthusiasm for this significant personal collection.

Emma Yellowley was born in Chester le Street in 1903. By 1945 she was 42, unmarried, and living in Chipstead, Surrey. Perhaps she was attracted to the RVS by an advertisement offering the opportunity for travel and adventure? She applied to join the WVS Welfare Services Overseas and in October 1945 she set off from Euston Station to start her new life. She wrote in her diary, “All the girls and myself were thrilled to bits and very excited.” Emma was one of 60 girls alongside the 6000 troops who set sail for Rangoon (now Yangon), in Burma, on board the Mauretania.

Between 1945 and 1948 she worked in Rangoon, at the Sappers Club in Singapore, and in Hong Kong. They say life begins at 40, and Emma seemed determined to prove the rule. She had a marvelous time, her stay liberally peppered with parties, picnics, swimming, amateur dramatics and outings. She also enjoyed five weeks’ holiday in India. As she left Hong Kong she remarked “It’s very sad leaving all the nice friends we have made.”

She was eager to return to the Far East, and after four months in England, she was given a second two year contract. She was posted to Kuala Lumpur, Malaya, where she helped at the Galloway Club, at the Reception Camp Canteen. Emma’s third and final contract was with the Middle East Land Forces in Cyprus, from 1950 to 1952. Here she was posted to Pine Tree Camp, a holiday camp in Troodos, a mountainous retreat near the centre of the island. 

We would like to pass on our sincere thanks to the unnamed donor who gave us the opportunity to redscover and share Emma’s story. It would be wonderful to find out who this generous person was. Can you help?




Posted by Sheridan Parsons at 00:00 Tuesday, 27 January 2015.

Labels: WVS, WRVS, Services Welfare, Burma, Singapore, Heritage Bulletin Blog, Emma Yellowley, Rangoon, Hong Kong, Cyprus

Helping say goodbye to Sir Winston Churchill

This Saturday, 24 January, 50 years ago, one of the greatest Britons to ever live died at his home in London. That man was Sir Winston Churchill.

The WVS as ever played its part in helping the people of Britain to pay their respects to a man who had helped this country through its darkest hours.

This report from the WVS Bulletin from March 1965 tells the story of the WVS efforts to assist at the Lying in State a duty they had performed only 13 years previously for King George VI.

WVS has sent a cheque for £1,040 to the organisers of the Winston Churchill Memorial Fund, the amount generously contributed by the 82,400 people who had hot drinks from WVS while waiting in the queue, during THE LYING IN STATE.

SINCE WVS served hot tea and Bovril to the public waiting in the queue during the Lying in State of Sir Winston Churchill, many appreciative remarks have been made about their work.

On the Friday, a member in uniform, when doing her shopping in Westminster was at the first shop— and much to her embarrassment— taken to the head of the queue as the shopkeeper said she must be tired. At the second, someone proposed three cheers for WVS, and at the third the member was again sent to the head of the queue. Later, while looking at the window of a local store, where a bust of Sir Winston Churchill was displayed, this same member was again the centre of attention. The men said that they were so glad to have this opportunity of thanking WVS—one of the men recalled their work for the services during the war and the other remembered the care taken of his mother and father who were bombed out. At this moment, three more men arrived who had waited five hours in the queue, the night before, and who wanted to say that they thought that WVS was doing marvellous work.

The Chairman visited the WVS at the site on several occasions and surprised many workers by being there at midnight on the Thursday. She talked to everyone on the Food Flying Squad vehicles and, on crossing to the Lambeth side, found that the workers were both short-handed and slaving away in the dark. The workers had got used to the perpetual gloom and were dispensing tea and Bovril—the latter a generous gift from the makers—at a great rate to the queue which at that time spread as far as County Hall. The Chairman characteristically wasted no time in despatching to Headquarters for two extra helpers to make up the full complement. She then herself returned to Headquarters with a colleague to look for emergency lighting. Sometime later, they returned with a supply of red candles and jam jars and the workers served the hot drinks by their glowing light.

The Chairman tells a story of how she arrived at the canteen on one occasion to find a policeman holding a carry cot and passing the baby into the vehicle with: ‘he has to be fed’, and he was fed without more ado, the mother sitting on a large carton of plastic cups.

Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00 Monday, 19 January 2015.

Labels: Winston Churchill, WVS, WRVS, RVS, Heritage Bulletin Blog, Lying in State, Embankment, Bovril, Food Flying Squad

Reports From everywhere - January 1955

BARNET U.D. We were really thrilled to have a personal visit from Corporal W Kane of Stoke Newington who is just back from Korea. He came to express the grateful thanks of all who enjoyed the contents of our parcels. As a token of his appreciation he presented the Centre Organiser with a pair of Korean chopsticks, a spoon and a festive eating bowl. It was quite exciting to hear first-hand news of all the boys and girls who write to us, and we really felt we knew them personally.

BECKENHAM U.D. Flashback to the early nineteen hundreds. A member of one of our Darby and Joan Clubs, having been business manager to Leslie Henson in his early days, wrote reminding him of the past and asked him if he could supply any entertainment for the members of her club. To the great surprise of the leader of the club she was hailed as “Miss Beckenham” although 83 years of age and invited with 90 of her friends and colleagues to witness a performance of his latest play “Relations Are Best Apart”.  From the footlights Mr Henson paid a wonderful tribute to this little lady who is gradually losing her sight. He welcomed the members of the club with great gusto.

ERITH B. Sitters-in are still supplied and the job is particularly popular in Metropolitan Kent. Recently a centre received an unusual request - the mother of a small girl asked for a sitter-in whom the child could call Granny as she hadn’t a grandmother and most of her friends had! A Darby and Joan member aged 60, who is a widow and lives alone, has taken on this job and it has given her a great deal of pleasure. She said: “God bless the W.V.S. I feel as if I had been given a new lease of life.”

FULHAM B. Mrs Emma Weekes of Fulham, has just been enrolled. This lady will be 103 years old next May. She is knitting squares in coloured wool to keep the sailors’ “tootsies warm”.  Is this a record, please ?

Posted by Matthew McMurray at 15:00 Monday, 12 January 2015.

Labels: WVS, Korea, Leslie Hanson, darby and Joan Club, Entertainment, Granny, Sitters in , Knitted Squares , Relations are Best Apart, Barnet, Fulham, Beckenham, Erith

Spinach and Beet – Part 8

This month’s extract from the diary of a centre organiser comes from the WVS Bulletin, January 1950:

MONDAY

A young woman brought two little girls, dressed identically, to the Clothing Exchange this afternoon. “Hallo, Twins,” one of our members greeted them. “They’re not twins,” their escort retorted sullenly. “Not -  ?” someone else asked, “but they’re exactly alike. How old are they?” “Same age - six; just a couple of hours difference,” was the answer. We looked at each other in bewilderment. Dressed alike, looking alike, born within two hours of each other and yet not twins ? “This one’s my daughter ; t’other one’s my sister. Me and my Mum, we had ’em the same day,” came the explanation. Our members bustled into activity, endeavouring to fit out aunt and niece!

THURSDAY

A would-be member, Miss Hope Less, for who - so far - we have been unable to find a job (“I’m not really good at anything”) joined a Work Party this afternoon at which we were all busy unravelling old knitted garments prior to re-using the wool. She managed, somehow, to spin a positive cocoon of tangled wool around herself and I could see our efficient Mrs. Wright was itching to get her fingers on to the job. Miss Less, blissfully unaware of the emotions she was rousing, giggled happily at the muddle and said, “‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!’” This was too much for Mrs Wright who swept the wool away from her with fierce possessiveness, muttering as she did so: "‘If at first you don’t succeed’ - try another method!” Hastily suggested a pause for tea.

A JANUARY DINNER (a menu and recipe suggestion from the WVS Bulletin January 1950)

Fish Soup

Wash 1 lb. filleted cod or haddock. Remove skin and bones and put these in a saucepan with cold water to cover and a pinch of salt. Add a small piece of celery, chopped, a small carrot and a little chopped onion. Simmer for one hour and then strain. Put some flour into a basin, allowing 1 tablespoonful to 1 pint of soup. Mix smoothly with a little cold water, stir into the soup and boil for a few minutes, stirring all the time. Add the fish cut up into neat pieces. Simmer for five minutes then add 1/2 pint milk and hot water, and chopped parsley. (This makes an excellent supper dish by itself).

Vegetable Pudding

1 soup-plateful chopped vegetabled
3 soaked dinner rolls
1 1/2 oz. margarine
2 eggs
Salt to taste

Wash and dry and well drain all vegetables before measuring. Drain all moisture from the soaked rolls. Melt margarine in a saucepan and stir in gradually the rolls and prepared vegetables. Mix well then stir in the beaten yolks of eggs. Lastly lightly fold in the frothed whites of eggs. Turn into a buttered pie-dish, dab with pieces of margarine and sprinkle with a little grated cheese. Bake in oven until nicely crisp on top.

Cranberry Tart

3/4 lb. cranberries
1/2 pint water
1/2 lb. brown sugar

Wash and pick over cranberries. Put them on with water and sugar and simmer gently until soft. Break up with a fork and cool. Cover plate with short pastry. Spread over cranberries. Place cross-bars of pastry on top. Sprinkle with sugar and bake in hot oven for 1/2 hour.

For the convalescent: Marmalade rolls

Cut some bread and butter in very thin slices. Spread with marmalade and roll up very carefully. Put in a hot oven for 5 minutes until brown and crackly. A wonderful appetiser at tea-time.

Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00 Tuesday, 06 January 2015.

Labels: Spinach and Beet, WVS, WRVS, RVS, Diary, Fish Soup, vegetable Pudding, Cranberry Tart, Work Party, Wool, Twins, Clothing Exchange