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This month’s extract from the diary of a centre organiser and recipe comes from the WVS Bulletin, March 1950:
We were a little surprised when Mrs. Forth-Wright asked to be enrolled as a W.V.S. Godmother: she did not seem as though she would be particularly sympathetic with children. However, she “took on” another member’s godchild yesterday (during the member’s illness) and it seems to have been a great success. “The little boy spent such a long time looking out of the window in the evening - it was a glorious sunset, wasn’t it? - that I asked him what he was up to, "she told us to-day.“ And do you know what he answered?” She paused expectantly. “He said:
'I’m watching God put away the day.’ ”
There have been unusually large sales of saccharine from our Hospital Trolley Shop lately, and to-day one of the helpers said jokingly to one of the old ladies : “Another packet! You had one last week. However many saccharines do you put in each cup of tea?” “ Eh ?”, demanded the old lady. The member repeated the question in louder tones and the old lady chuckled. “Tea ?” she said. “I don’t put ’em in my tea, I suck ’em!” Matron, hastily consulted, was reassuring as to the harmlessness of this - surely most unusual ? - practice.
The proverbially exaggerated “fishing” stories cannot, surely, compare with the wartime tales exchanged by W.V.S. members when they get together nearly five years after the cessation of hostilities they are still at it ! “It was our job to empty the dustbins,” one member told another. “You’d be astonished if you knew what people throw away - even in wartime. We made nearly £200 from the sale of things we salvaged.” “Not very pleasant work.” another member suggested. “Well, no,” the first one had to admit. “But even the maggots in the old bones came in useful: small boys used to ask us for them... they used them as fishing bait !
1 egg 1 teaspoon baking pdr.
1/4 lb. flour 1/4 lb. cornflour 2 oz. margarine 1 tablespoon sugar
Sieve dry ingredients. Rub in margarine, then work in egg yolk to make stiff dough. Roll out to flan tin size and bake in a good oven. Cool.
Fill with cooked forced rhubarb, thickened with arrowroot and sweetened to taste - cooled. Then beat up the white of egg stiffly, fold in 1 tablespoon caster sugar. Spread this over the rhubarb and finally sprinkle with sugar. Brown very lightly in a cool oven.
There was great excitement in the RVS Archives last week when a large bubble wrap envelope arrived, along with a small card reading, “Do please use anything you deem suitable and dispose of the rest”. It was my second week volunteering at the archive and a perfect opportunity to learn about ‘accessioning’, in other words, processing new items as they arrive, recording the content and the circumstances, making decisions about what to preserve, packaging it, and putting it safely into storage.
In this instance, it was very clear that our anonymous donor wished to make an outright gift to the archive. Frustratingly, though, there was nobody to whom we could reply to thank them for their kindness. The only clue we had was the postmark, which indicated that the donor came from the Greenwich area.
We carefully leafed through the package, appraising and itemizing its contents. It contained the history of a WVS member, Miss Emma Yellowley, who served with WVS Welfare Services from 1945 to 1952. In addition, the package contained previously unseen reports of the WVS Welfare Services in South East Asia. What a treat for the archivists! Many of the new items processed by the team at the archives are formal documents produced by the WVS offices, so it was a real privilege for me to share their genuine enthusiasm for this significant personal collection.
Emma Yellowley was born in Chester le Street in 1903. By 1945 she was 42, unmarried, and living in Chipstead, Surrey. Perhaps she was attracted to the RVS by an advertisement offering the opportunity for travel and adventure? She applied to join the WVS Welfare Services Overseas and in October 1945 she set off from Euston Station to start her new life. She wrote in her diary, “All the girls and myself were thrilled to bits and very excited.” Emma was one of 60 girls alongside the 6000 troops who set sail for Rangoon (now Yangon), in Burma, on board the Mauretania.
Between 1945 and 1948 she worked in Rangoon, at the Sappers Club in Singapore, and in Hong Kong. They say life begins at 40, and Emma seemed determined to prove the rule. She had a marvelous time, her stay liberally peppered with parties, picnics, swimming, amateur dramatics and outings. She also enjoyed five weeks’ holiday in India. As she left Hong Kong she remarked “It’s very sad leaving all the nice friends we have made.”
She was eager to return to the Far East, and after four months in England, she was given a second two year contract. She was posted to Kuala Lumpur, Malaya, where she helped at the Galloway Club, at the Reception Camp Canteen. Emma’s third and final contract was with the Middle East Land Forces in Cyprus, from 1950 to 1952. Here she was posted to Pine Tree Camp, a holiday camp in Troodos, a mountainous retreat near the centre of the island.
We would like to pass on our sincere thanks to the unnamed donor who gave us the opportunity to redscover and share Emma’s story. It would be wonderful to find out who this generous person was. Can you help?
Posted by Sheridan Parsons at 00:00
Tuesday, 27 January 2015.
Heritage Bulletin Blog,
This Saturday, 24 January, 50 years ago, one of the greatest Britons to ever live died at his home in London. That man was Sir Winston Churchill.
The WVS as ever played its part in helping the people of Britain to pay their respects to a man who had helped this country through its darkest hours.
This report from the WVS Bulletin from March 1965 tells the story of the WVS efforts to assist at the Lying in State a duty they had performed only 13 years previously for King George VI.
WVS has sent a cheque for £1,040 to the organisers of the Winston Churchill Memorial Fund, the amount generously contributed by the 82,400 people who had hot drinks from WVS while waiting in the queue, during THE LYING IN STATE.
SINCE WVS served hot tea and Bovril to the public waiting in the queue during the Lying in State of Sir Winston Churchill, many appreciative remarks have been made about their work.
On the Friday, a member in uniform, when doing her shopping in Westminster was at the first shop— and much to her embarrassment— taken to the head of the queue as the shopkeeper said she must be tired. At the second, someone proposed three cheers for WVS, and at the third the member was again sent to the head of the queue. Later, while looking at the window of a local store, where a bust of Sir Winston Churchill was displayed, this same member was again the centre of attention. The men said that they were so glad to have this opportunity of thanking WVS—one of the men recalled their work for the services during the war and the other remembered the care taken of his mother and father who were bombed out. At this moment, three more men arrived who had waited five hours in the queue, the night before, and who wanted to say that they thought that WVS was doing marvellous work.
The Chairman visited the WVS at the site on several occasions and surprised many workers by being there at midnight on the Thursday. She talked to everyone on the Food Flying Squad vehicles and, on crossing to the Lambeth side, found that the workers were both short-handed and slaving away in the dark. The workers had got used to the perpetual gloom and were dispensing tea and Bovril—the latter a generous gift from the makers—at a great rate to the queue which at that time spread as far as County Hall. The Chairman characteristically wasted no time in despatching to Headquarters for two extra helpers to make up the full complement. She then herself returned to Headquarters with a colleague to look for emergency lighting. Sometime later, they returned with a supply of red candles and jam jars and the workers served the hot drinks by their glowing light.
The Chairman tells a story of how she arrived at the canteen on one occasion to find a policeman holding a carry cot and passing the baby into the vehicle with: ‘he has to be fed’, and he was fed without more ado, the mother sitting on a large carton of plastic cups.