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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.
One of WVS’s main wartime activities was
salvage; many of the WVS Centre Organisers kept fairly extensive notes on
their salvage activities. Their activties were usually described within the monthly Narrative Reports. Occasionally however, some of the
original reports written by WVS Salvage Officers which influenced those reports were retained and sent to Headquarters.
The Salvage Officer for Melton Mowbray (in Leicestershire) is just one example as many of her monthly accounts have been kept
in the Archive & Heritage Collection alongside the monthly Narrative
Reports they accompany. These reports provide a detailed account of the salvage
activities Melton Mowbray during the Second World War. Lets take a closer look at some of those reports.
Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, January 1942 (Page 4)
It is clear from this report that Melton Mowbray had improved its salvage activity compared to the previous year. This was largely due to the fact that the town engaged in creating salvage awareness. Equally impressive, was the collation of information regarding local businesses and their methods of paper disposal. This would have allowed the WVS to have access to a greater amount of paper that could be salvaged and consequently re-pulped. The efficiency of Salvage Organiser is not to be underestimated.
Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, April 1942 (page 10)
This report illustrates how the WVS in Melton Mowbray contributed to persuading the nation of the importance of salvage. For example, members of the WVS visited Nottingham University to listen to a well-attended lecture on salvage activities. After listening to the speech, they set up their own series of lectures within local schools. This was to help facilitate the Cog Scheme, which encouraged children to participate in salvage collection. These talks proved to be highly successful, as salvage collections in every borough began to increase significantly. After these early accomplishments, the WVS introduced rewards to continue to encourage children to help with the collections. For example, badges representing a cog-wheel was an excellent way of rewarding the most enthusiastic children. Melton Mowbray’s Salvage Organiser was also highly keen on winning the regional waste paper competition.
Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire October 1942 (page 24)
Despite having a population of only 12,000 citizens, Melton Mowbray had managed to collect 14cwts of bones in the month of September In today’s terms, this works out as 711kg. This figure was considered to be a considerable achievement by the WVS in Melton, because bone collection had always been the most difficult of all the salvageable materials to obtain. This was partly due to the fact that people did not enjoy the smell and general unpleasantness surrounded by food waste. To counteract this problem, the WVS responded accordingly by introducing bins for bones that would contain the odour issue.
Overall these reports illustrate the importance of salvage to Melton Mowbray and the effort WVS went to during the Second World War to boost moral and reach targets for collecting salvage. The stories told from the point of view of the salvage office have been retained and survived for over 70 years. They have been digitised and published online, you can go to Archive Online and search for them or use our handy Guide to Archive Online page. Hopefully you will discover many more stories about salvage.
This week’s blog commemorates the beginning of the battle of Britain on 10 July 1940 and one of the many roles that the WVS played in helping to defend our shores from the Luftwaffe.
THE APPEAL FOR ALUMINIUM made by Lord Beaverbrook, Minister for Aircraft Production, to the women of Britain ended with these words; "The need is instant. The call is urgent. Our expectations are high".
The Chairman said in her broadcast on July 11: "Remember too, it is the little things that count - it was the little boats that made the evacuation of Dunkirk possible".
Once again the little things achieved great results; the response to the appeal was immediate, and to the staffs of the W.V.S. offices it appeared overwhelming. Pots and pans and aluminium objects of every conceivable description poured in to the depots which were filled as soon as they opened. Every household, from Buckingham Palace, the smallest cottage, made its contribution, and in some cities the traffic was held up by mountains of aluminium. The gifts of a free people made it unnecessary to set an unwelcome precedent by requisitioning stocks in shops, and the lengthy processes necessary to recover high grade aluminium from mixed and inferior quality scrap metal were avoided. The aluminium which was brought to the WVS offices by men and women and children could be sent straight to the aircraft factories after being smelted and some donors had very definite ideas as to the allocation of their gifts.
One old lady, parting with her only hot water bottle, was clear that she wanted it made into a Spitfire, not a Hurricane, because, after careful study of the papers, she had decided that they were the best planes.
Lord Beaverbrook wrote to the Chairman: "I send you my warmest thanks for the magnificent work which your organisation is doing in the collection of aluminium pots and pans. I have been most impressed by the energetic and efficient way in which the task is being organised, and I hope you will convey to your assistants this expression of my admiration and gratitude".
[published in the WVS Bulletin August 1940]
A small group of rug-makers is meeting twice a week at Grimsby to make rugs for London homeless.
Kingsbridge have started the keeping of certificates for domestic poultry keepers, to obtain wire-netting.
Biggleswade salvage stewards collected 2,500 old ration books during December.
In 1944 a Bath member did 1,170 hours of hospital work, in addition to being a VCP driver, a mobile canteen driver, and a worker in a static Services Canteen.
At Tavistock a WVS member, refusing to be beaten by the weather, went out on a sledge and collected 450 articles for the Re-homing Gift Scheme.
Henley Services canteen recently served 20,714 hot beverages, 249 soft drinks and 21,685 sandwiches during one month.
During the last three years WVS as voluntary telephonists have done 10,000 hours of duty at the Royal Sussex County Hospital.
WVS members at Smethwick have collected 8,400 stamped envelopes and note paper for the use of wounded soldiers when they arrive in hospital, to notify their relatives.
Two National Savings Centres in Islington, entirely staffed by WVS, have during the past three and two years exceeded the £500,000 and £75,000 marks respectively.
An evacuee train en route through Taunton was able to stop only for eight minutes, but WVS managed to get 630 cups of tea and over 900 buns and sandwiches on board, during those few minutes.
The Army Welfare Officer at Peterborough has asked WVS to operate a “Get you Home Scheme” so that men on leave from overseas who are stranded at the stations at night can be taken home by car.
One work party member at Battle, who very specially “mothered” the relays of men manning a searchlight near her home during the fly bomb attacks, now has an average of seven letters a week from her men now serving overseas.
The WVS Village - Representative at Offley recently received a letter of thanks and congratulations from the Regional Commissioner for the “ excellent services ” rendered by herself and helpers when a Rest Centre had to be opened after an explosion resulting from a collision between two motor vehicles.
Bridgewater Welcome Club are very proud of the mural paintings done by one of the American members. D-Day came before he could finish his picture of the main street of the town, which is left incomplete without the Welcome Club. The Club hope he will come back and put in the finishing touches. He, like so many other of his countrymen, will be sure of a grand welcome.
A large number of gifts from Plymouth for the Re-homing Gift Scheme have been received from people who had been bombed-out themselves and whose offerings entailed real sacrifice. One woman gave some things which she had been treasuring in memory of a sister who had been killed in a raid ; she felt she ought no longer to be sentimental and that the things should be used now to help others.
Ipswich have started a salvage “Something for Nothing Scheme” in which small gifts are exchanged for a certain weight of rags or bones. A bead necklace, for instance, can be “bought” for 56 lb of bones, a teapot for 28 lb of rags, a bicycle bell for 56 lb of paper, etc. The response has been so enormous that the prizes have had to be “put up". Recently, in the same borough, a six-feet pile of bones, which had been stewed down for the dogs, was discovered rotting near a dog racing track and immediately collected !
Posted by Matthew McMurray at 09:00
Monday, 06 April 2015.
heritage Bulletin Blog,
Reports from everywhere,
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.