The diaries we are hoping to digitise through our innovative Kickstarter project Hidden histories of a million wartime women are part of one of the most important documents in Britain and along with the Domesday Book and are recognised as such by UNESCO.
These diaries were recorded as narratives once a month (although later on they became quarterly or bi-annual entries) between 1938 and 1992. In these records the Centre Organisers would write the daily activities of the volunteers in their area. This does not however mean they were ordinary events in fact it seems from these stories that WVS, particularly our million wartime women, never turned down a challenge or request and their work was very much appreciated. Here are just a few examples:
Isle of Wight County Office, October 1942
Collection of Rose Hips and Horse Chestnuts for Medicinal Purposes
The county staff are glad that this collection has now ceased. They have moved literally tons of Chestnuts and have become either “Amazons” or complete “crocks”. The help of the ARP had to be enlisted to assist with the tons of Chestnuts that poured into County Headquarters. This help was much appreciated. On several occasions it was almost impossible to entre Headquarters at all. It is, however, gratifying that the “target” has been tremendously surpassed.
Rose Hips Target 2 Tons Collected 3 Tons
Horse Chestnuts Target 5 Tons Collected 15 Tons
Over £170 has been paid out in cash. School children, Scouts, Guides, Farmers, Women’s Institutes and Townswomen’s Guilds took part in the collection.
Basingstoke Rural Hampshire, August 1943
One of our more elderly Village Reps was challenged by an American Sentry at the outskirts of an aerodrome near her home. She alighted from her bicycle and while searching for her pass in her handbag the sentry asked her: - “What’s that badge you are wearing Ma’am?” On being told it was WVS the American replied “WVS! Ma’am you may come by here whenever you choose – Pass on please!!”
Wokingham Borough Berkshire, December 1944
An odd request
A ring at a members door “Please can you help me, my husband is a Lion Tamer and the lion has just died.” After conversation it was discovered that a new lion was not required but a house to live in, which is the hardest to find a house or a lion?
Really it was all in a day’s work for the Army Hitler forgot.
You can find out if we have entries for your local area here and help bring them to life by supporting our Kickstarter project.
PS if you would like to read more stories from a million wartime women why not read the Guardian's article Banana raffles and dog wool: the ingenuity of a wartime women's army or view their photo gallery Women's Voluntary Services - in pictures.