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We fast approach the end of another year, a year which has been one of success for the Archive. As many of our readers would have witnessed we heavily promoted our Kickstarter Campaign Hidden histories of a million wartime women
in May. With the help of 705 backers £27,724 was raised to digitise the many stories written by volunteers over 70 years ago in the form of Narrative Reports. The process has now begun to bring these stories to you and you can keep up to date with the project by following our Facebook
pages, joining our heritage bulletin mailing
list or regularly visiting our Kickstarter page for the Friday update
Our final blog for the year comes from part of Lady Reading’s Christmas Message written in 1955; I believe it highlights how important it is for us not to forget the past, how we need to be practical in going forward and relates to sharing hidden histories. I hope you enjoy.
Lady Reading's Christmas Message to WVS 1955
“As one Christmas follows another, it is ever more difficult to find the right present to send to you, and so, I send this year, the means, hidden and unsuspected, of gauging, watching and guarding the precious thing which is in your keeping.
It’s the Job that Counts Vol II
I believe that we, workers in Voluntary Service, are today enjoying the endowment bestowed on us by the previous generations, enriched by their outlook and strengthened by their experience. And I want to ask you whether you will, this Christmastide, pause and examine this thing we call Voluntary Service, for it is ours to enhance during the time it is in our keeping, and it is for us to hand on in perfect and ever better shape.
We live in an age where allegory and parable appear to be out of date, but, to my mind, they are not only the best way of teaching but, for oneself, they offer an infinite joy in the companionship of one's own mind. And so I hand into your possession the power with which to examine this thing that is in your trust, charging you to use your imagination and your vision to appraise it, to weigh it, and, above all, to treasure it.”
During the war WVS ran/organised a number of services and activities for children. We mentioned one of these services in a previous blog Tales of under-fives nurseries were
authors had written about their experience when visiting the nurseries.
WVS always strove to make children’s lives a happy one
during the War particularly when it came to providing toys. In the 1944 December Bulletin this article appeared:
TOY MAKING IN A VILLAGE
FROM the early months of the war our W.V.S. working party had knitted every kind of comforts for the Services and Merchant Navy. We had also sewn all sorts of garments for evacuees, but making toys we had never even thought of, and when the appeal came for soft toys for the new day nurseries, we felt rather dubious as to our capabilities in this direction; however, we said we could but try. To commence, patterns, materials and a demonstrator were sent to our village from the County Office, and we were duly launched as toy makers. Dolls were our first efforts; the bodies and clothes were simple, but the painting of their blank faces was a real work of art. We all tried our skill and the results caused much amusement. We decided we could not send out dolls dressed like a six-year-old with an expression of eighty years old, so this job was given to the one person who seemed able to paint the right look. After the dolls we became more ambitious and begged all kinds of materials to make various animals. From old grey flannels we made elephants and donkeys, and from the bits little mice with hairs pulled out of an old brush for their whiskers. Bits of fur were used to make cats and dogs, white felt hats made beautiful polar bears, even an old silk hat was trimmed into a seal. Woollen materials of the appropriate shades were used for giraffes, their spots being embroidered in brown wool. Horses had fur manes and tails, dozens of little rabbits, some sitting, were made out of real scraps of material, and lambs from old Turkish towelling. Besides the recognisable animals we produced a large number of cuddly soft toys which, we hope, though unlike any known species of animals, will be loved by and give pleasure to the little ones they were made for by the novices of our W.V.S. working party.
As is evident from the above article presents and toys
were already being made and collected by WVS but the organisation also encouraged people, even those without
carpentry skills to make toys themselves in a booklet produced in 1941 and
reprinted in 1944, WVS GUIDE TO SIMPLE TOYMAKING FOR WAR-TIME DAY NURSERIES.
Like the Elves who work in Father Christmas’ work shop the WVS were busy making
toys here are just a few examples:
“Clothes pegs painted to represent funny men in variously
coloured clothes. These are fitted by the children on to the open end of a tin
which has been attractively painted e.g. as the funny men’s house.”
“Bobbin Toy, a solid base, square or oblong. Uprights on to
which bobbins will slip easily (e.g. meat skewers) should be glued firmly into
the base, and coloured to match its bobbins e.g. red stick red bobbins, green
stick green bobbins etc. The whole can be mounted on bobbin wheels and a hook
screwed in front of the drawing it along. Or using pegs of different lengths,
this can be made into a counting toy, putting one bobbin on the first peg, 2 on
the second (of the same colour) and so on –up to five or six.”
“Mosaics, these may be either loose pieces of different
shapes (squares and half squares of different colours are best), which can be
freely used for pattern making, or pieces which make a definite pattern, and
fit into a tray. Plywood should be used for pieces, but the tray may be made of
Perhaps you will be inspired to make some toys for next Christmas.
Accessioning is the process where archivists record new
additions to their collections. Over the last year we have been given over
forty new additions ranging from objects, uniform, photographs, publications,
documents and many others besides. I thought that I would share two recent examples
with you this week.
WVS Canteen Worker
On our shelves waiting to be housed in a new acid free box surrounded
by plastazote is a 12 inch tall carved
plaster statuette of a standing WVS Canteen worker in WVS uniform coat, hat,
scarf and gloves. It was sent into the Chesham
House RVS Community centre in august this year after being brought by the owner
in the 1980s from a shop called Bygones.
Pictured in this blog she is holding four cups with her
fingers through the handles in her right hand and two with the fingers of her
left. She is also holding four milk
bottles against her chest with her left arm.
There are two tea urns at her feet to the right and behind her. On the front of the plinth is incised,
'W.V.S. CANTEEN WORKER’ in a serif script in capitals.
The reverse of the plinth holds a very feint signature
'Margaret H G???????' and a date '1941.5'.
Unfortunately a portion of the hat brim over and behind the right eye
has been broken off and is missing, and a crack around the whole of the neck
indicates that the head has been broken off and replaced. Now it is part of our
unique and very interesting collection it can be preserved and kept safe for posterity.
Lanarkshire Local Office Collection
This was one of the larger accessions of the year and
probably the last to arrive, we look forward to seeing what comes to the archive
next year. The documents which arrived in a large cardboard box was made up of
minutes, day books, Narrative Reports for Strathaven, Strathclyde and East
Kilbride, Quarterly Reports, Scottish Annual Reports, financial records,
emergency Services training programmes and publications. All these records tell
the story of the Strathaven and Strathclyde offices in the Lanarkshire/East
Kilbride districts between 1954 and 2003. One of my favourite items was "WOMEN'S
ROYAL VOLUNTARY SERVICE NOTES FOR MEMBERS" which had a very interesting FAQ
section including one which sounds more like a statement:
“Question: You are a class organisation, middle-class,
choosey and establishment-minded"
"Answer: Come, come, most up-to-date community welfare is
organised on the knowledge of demographic figures. WRVS membership is
representative of the communities in which they live and serve. North Country
folk serve North Country communities. Londoners serve London.
In a new “young families” housing complex, young marrieds
serve young family needs. In sheltered housing, elderly serve each other. I
suppose you imagine AB’s serve DE’s. you ought to think again!
(Note: Modern demographics have a way to classifying Very
Rich as AB and Very Poor as DE and Middle and Professional classes as C1 and C2.)”
More news from around the country, originally these stories were submitted by Centre Organisers on the back of the Narrative Reports and selected by the editors of the Bulletin for publication. These are just a few activities from December 1949.
GLASGOW - The mobile canteen lent by Scottish Headquarters
was taken inside the Customs barrier at the docks for the sailing of the
emigrant ship Cameronia. The canteen operated for many hours, serving not only
those going abroad but also friends who had come to see them off. W.V.S.
escorts at the station were on duty from early morning until late afternoon.
HAMPSHIRE COUNTY - Services Welfare, An ex-regular soldier
of the Indian Army telephoned an urgent request for help. He explained that,
with his family, he was to have embarked for Australia within the next few
days. His wife had that morning been admitted to hospital, could we find
someone to care for the triplets aged 3 years, in order that he could get to
London and cancel all his arrangements with the Emigration Authorities? A
member came to the rescue and undertook the care of the three boys.
HORNCHURCH - This locality is fortunate in having a landmark
in a windmill over 160 years old. Up to 20 years ago it was owned by a baker
who milled his own flour, but it was neglected during the war and has been
falling with slow decay. Now, through the interest of the Ancient Order of
Preservation of Windmills Society and Essex County Council, voluntary workers
go every weekend to restore the windmill to working order. W.V.S. supplies teas
to the volunteers and hopes to make a profit on the transaction. This profit
will become a donation to the Windmill Fund.
NOTTINGHAM C.B - A message was received one day that a young
German boy from Bremen was arriving the next night at Fenchurch Street Station.
Could W.V.S. meet, feed and escort him to the train for Nottingham. London
W.V.S. as always, came to the rescue. The Boat Train was late in arriving;
consequently the Nottingham connection was missed. W.V.S. took the child on a
tour of London, found accommodation for the night and saw him off on the first
train the following morning.
MITCHAM - Dumb Friends League.-W.V.S. have obtained a
regular supply of dog biscuits to be sent through the Dumb Friends League to an
old age pensioner who found it impossible to feed his dog.
RUTLAND COUNTY - The County Organiser walked into the office
one day to be told that she need not worry about the Home Help for Mrs.
So-and-So's baby as it had been cancelled! A Home Help on her first maternity
case told the Organiser when she went along that the family were destitute and
there were no napkins for the baby. A small supply was produced and later one
appeared on the table as a table-cloth. The woman who went in as Home Help came
out as Godmother to the infant.
READING C.B - W.V.S. Children's Specialist in addition to
her other work, devotes Thursday afternoons to the Babies Home at Battle
Hospital and regularly takes the babies out in the large hospital perambulator!
ST. PANCRAS - Fifty-three members from our Kentish Town
Darby and Joan Club were taken by coach one evening to see the “Lights of
Southend." Had tea and cakes at the end of the Pier and arrived home 11.00
WESTON-SUPER-MARE - One afternoon the police rang through to
say that they had two boys aged 15 and 13 at the Station, who had run away from
their home in Bristol on stolen bicycles. They had slept out all night in heavy
rain and were found wandering in Weston soaked through. The police asked
whether we could supply them with clothing. We feel rather proud of the fact
that we fitted them both out with shirts-pants-sports
coats-mackintoshes-pullovers -shoes, and last but not least long trousers.