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Wednesday 8th March is International Women’s Day which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women across the world. Royal Voluntary Service was founded in 1938 by one of the twentieth century’s most influential but seldom celebrated women Lady Reading; a woman who inspired others to make changes to British Social welfare even after her death in 1971. There isn’t simply enough time in a weekly blog to mention the millions of women who have been bold and changed Britain, with hundred even thousands of activities, but what we will focus on is how they have improved the welfare of psychiatric patients over the years.
It all began in 1946 when members of WVS Headquarters in London made investigations into helping people with mental illnesses in psychiatric hospitals. Once again WVS was one step ahead of everyone else. In 1948 the organisation was officially asked by the Board of Control to assist in hospitals providing much needed services. It became the mission of volunteers to improve the lives of patients and provide them with a connection with the outside world. In 1959 the Mental Health Act was passed it abolished the distinction between psychiatric units and other hospitals while encouraging the development of community care. This allowed the WVS to establish more occupational centres, providing training especially to help patients find occupations after being discharged. Over the years WVS/WRVS ran a number of services in psychiatric wards which ran in general hospitals and other wards which you can find more details on in our Health and Hospitals Factsheet. However their main project was to build social centres for patients and visitors.
Thirty Social Centres were established in the 1960s including St Francis Hospital Hillingdon, Friern Barnet, St Luke’s Middlesbrough St John’s Bracebridge Heath. St Francis was the first to be opened in 1961 by Princess Maria of Kent. The site was purpose built with kitchen, shop, canteen, lounge and entertainment space. It added a new dimension to hospital life as patients could assist WVS with their work and spend money how they liked in the shop building confidence. This inspired the 30 other projects which were funded through loans and repaid with the profits from the canteens and shops, though St Francis was the most pioneering. A few years after it’s opening there was a parliamentary debate discussing the lack of volunteering opportunities for young people. Lady Reading, then a member of the House of Lords, proposed that St Francis needed a swimming pool to benefit patients and staff which led to an International Volunteer Camp in 1966. Hundreds of young volunteers from Mid-Sussex and Europe met to dig the swimming pool. Once again WVS/WRVS had been a force for change which continued into the 1980s.
Although these schemes were mainly setup in the 1960s, in 1989 there was a fire at Bromham Hospital in Bedfordshire, the WRVS shop and canteen was destroyed. However Barbara Statham Bedfordshire Hospital Organiser and her team rebuilt the shop despite some adversities, here is her story:
Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday or as many now refer to it
Pancake Day, in the past this was a day when many Christians prepared to fast
or abstain from rich ingredients used in food such as pancakes. Today there are
plenty of options in the shops from readymade mixes, readymade pancakes or
buying flour and eggs etc. to make them from scratch. However, during World War
II some foods such as eggs were not always as plentiful or they were rationed.
In March 1943
an article was published in the Bulletin to inspire those
celebrating Shrove Tuesday.
VARIATIONS WITH A BATTER: Thanks to "Lease-lend"
we can still make a pre- war batter with real eggs. The dried eggs, whether in
tins or sold loose, as most housewives will now realise, are excellent in all
types of cooking. For batter particularly, they not only increase the food
value, but also help the colour and texture of the mixture.
During the making of the batter, it is essential that all
ingredients are smoothly mixed and well beaten, and success depends on
lightness which is obtained by the introduction of cold air in the beating, and
a high temperature in cooking.
The following are some ideas which the housewife may find
useful in varying the simple foundation batter: Foundation Batter.-4 oz. flour,
1 tablespoon dried egg, 1 oz. dried milk, 1/2- 3/4 pint water. Pinch of salt.
Sieve the flour, salt, egg and milk together, and mix with sufficient water to
make a stiff mixture. Beat well, add rest of water and put aside for one hour.
1. BAKED AS FOR YORKSHIRE PUDDING:
chopped cooked meat, 1/2 lb. sausages, grated cheese and Worcester sauce, 3/4
lb. mixed cooked vegetables, scraps of cooked or tinned fish, plain sweet
batter dredged with sugar before serving, 3 oz. of dried fruit or 1/2 lb. fresh
fruit (dates, prunes, apples, raisins, sultanas), or plain batter served with
syrup, jam or chocolate sauce.
Pancakes.-Stuffed with any of fillings mentioned above, or with fried potato
and pickle or chutney. Served with a sweet or savoury sauce. Rolled or on top
of each with the filling between. Cooked “dry " as for dropped scones
which can be eaten hot stuffed with a filling, or cold spread with butter, or 1
teaspoonful baking powder added to mixture and tablespoonfuls dropped into hot
fat and served with bacon.
Coating.-The liquid reduced to half in the basic recipe and used for coating,
dried fruits (prunes and apples), fresh fruit, slices of cooked vegetable,
croquette mixtures, or small strips of stale cake or bread moistened with
Steaming.-Increase the amount of flour by 1 oz. and use any
of the variations mentioned above.
Note: For a lighter and richer batter add an extra egg and
reduce the amount of liquid equivalent to this. Sugar tends to make a batter
heavy, therefore dredge sweet batters with sugar after cooking.
Of course pancakes aren’t just for this time of year as
demonstrated in this week’s photograph. A WVS Rally at Warmwell Airfield taken on
15/10/1957, where eight WVS members of the Swanage emergency feeding team made
and cooked small pancakes on an improvised hotplate cooker with oven at a WVS
Rally at Warmwell Airfield, Dorset. Two
members cooked the pancakes while others made the batter. On the table is the shield they won when they
came first in the Dorset Emergency Feeding competition.
Enjoy your pancakes!
This week we are very excited to bring you our first Vlog focusing on the Islanders of Tristan du Cunha who were evacuated to Pendell Military Camp in 1961. You can also read about this below.
Hello and welcome to our first vlog we will be posting one
every other month so we hope you enjoy. My name is Jennifer I am the Deputy
Archivist; today I will be talking about why the islanders of Tristan du Cunha
gave WVS Caterham and Godstone, Surrey a model of one of their long boats in
Tristan, is the name of both a remote group of volcanic
islands in the South Atlantic Ocean and the main island of that group. Tristan
da Cunha is part of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena, Ascension
and Tristan da Cunha. From August 1961 there were a series of natural disasters
including landslides before the eruption of the volcano in October which
threatened the community living on the island. It was decided that all the
inhabitants should be evacuated to Britain; they were guaranteed a warm welcome
and who was there to greet them? The WVS of Course!
Five days before their arrival, a team of 200 enthusiastic
volunteers from Caterham and Godstone prepared Pendell Military Camp. WVS were
determined that the huts, which were to be the islanders home for a few months
were as homelike as possible; beds were covered with afghans, a little bowl of
flowers was placed in each hut, grime in the kitchens was scrubbed away, table
cloths were laid and the cupboards were stocked with provisions.
Meanwhile the former NAAFI Canteen was getting its facelift;
curtains, chairs, tables, and a billiard table lent by NAAFI, were put in
place; the children's playroom was filled with toys and hung with balloons; the
WVS Office and Information Centre was prepared, and a little shop stocked with
things to meet the immediate needs of the islanders; of course a WVS speciality
was installed, a Clothing Store.
Just after noon on a very cold Friday in November the
They stayed at Pendell for three months and then moved to
Calshot, on Southampton Water, where the houses of a disused R.A.F. Station had
been prepared for them, with as much effort and enthusiasm, by the Hampshire
WVS. Centres throughout Hampshire made 300 pairs of curtains, for which 1,400
yds. of material were needed, 1,800 yds. of ruflette tape and 6,000 curtain
hooks. I wonder how much space they had left in the office or indeed their own
homes. The islanders were really appreciative for everything WVS did for them
and presented Caterham WVS with a model of a typical Tristan da Cunha long boat
which they made themselves. Today the model lives in the Archive.
The winter of 1962 was particularly harsh especially
compared to the climate of the islands, several suffered with illnesses and as
with many a long way from their own homes felt homesick. So The Royal Society went on an expedition to
the Island in 1962. They reported that they had been able to live in the
settlement and that the boats were still intact. Hearing this news, the
islanders began to agitate to return home. Over a two year period small groups returned
to the Island with everyone having returned home by November 1963. In the meantime
WVS helped the islanders settle into their temporary homes with all their usual
services but also demonstrating gas or electric stoves and holding children’s
After two years in England the islanders all returned home
to Tristan da Cunha, the last group left
on the Bornholm, with 27 tons of potatoes for eating and 100 tons of
other stores including six months' provision of flour, tea, sugar, salt and
It was reported in the Bulletin December 1963 that “THE
Tristan da Cunha Islanders have gone home in the spirit of determined
independence which characterises them. The parting was sad, for them and for
WVS, who since their arrival in England in November 1961 have looked after them
and become their friends”.
This week we return to the Mauretania and the adventures of
Miss Yellowley on her way to the South East Asia Command.
We rocked all night and all day of Monday the 22nd
most of the party were sick, I stayed in bed all day living on two day biscuits
and an apple.
Tuesday 23rd nearly everybody feeling better got out
of the bay and in the straits it’s a lovely day sun shining beautiful and feels
quite warm we are all up on deck enjoying the sun at 11 o’clock we shall be
having lifebelt drill. The time has been put on 1 hour and already we can feel
the difference in the weather we are passing the coast of Spain and can see the
hills in the distance. After lunch sunbathed until time to dress for dinner,
the food here is excellent. After dinner we went to an open air concert on the
deck it is a glorious moon light night and the deck is floodlit and everybody
sitting around on their life saver. Babs sang two songs for the troops and
quite a number of chaps sang and various other things it was very good and we
enjoyed it very much. While we were listening to the concert we had passed by
the rock of Gibraltar about 9o’clock it was all lit up but I was very sorry I hadn’t
seen it, we are now in the Mediterranean.
Wednesday 24th it is a lovely day the sun is
shining beautiful and it is getting quite hot. Everybody on deck is gradually
getting into shorts and sun bathing and the sea looks divine, we are on deck
sewing for the troops, the piles of sewing are gradually getting bigger and it
looks as though we’re in for a good time. We can see the Libyan coast and we
have come in quite close to Algeria, we had really good views of these places.
In the evening there was a concert and dance for the troops on the lower deck,
it was jolly good and ended another grand day.
Thursday, a lovely day we did the usual things sitting about
and sewing etc. passed the island of Pantelleria off the Sicilian Coast. In the
afternoon we passed Malta not very close to it and that will be the last land
we shall until we reach Port Said on Friday morning. In the evening we went to
the pictures and saw Sonja Heni in “Wintertime” enjoyed the skating scenes very
much but the story was poor, after the pictures there was a dance and concert
in the officers lounge and that was very good and I had a good time at midnight
the clocks were advanced one hour, now we are two hours ahead of British time.
Friday we all woke up feeling tired but got up on deck and
the skies were very grey. Soon after it started to rain and we went inside and
squatted down anywhere we could find a spot. After lunch the sun was shining
again and we were on deck until dinner, there was a grand concert in the
Officers Lounge for the troops and the girls were invited it was very good
indeed. At midnight the clocks were again advanced one hour, that is 3 hours
since we left England. Saturday about 9o’clock we were just at the entrance of
the Suez Canal, it was a glorious sight …
We will join Miss Yellowley again in a few weeks when she travels
through the canal and there is more sewing to be done.
Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00
Monday, 13 February 2017.
Services Welfare, ,
Suez Canal, ,
Hello I'm Elaine and I have just joined as volunteer here at the Archive & Heritage Collection. This is my introductory challenge, researching Clothing Stores in my local town of Swindon. I hope you enjoy reading it ...
By the late 1950s the WVS had
become experts in dealing with the provision of clothing in times of crisis.
This was not surprising given the extensive experience that had been gained in
the distribution and handling of garments during the war when, “at a conservative
estimate, fifty million garments were sorted and distributed” to those who had
been evacuated and bombed out, and who were left with literally nothing. This
meant that often items had to be sourced from areas unaffected by the bombs,
transported, sorted and then distributed according to need. It had been a huge
undertaking that had required considerable organisational skills.
As the war came to an end however,
the need for the WVS clothing services did not diminish, with garments urgently
needed in liberated Europe. This was followed a decade later by the Hungarian
crisis, and again in April 1959 when an appeal from the United Nations Relief
and Works Agency in Beirut resulted in the WVS collecting, sorting and bundling
1,000 tons of processed clothing – that’s 2,548,997 garments - to help refugees
in Lebanon, Jordan, Gazza and Syria.
Following the press appeal for
clothing donations by Lady Reading at the beginning of November 1959, Miss
Honeychurch, a reporter from the Wiltshire Evening Advertiser paid a visit to
the Swindon branch of the WVS on Victoria Road. She was astonished by the
amount of work that the WVS continued to do several years after the end of the
war, and following the establishment of the Welfare State. In her report she
emphasised how in addition to international appeals the local office provided
vital practical assistance to many of the town’s residents in their times of need.
It was particularly important for the provision of clothing and Swindon was consequently
“one of the busiest centres in the whole region” for this form of help.
Swindon was a new industrial town
with a rapidly expanding population, to which people often came with little as
they searched for work. Like elsewhere in the country, the WVS clothing service
was also used by single parent families, the elderly, those who had been struck
by illness or by those who had suffered a disaster such as a fire or a flood. All
were identified as having a chronic need and had been given a certificate from
a doctor, N.S.P.C.C worker, or other professional before attending the WVS. As
a result whole families, often with a large number of children, would often be
completely re-clothed, and in some instances this would occur twice a year.
To give this some scale, in the
month that Miss Honeychurch visited the office in Swindon, a total of 28
families were helped with at least 51 children included. This was in addition
to the previous 114 families that had been assisted in the preceding months of
All this meant that there was
often great pressure upon the service in Swindon and the local WVS Secretary,
Mrs Grundy, emphasised to Miss Honeychurch, the on-going need for donations of good
quality clothing from the public, “We never have enough clothing. We have great
difficulty getting sufficient for our needs.”
As a result they often held ‘make
and mend’ sessions where garments that were not of sufficient quality for
immediate distribution could be re-made into other items. Old fashioned white
nighties for example could be skilfully transformed into pillow cases,
petticoats, knickers, and hankies! However, when demand outstripped the
resources available in Swindon, requests for garments often had to be made to the
clothing centre at Corsham.
Corsham was also one of the
centres where the refugee clothing was held before shipping, and despite the
enormous pressure on the home front in Swindon they were pleased to report in
December 1959, that they had been able to send a full van, with several bales
of refugee clothing to Corsham. All on top of clothing a further 29 local
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