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Throughout the Second World War, rationing became an integral part of British society. Unknown to most, paper rationing had a significant impact on the manufacturing of the WVS Narrative Reports. As I hope to illustrate this week the differences, in the layout and quality of the paper they were written on between 1939 and 1941, are particularly stark.
Above is one of the WVS's earliest reports from Middlesbrough written in November 1938. Interestingly, the original orientation of a WVS Narrative Report was landscape unlike the familiar portrait reports of later years. Under imperial paper sizes, an original report was classified as foolscap as it measured 13 x 8 inches. The weight and quality of this pre-war paper is also particularly noteworthy as it retains an almost card-like feel compared to later reports.
Looking at this 1939 report above, it is clearly apparent that the layout and quality of the Narrative Report has changed. After its inception in May 1938, the WVS became increasingly prominent in society. The design of the Narrative Reports’ reflect this change as they start to look more official from this year onwards. Due to the outbreak of war, the paper quality of the diaries also begins to decline from around September. As a result, the majority of reports from 1939 have significant differences in paper quality.
1940 brought the introduction of the portrait report. It is clear to see that the WVS has established itself as a formidable organisation, as the top of the report contained a list of set criteria to help the Centre Organiser write her account. As the WVS were the masters of make do and mend, the new portrait reports returned to the high quality paper of 1938. Whilst we are unsure exactly why this is, it is suspected that the WVS started producing the reports themselves as opposed to outsourcing the printing. With Lady Reading at the helm, it is almost unsurprising that they returned to paper of substantial quality.
1941 marks the most important transition for the design and feel of an original WVS Narrative Report. The organisation continues with the foolscap portrait design until September of that year. After this, the WVS moved to a smaller quarto sized document (10 x 8 inches) that was produced out of thin, poorer quality repulped wartime paper. Naturally, the main reason behind this decision was to ensure that more paper could be produced nationally by trading off the quality of the material. Somewhat ironically, these later reports are substantially more fragile than their earlier counterparts.
Despite this, their stories are of equal significance. To make sure of this, a lot of WVS Centre Organisers were much more inclined to write on the back of the document to ensure everything had been recorded.
After 1941, the quality of the paper remained unchanged until the end of the war. Occasionally however, you do see an original design pop up in later years. The ideas of salvage and recycling were of course still at the back of members minds. I hope you have enjoyed this short Journey through wartime paper and for more stories from the Narrative Reports you can visit and search Archive Online.
This week we bring you another Heritage Bulletin Vlog, the script can be seen below.
Hello and welcome back to another Heritage Bulletin Vlog we’ve been very busy over the last few months with lots of exciting projects like the launch of our Narrative reports on our online archive.
In 1950 a report called WVS Work in Hospitals, said that “the effect of a cup of tea is magical” and looking at the many objects which represent tea and its importance to the organisation is like looking down a rabbit hole, you never know what you might find. Here in front of me are just a couple of examples of the mugs and tea pots we have produced over the years.
Providing tea and food during World War II was a main feature of WVS work so I thought I’d share a tea related story with you this week called Caravan Canteen.
“A hospital train pulled into the siding. Stretcher-bearers clambered out. They set their stretchers down and the casualties came to life and converged upon us. We were surrounded. “Coffee? Tea? Soup?”
The soup came out of the tap in a reddish gush into the white mug. An aged man conspicuously labelled fractured femur sniffed at it with the sagacity of an ancient foxhound. “Tomato soup”, I improvised. “Or would you rather have tea?” fractured Femur nodded. I drew off a mugful from the other urn. It swirled into the mug with a deep and greenish look, as if from the dark backward and abysm of time.
“WVS colours, huh?” said a voice in the crowd”. But they drank up, and after the first urn was emptied the tea came out a better colour."
That’s all we have time for but you can read the full story by clicking on the link below.
WVS Bulletin March 1940 page 7
The potato is probably one of the most used and versatile vegetables in the world. On Saturday 19th it is National Potato Day in the USA on 7th October it will be National Potato Day in the Ireland and in 2018 UK National Potato day will be 26th January. So instead of having to wait till next year I thought this week we would celebrate with the USA sharing a recent and interesting find by the Archivist in the Miscellaneous Memoranda files on Queen’s Messenger Convoys; WVS Food Department potato recipes.
Cook and mash potatoes thoroughly.
The best method is to bake the potatoes in their jackets, then remove the insides for use in pastry. By this means they are completely dry, and make a more satisfactory pastry than when the potatoes are moistened by steaming or boiling.
6 lbs. flour.
3 lbs. potatoes.
3 lbs. fat (as much margarine as possible).
A little milk.
Bake the .potatoes in their skins. When cooked, split open, scoop out- the insides and mix with grated cheese and a little milk and seasoning. Stir over a low fire and then replace mixture inside the potatoes. Put under the grill or in the oven for a few moments-before serving.
WVS Bulletin March 1941
dripping. 1/2 pint stock or milk. 1 egg.
potatoes, 1 lb. carrots.
the potatoes and boil them gently in a very little water. When they are nearly
cooked, drain off the liquid reserving it for stock.
potatoes finish cooking in their own steam covering closely with a folded cloth
under the lid and standing at the side of the stove until floury. Remove the
skins and mash well.
beaten egg and mash well. Grease a cake tin and coat it with brown breadcrumbs.
Press in the mashed potatoes to form a thick lining to the tin. Bake in a hot
oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile dice the carrots, having 15 minutes and mix them
with-a sauce made from the fat, oatmeal and liquid. Season and heat the
mixture. When the potato casserole is cooked, turn it out and fill it with the
carrot mixture. Place it in the oven for a few minutes and serve piping hot.
1 lb. potatoes
2 medium sized raw beetroots. 1 oz. margarine,
1 tablespoonful milk.
Boil the beetroots whole until tender (about 2 hours) taking care not to break the skins. When cooked skin them quickly and mash to a pulp and pass them through a sieve. In the meantime the potatoes should have been scraped and boiled in their skins- and when cooked peel and mash with margarine and milk. Mix potato and beetroot, together until thoroughly blended. Season with pepper and salt, put into a vegetable dish, cover and reheat in oven for a few moments.
Prepare potato pastry and roll it out in a long strip - about 4-5 inches wide. Place skinned sausage Or sausage meat down centre of pastry. Season. Moisten edges and fold pastry over the sausages. Cut into individual sausage rolls and mark with a fork or knife. Bake in a hot oven for about 20/30 minutes.
Skinned sausages or sausage meat.
4. oz. Mashed potatoes.6 oz. Plain flour. teaspoonful salt.
2 level teaspoonful-baking powder, 2 oz. fat.
1/2 - 2/3 cupful of milk.
Sieve the flour and salt and baking-powder into a basin and rub in fat. Stir in potatoes until well mixed. Add sufficient milk to make a stiff dough. Turn on to lightly floured board. Knead lightly and roll to half inch thickness. Cut into small rounds, glaze top with a little milk and bake on a greased baking sheet in a hot oven for a quarter of an hour.
More recipes and stories like the one below from October 1943 can be found in the Bulletin; some of the Miscellaneous Memoranda files were recently catalogued and the catalogue entries can be found by searching Archive Online. For more help searching our records please see the guide to archive online or contact our enquiry service.
Let us know if you have a go at any of our recipes.
Learning to deal with an accession at the Royal Voluntary Service
Following my initial
introduction to the wide array of resources held by the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage Collection, and the subsequent
publication of my first Heritage Bulletin blog at the beginning of February
2017, my primary experience of an accession to the archive came in the form of
a collection accumulated by the leader of the ‘Ebley Silver Threads over 60's
Club’, Mrs Mary Curtis. This submission to the archive followed directly on
from an interview for the ‘Voices of Volunteering’ project conducted by the
Deputy Archivist, Jennifer Hunt, with Mary late in 2015.
which had been maintained by Mary between 1962 and 2008, first in her capacity
as a member of WVS and subsequently as the club leader after 1966, had arrived
at the archive in January 2016 following an enquiry from the custodian of the
documents. It came in a hefty and bulging briefcase, along with two large and
very full cardboard boxes. My first task was consequently to unpack the
collection, whilst maintaining the original order, so that a preliminary
assessment of the contents could be made.
Initially it had
been thought that the collection was comprised mainly of the photographs and the
personal records and mementoes of Mary in her association with the WRVS (now Royal Voluntary Service) and the
Ebley Silver Threads club, but during this review it soon became apparent that rather
than a personal collection, it would be better categorised as the records of a
local office. The Ebley Silver Threads over 60's Club’ had been formed in 1966
by Mary and a few other members of the WRVS upon their recognition that no
social group existed for the older members of their local community in the
urban region of Stroud, Gloucestershire. Whilst identified as a local club by
its members, it was nevertheless part of the wide range of older persons’
welfare work conducted by the organisation, belonging to the service originally
known nationwide as the ‘Darby and Joan Clubs’.
As a consequence
included amongst the documents were several WVS Circular Notices such as, "Model
Rules for the Constitution of a Local Darby and Joan Club run by WVS", “"WVS
Darby and Joan Clubs, Notes for the Guidance of Leaders" and “WVS
Insurance in Darby and Joan Clubs”. In addition there were blank ‘Older
People's Club’ membership cards which recorded subscription payments, and a
WRVS newssheet on “Meals on Wheels and Lunch Clubs”.
At the club
level there was a minute book of Committee Meetings and the Annual General
Meetings between 1971 and 2008, extracts from the financial records and
statements, in addition to copies of the letters and correspondence sent and
received by Mary in her role as club leader. Whilst the bulk of the collection
related to the holidays and activities organised for the club members, and was
made up in particular of the photographs taken of the group, there were also
records of the recognition paid and awards given to Mary by the WRVS and her
local community for her work and commitment to the older citizens in Ebley and
the surrounding area.
was no doubt that this collection fitted with the collection policy of the
archive and that it would be a valuable addition. As a consequence a gift agreement
was therefore sought from the custodian to allow work to proceed to incorporate
it into the archive.
Look out for my next blog in September when I will describe
my next stage of the journey: learning to catalogue the collection.