The Heritage Bulletin Blog ran from July 2012 to January 2020, covering a huge range of subjects, from a day in the archives, to extracts from the WVS bulletins, and histories of various WVS/WRVS services.
It’s 219 articles have become a valuable resource in themselves, why not search them or just browse to discover something new.
During the war the Scottish section of the WVS tended to maintain a more independent status from the rest of the organisation. This is evident within our collection of Narrative Reports; the National Headquarters series has no records from 1942 to 1960, we hope they survived somewhere in Scotland. For many years WVS/WRVS had a Scotland Headquarters in Edinburgh which did not send Narrative Reports to London till after the establishment of the Archive in 1958. Fortunately, we still have other sources mentioning the activities of WVS Scotland and the Narrative Reports which made it to London HQ between 1939 and 1941 draw attention to the wide array of activities performed by Scottish volunteers in the early years of the war, one such report recorded the decisions of a local meeting held in January 1941 in the town of Ayr; it provides an excellent example of WVS Salvage work
The Waste Food for Pigs campaign was created as
part of the Government’s National Salvage Scheme to help maintain a constant
supply of feed for the nation’s livestock. In order to accomplish this, kitchen
waste was boiled and concentrated at special plants, thus resulting in what is
commonly known as pig swill. Working in tandem with the local authorities, the
WVS helped organise this scheme to ensure that salvage became an integral
component of wartime society.
To help address this issue, the above meeting
was facilitated by Mr J.B, Crookes, the National Controller of Salvage for
Scotland and also by Mr Strain of the local Cleansing Department and Regional
Salvage Advisor for the West of Scotland. Their attendance to this meeting also
demonstrated its significance, because it is quite possible that their
solutions for tackling ‘pig swill’, may have filtered down to other WVS
centres.Such as members of East Barnet, Hertfordshire featured in the two photographs in this week's blog. The meeting in Ayr laid out the schemes structure.
After a series of discussions, they concluded that the Burgh of Ayr would be
divided into districts for the collection of pig feed. To ensure there were
enough collection points, a bin would be placed on each street for every ten or
twelve households. One member from the WVS Housewives’ Service would be
responsible for each bin. The members were keen to implement this system
swiftly, so shiny new bins were distributed to five locations around the town
to then be placed on an appropriate street corner.
a) Allotment Schemes.
b) Fruit Shops, Multiple Stores, Canteens.
c) Tenement Properties.
d) Villas, Bungalows, Mansion Houses.
e) Hotels, Boarding Houses.
Royal Burgh of Ayr Centre Report January 1941
Due to the fact that this is the last year of reports we hold for the Burgh of Ayr
until 1961, it is very difficult to ascertain whether or not the solutions
proposed in this meeting were a resounding success. Although you might wish
to scour the Scotland reports featured in the WVS Bulletin during the war. Nevertheless,
the centre organiser for Ayr was more than complimentary about how the meeting
WVS later WRVS Scotland acted as both Region 11
and in some ways a separate organisation with its own Headquarters up until
1980s/1990s. However, it is evident from
the earliest records that their commitment to Lady Reading’s vision of voluntary
service was and is at the same level as the rest of Great Britain. Especially
true when it came to the establishment National (UK wide) schemes such as
salvage and the collection of waste food in the burghs.
the Heritage Bulletin Blog comes to you in the form of our second podcast. As
it’s Explore Your Archive Week
we thought we would treat you to a clip from one
of our oral histories. We're exploring the ideas behind why people volunteer and Mary Gibbons a volunteer in South Wales told the project why girls taking part in volunteering for Duke of Edinburgh got involved and the impact that had.
Hopefully you will then be inspired to visit Archive
Online and explore the Voices of Volunteering
collection for yourself. Clips
and resources based on oral histories are also available on the Voices of Volunteering School Resources page.
who can't listen to the podcast, which I whole heartedly recommend, the
transcript is below.
The Duke of Edinburgh
Award. There was a school in, in Swansea, a girl’s school, and one of the
Masters at the girl’s school had always been interested in Duke of Edinburgh
Award, and he persuaded the Head Mistress there to let him use some of his
pupils for Duke of Edinburgh. Now he was using girls who were challenged. They
seldom went to school, they had got very little home support, they really were
not bright. And he had said to them would they like to do this, you see,
because in Duke of Edinburgh you have to do a certain amount of service. And so
the service was our service, helping out at WRVS Luncheon Clubs for the
elderly, which the girls thought was wonderful. So he sort of said to us ‘Will
you do the rest of it’? Because they obviously had to know all about WRVS and
they had to do a certain amount of, of work with it, so we had said ‘Yes’, and
the girls were good. But the girl, he said to the girls ‘You only go to the
Luncheon Club if you go to school’.
Now truancy was the
thing. So in fact, for the year that we
were doing it there, or for the two years, they went to school every day
because they wanted to go to the Luncheon Club. And we used to go and we would
do lessons with them, but we knew that they couldn't really take things down
because possibly they couldn't write, they couldn't read and it was just very
unfortunate for them. But we, even when it came to the test or, or sort of
making sure they'd got it all, we had an oral rather than a written. Now for
other schools we would do written things whereas with them it was… And we
didn't do the testing at the end, but other people did, and that was quite
amazing because they all got through.
And I can see it now,
we had the Head Mistress was there the last, they, they had to have the
certificates given to them and the badges. And they had got, he had organised a
very special coffee morning. All the girls had been in the day before to help
make cakes and things. And their parents had been invited. And it, she had sort
of introduced the girls, and how superb they had been, and the WRVS had been
doing this and that, and then I had to say something about them because I was
Emergency Services, I had to say something about what we’d done with them. And
then, you know, sort of say, we had given them their things and praise and
And afterwards I was
going round talking to the parents who were there. And I can remember going up
to this dad and his daughter was there as proud as punch, and I said to him
‘Well, what did you think’? He said ‘Oh’, he said ‘how I didn't cry’, he said,
‘I had to take time off work because I never ever thought she would get
anything’. And I thought that was lovely. He’d, he was so chuffed that she’d
got something, you know. you know. Out of all of this, so different, so
different. So it did do very well, and actually he [the Duke of Edinburgh] came
to Swansea on one occasion and we were there, there were two of us, somebody,
Julie, another girl, and the two of us were there with some of our, with some
of us, the school girls. And, and he had talked to them, which was, he thought,
they thought was wonderful. But, no, that was good.
Mary Gibbons Volunteer
WVS took on work for the
Armed Forces when it became a member of the Council of Volunteer War Workers,
in 1940 and established the Services Welfare Department. Most of the WVS’s work for the Armed forces was domestic including
canteens and darning socks. These services developed further in 1944 by
training WVS members to run clubs for Service Men overseas.
The NAAFI wanted WVS to run clubs for
soldiers in their barracks and the first contingency was sent to the Algiers
after the war ended. Women went to countries and continents such as: North
Africa and Italy; The Middle East; Germany; Austria; The Far East; Japan;
Korea; Cyprus; Kenya; Christmas Island; Singapore; Malaya and Hong Kong. Most of the members who went
out spent their time running the clubs but also had their own experiences which
they recorded in letters and diaries.
A member called Kathleen Thompson went to
India for 18 months to work in Deolali,
Randu and Raiputana. In 2016 the Archive received 93 letters written by
Kathleen about her time in India and this week we would like to share part of one
of those letters with you. An extra handwriting challenge for those who eagerly
await the monthly narrative Report handwriting challenge (though not as
7th March 1946 Letter no.8
Kathleen left India at the end of her contract with the
organisation in August 1947 but many more women went out to other countries as
part of Services Welfare which later included the Falklands and Canada. You can
find out more about WVS and WRVS Services Welfare on the Voices of Volunteering schools resources pages and searching Archive Online.
There appears to be a growing trend of debate on twitter; It’s
usually an hour during the day where like minded people discuss a topic using
#somethinghour. Now Archives appear to have jumped on the bandwagon with
#archivehour (not that jumping on the bandwagon is a bad thing). Unfortunately I
was unable to take part in the first #archivehour on 26th October as
I was in Russia. However the intriguing topic hosted by @ARAScotland was
digital preservation. One question posed was:
I would now like to answer this question from the perspective
of Royal Voluntary Service Archive and Heritage Collection’s digitisation
Over the years we have had a few digitisation projects including
the Bulletins, Narrative Reports, photographs, posters and now the publications
(more on that in a later blog). One reason for these projects was to provide
online access to our records as we cannot currently provide physical access to
the collection. Another reason was the general preservation of the physical
document, not the digital reproduction. Digitising means less handling of
fragile items and keeps them in the ideal environment rather than constant temperature
changes as they move from store to search room. This is digitisation providing access
to analogue/traditional archives to help preserve the originals. Therefore
digitisation is not digital preservation but preservation in its wider sense,
for Royal Voluntary Service digital preservation applies to its born digital
Interestingly we have very few born digital archives, a lot
of our records are still produced in a physical format. However we do have a
set of born digital records which have been mentioned several times; the Voicesof Volunteering Oral Histories and their transcript/summary sheets. The oral
histories were recorded as WAV the transcripts and summary sheets were typed as word
documents. Over time we will need to monitor how these records are kept the
word documents have already been converted to pdfs. An open source document
which follows archive standards of digital preservation and allows easy access,
they have at least three backups each. The WAV files are already at an archival
standard for audio records however the file format makes them two large for
access purposes we have created MP3 versions for Archive Online. Over time we
will need to make sure these files don’t become obsolete, corrupt or suffer
from bitrot as well as making sure they are not accidently deleted. This is
digital preservation protecting born digital documents from many dangers and
keeping them accessible for future generations.
In conclusion digitisation programmes are not digital
preservation because they are about access to original documents and digital preservation
is about protecting born digital records from destruction once they have made
their way to the archive. I am sure at some point someone will raise the
question is a digitised copy of a traditional archive a born digital record
i.e. an archive/document in its own right and therefore keeping it a case for
digital preservation. However I don’t have enough words in the blog to look at
this now it is a discussion for another day.