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Our Narrative Reports and correspondence files are strewn with the whimsy of some of the more creative of the WVS centre organisers over the years. And one of their favourite past times was including with their letters or little poems. These ranged in skill from the sublime to the downright awful, but below, for your delight is one of the most charming we have come across.
WVS – The Army Hitler Forgot
Has the question ever been put to you
Can you tell me what the WVS do?
Oh yes! Of course, they drive a car
Serve cups of tea from a canteen Bar
With such duties light, in a gentle way
They easily pass the livelong day.
No, no! They are wrong, and must be told
Of the different story we now unfold.
We Camouflage, “Make do and Mend”
Knit, Sew and Wedding Dresses lend
Rest Centres, Information and CAB
Red Cross messages, Salvage and VCP
Overseas Gifts for those “Bombed Out”
A boon to our country without a doubt
Meals for the Land Army, and Home Guard as well
National Savings the Exchequer to swell
Billeting, Hospitality, the Child’s Clothing Exchange
Are some of the activities within our range.
Take out school meals, rose hips collect
Try hard to fill in “Returns” correct.
Reports, Statistics, Forms One, Two and Three
Besides the Canteens and Cups of Tea.
Welfare for the forces is in daily request
Furnishing, Libraries, Mending socks and vests.
Whatever they ask we try to provide
To perform a “Miracle” is the WVS pride.
The housewives section do jobs without end
In lulls and Emergencies are the Warden’s Friend
With Demonstrations, Meetings and Exercises too
They are known to all by the cards “Red” and “Blue”.
In all Emergencies the WVS are there
Looking after the Homeless with Tender care.
We feed, we clothe and the Frightened Soothe
And being “Basically Trained” can trouble remove.
Our days are full with routine work
And the dullest job we never shirk
Yes, with willing hearts in the Isle of Wight
We “Stankonovite” from morn till night
And if our efforts can shorten the war
By just one day, well that’s worth working for
And if we are tired and weary, we don’t care a jot
For we are part of the “Army that Hitler Forgot”.
By Mrs S C Needham, county organiser for the Isle of Wight, October 1943
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00
Tuesday, 26 May 2015.
Land Army ,
Make do and mend,
This weeks Reports from Everywhere features just a single report from May 1965. It is a typical story of the help the WVS gave and continue to give on a daily basis.
Lost and Found
There had been no WVS programme and no meeting on that afternoon, when the Area Organiser at Ellon, Aberdeenshire, driving home, noticed an elderly woman walking, or rather tottering towards the city. Feeling that it was better to risk a snub than to ignore someone in distress she turned her car and went back.
The woman, more than glad to step into the car, said that she was lost but had a vague idea of where she lived. She seemed hazy and bewildered. The Area Organiser decided that it would be best to go straight to Police Headquarters and ask for advice. They had no report there of anyone of that description missing but suggested that they follow at a discreet distance while our member took the old lady to the address she had given.
Getting no reply at the door, the member rang the bell at a neighbouring house where she found the old lady’s gardener wondering what ought to be done as he had taken her to the bank in the morning, moved away to turn the car and come back to find she had disappeared. She must have been walking for hours.
The gardener opened the door of the old lady’s house to reveal a sadly neglected and unkempt place. Having suffered two very bad shocks some time before - finding her husband dead in the garden and having her maid killed in a car crash - her health had deteriorated until she was unfit to cope with life.
After requesting that they keep her informed of the old lady’s welfare, the member left the old lady in the care of the police, and was very surprised and delighted when on hospital duty the following week, to find her tucked up cosily in bed in a lovely large bright ward where she is now undergoing treatment for complete exhaustion.
The police were tremendously impressed by the care taken of an entirely unknown person, and very grateful for the co-operation as well as interested in our concern, not realising that this was simply the way in which WVS expects to be of help.
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.
Heritage Bulletin Blog,