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While this is a very modern collection there is still an
amazing variety of material held within the store rooms. On several occasions
in the recent past I have come across an assortment of maps from those detailing
the different regional boundaries of the WVS Regions to a hand drawn map of
Cardiff showing the locations of Lunch Clubs. This week I’d like to take you on
a journey using this iconography to explain what they tell us about Royal
Voluntary Service and how maps can be used to complement other historical
Inside the Roll of Honour is a beautifully illustrated map of the British Isles divided
into the 12 WVS Regions created for the purpose of Civil Defence. Neatly written on each region is the location
of the Regional Office including among others Edinburgh, Newcastle-upon-Tyne,
Nottingham, Reading, Bristol and Cardiff. However it doesn’t tell us the individual
centres, we must rely on the Narrative Reports and the Statistic Books
1943-1945 to give us this information. The map allows us to visualise their
location within the organisational structure of WVS during the War. It also
tells us that at some point after the War there was a change to the organisational
structure, Region 5 (London) became Region 12 (Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex
and Surrey) because although on the Map London is Region 5 in the Narrative Report Series it comes under Region 12. Unfortunately we don’t know when this
happened and there are no more maps for this time period however we can show you
other changes in the 1970s and 1980s.
In 1974 the WRVS reorganised itself along Local Authority County
boundaries and setup district offices replacing some of the centres or making
them into local offices. However, a few years earlier Cardiff WRVS decided to
have its own reorganisation as demonstrated in the hand drawn map accompanying this
article. In 1969 the city was divided into six areas where WRVS volunteers
would work with other local organisations to run services for older people. The
map shows that there is an all-day centre in each division providing a base for
the area organisers. It also shows where Social Clubs, Lunch Clubs and Old People’s Homes were based within the different divisions. It also gives us an
idea of the area run by Cardiff WRVS and where the volunteers were working. Although
we might have to compare it with an official map or the rest of the Regional
office papers it lives with to find the names of the places and services but
what it does show is how much effort volunteers put into their services and the
different ways they visualised their organisation.
In 2012 another map made its way into are collection all be
it on an unusual canvas; a hand painted china plate by Muriel Humphrey. It was
presented to Lady Elizabeth Toulson on her visit to Cambridge in 1994. It
depicts the different services including: toy libraries; hospital trolley shops; clothing and Meals on Wheels. In the centre is a map of Cambridgeshire in the Home
Counties Division which was created in 1980 to align with changes to Local Authorities.
Other maps in the collection show these new divisions and areas for the whole
of Britain. These new divisions replaced the regions mentioned above moving
from twelve to nine: North West, North East, Midlands, Home Counties, South East,
South West, London, Scotland and Wales. Using both maps and the Narrative
Reports helped me to work out the plate which in its small map outlines five
districts within Cambridgeshire part of Area 1 in the Home Counties. The
districts are Peterborough, Fenland, East Cambridgeshire, South Cambridgeshire
and Huntingdonshire. The city of Cambridge is also included and slightly
Sadly our journey, traversing the maps of the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage Collection is over. I trust that I have
shed light on how important these alternative drawings of our nation are in telling
the story of an organisation in a very visual sense. Hopefully you will
continue your journey to learn more about the history of Royal Voluntary
Service by regularly visiting this blog until next week adjure.
There are two ways the blog could have gone this week instead I thought I would try and cover both elements in the title as we haven’t really looked either of them before. Let’s start with Pies ...
23 January is National Pie Day, why not celebrate by making a ham and egg pie from this wartime recipe.
Ham and Egg Pie
1 good slice chopped raw ham 1/2lb
short crust pastry
2 dried eggs, reconstituted 1
Salt and pepper
Line a plate with pastry, trim
and decorate the edges. Put on the chapped ham. Beat the egg well, season, and
pour over the ham. Decorate with tomato slices. Bake in hot oven 20-20 minutes
(Regulo Mark 7). Reduce the heat when the pastry begins to brown and allow the custard
to cook slowly.
Food Advisory Bureau 1943 , WRVS/HQ/PUB/PUB/F-43-003
WVS did not just suggest recipes for pies while many ingredients were rationed, they also ran the Rural Pie Scheme. Millions of pies and snacks were distributed to agricultural workers during the war to around 2750 villages each month from 1941-1945. The scheme was first introduced in Cambridge by WVS volunteers who wanted to help agricultural workers because they were on rations and in need of a good midday meal, so they started with meat pies. The Scheme was soon picked up by the Ministry of Food and spread all over the country, in some areas the WI was also involved. Often pies were distributed by a WVS driver from a depot or they were homemade by volunteers. Pies were delivered in many different ways, in Frodsham Cheshire for example the WVS trekked across the Marshes to provide pies to farmers; in Kent they were delivered in a mobile canteen to Hop pickers. Though some, as in the image above with two Land Girls, recieved their pies by tricycle. So while you enjoy your pie remember the hard work of the WVS to feed a nation.
If poetry is more your thing you may be partaking in a Burns Super this week; Burns Night on 25th January a celebration of the Life and Poetry of Robert Burns, WVS/WRVS volunteers were very fond of poetry as well as writing their own on the back of Narrative Reports, some were sent in to the Bulletin or even received from those who had benefited from services provided by the organisation. This is one of my favourites about the One-in-Five Scheme, perhaps you will be inspired to write a poem about Royal Voluntary Service.
“Gather your hearers while you may,
Old time is still a-flying
If you don’t get them day by day,
You’ll be forever trying
For you, unless you look alive
And have your talks in plenty,
Will never get your One-in-Five,
Or even one in twenty!
So be not coy, but do your best
Your backlog to diminish,
For if you once should lose your zest
You’ll never, never finish.”
WVS Bulletin, One-In-Five, June 1962, p.14
This year we will be following the adventures of Miss Yellowly and her fellow Services Welfare Members in the South East Asia Command (SEAC). Look out for our regular installments each month. This week we start at the beginning with her journey from London to boarding the Mauretania in October 1945.
"Today the 20th Oct 1945. Sue Dorothy and baby
came to London (Euston Station) to wave me off. All the girls and myself were
thrilled to bits and very excited. We left Euston Station about 11am hardly
realising we were off. Arrived at Liverpool 3.40pm and boarded the bus for the
docks. We were all amazed to see the Mauretania in the dock and to know we
would be sailing on it. After seeing customs etc. we boarded the Mauretania and
what a moment, my cabin was on the main deck and I shared it with Nom Dewey,
Clare Chamberlain and Mrs Cranston, we are very comfortable. After a clean-up
we went out investigating walking around the decks and chatting to the soldiers.
There are about 6000 troops on board including about 60 girls. We had a lovely
dinner, pea soup, lamb, vegetables, fruit salad, rolls plenty of butter, coffee
or tea and I’m sure we all felt better after the meal. After dinner we went
into the lounge and wrote some letter cards and had another stroll around until
I slept like a log until 6 o’clock Sunday morning. We pushed
off 9 o’clock, we were in our own cabins and everything was so calm we didn’t
realise we were moving. We went on deck and it was a queer feel[ing] when I thought
of leaving England behind. We strolled about all day and in the evening there
was a concert given by local talent, it was funny seeing everybody sitting on
the prom deck on their lifebelts what a crowd, the concert was good and we
enjoyed it very much. By 10 o’clock at night we were beginning to rock, we are
now in the Bay of Biscay, I had a cup of tea (which was quite the wrong thing
to take) and when I got to my cabin I was very sick indeed ..."
We will re-join Miss Yellowly next month as the ship
approaches the Suez Canal as she and her fellow WVS members' journey to the SEAC.
Another year has come and gone and we now move into 1950 (in the Bulletin
) to take a look at, what was for the WVS, the usual, the unusual but never the mundane. We don't include every story so why not have a look at issue no 121 January 1950 on our archive online.
- A request for a dozen cuddly toys for Polish children was answered by a member who has four small children. A parcel was despatched next day.
- A Home Help, nicknamed the "Pied Piper " because of the many children she looks after, is giving a party for 20 of her past and present charges.
- An aged and garrulous caller caused temporary bewilderment by saying that her daughter, who went to work each day, left her a 'carrisole.' When the old lady said she was learning to cook one herself it was realised that she meant 'Casserole.'
- Every third Friday a tea party is held for all sightless people in the area, numbering between thirty and thirty-six. They come with their guides.
- An 'Open Air School ' to which W.V.S. sent American Seeds, grew a pumpkin weighing 21 lbs. It was 40 inches in circumference.
-During the National Savings Campaign week five W.V.S. members went to the Docks on pay day. They were well received and 36 new members of the National Savings Group were signed up.
- While driving a patient to hospital a Hospital Car Service driver noticed a cow which had just calved. The driver deposited her patient, and returned to find the mother and child still alone looking very cold and forlorn. She called at the farmhouse and informed the farmer, who was most grateful. He said that the event had happened much earlier than was expected and the observation and quick action of W.V.S. had been a godsend.
- An old lady who had been in hospital for 50 years received flowers from the W.V.S. Office, a plant from the Trolley Shop and a basket of fruit from St. Helen's Darby and Joan Club. A call from the same hospital on behalf of an old man who was well enough to go home but could not get the people at his lodgings to bring his clothes, was answered by a member who went and collected them for him.
-The manager of the local cinema has extended an invitation to all Darbys and Joans to attend his cinema, free of charge, on their respective birthdays and wedding anniversaries. An arrangement has also been made by him to collect and return them to their homes by taxi at the cinema's expense. Each member is allowed to take a friend.
- A party of 20 Polish women and 20 children, including 4 babies under 6 months, arrived at Oxford after a long journey from the North of England on the way to Fairford. They had two hours to wait and W.V.S. served them with tea and buns, and supervised washing facilities. The Station Master was helpful, allowing them to use a Church Army Hut in the Station Approaches and arranging with the Refreshment Room to supply tea, milk and hot and cold water. None of the women spoke English but they had no difficulty in conveying their gratitude.
- In three Darby and Joan Clubs, Health Visitors are to be on duty once a month to answer old people's health problems. If anything serious is mentioned they will be advised to go to their Doctor, but the Health Visitor will advise on such troubles as sleepless nights and indigestion.
- W.V.S. asked eight councillors whether they would like to form a rota and be available at the W.V.S. Office once a month to interview members of the public and this was agreed. The local press were notified that the service is available.
Happy New Year from the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage Collection