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The second line of J R R Tolkin’s Poem All that is gold
both very true when looking at a recent deposit we received.
It’s also true that if you are travelling with WVS you won’t be lost.
In July 1942 the Ministry for Homeland Security set up the Volunteer Car
Pool (VCP) to address the problems of petrol shortages. Private car owners were
encouraged to enrol in the service agreeing to make their car available in an
emergency. WVS was asked to be involved in the running of the scheme; by 1944
they were overseeing 570 VCP schemes across Britain. This was then succeeded by
the Hospital Car Service (HCS) in 1945 where WVS and the WRVS volunteers took
thousands of people to Hospital every year until the Mid1970s when the charity
started to run a more diverse scheme called Country Cars (1974/75).
A short time ago we received a
set of driver’s records including letters, a log book, monthly summaries,
petrol records and journey records for the VCP and HCS. Mrs Bird wandered
around the London and Essex Metropolitan areas between 1944 and
1950 collecting those in need of transport and taking them to hospital and many
other places. Of course these records don’t glitter but they contain hidden
gems such as her records for July and August 1944 when she took evacuees and
their escorts from Chingford to stations in London such as Kings Cross and
Paddington. Most of these journeys were 30 to 40 mile round trips. Moreover one
book shows that WVS’s transport services were not just used for hospital
journeys even before 1974. In 1947 and 1948 Mrs Bird took people to an old
people’s tea entertainment, collected wool from Tothill Street London (WVS Headquarters) and
transported fruit for canning to Portland Place. Occasionally she also delivered
Meals on Wheels and clothing to local clothing depots.
If you would like to find out
more about the VCP and HCS why not explore our Factsheets on Transport
or Hospital Services
Our Narrative Reports and correspondence files are strewn with the whimsy of some of the more creative of the WVS centre organisers over the years. And one of their favourite past times was including with their letters or little poems. These ranged in skill from the sublime to the downright awful, but below, for your delight is one of the most charming we have come across.
WVS – The Army Hitler Forgot
Has the question ever been put to you
Can you tell me what the WVS do?
Oh yes! Of course, they drive a car
Serve cups of tea from a canteen Bar
With such duties light, in a gentle way
They easily pass the livelong day.
No, no! They are wrong, and must be told
Of the different story we now unfold.
We Camouflage, “Make do and Mend”
Knit, Sew and Wedding Dresses lend
Rest Centres, Information and CAB
Red Cross messages, Salvage and VCP
Overseas Gifts for those “Bombed Out”
A boon to our country without a doubt
Meals for the Land Army, and Home Guard as well
National Savings the Exchequer to swell
Billeting, Hospitality, the Child’s Clothing Exchange
Are some of the activities within our range.
Take out school meals, rose hips collect
Try hard to fill in “Returns” correct.
Reports, Statistics, Forms One, Two and Three
Besides the Canteens and Cups of Tea.
Welfare for the forces is in daily request
Furnishing, Libraries, Mending socks and vests.
Whatever they ask we try to provide
To perform a “Miracle” is the WVS pride.
The housewives section do jobs without end
In lulls and Emergencies are the Warden’s Friend
With Demonstrations, Meetings and Exercises too
They are known to all by the cards “Red” and “Blue”.
In all Emergencies the WVS are there
Looking after the Homeless with Tender care.
We feed, we clothe and the Frightened Soothe
And being “Basically Trained” can trouble remove.
Our days are full with routine work
And the dullest job we never shirk
Yes, with willing hearts in the Isle of Wight
We “Stankonovite” from morn till night
And if our efforts can shorten the war
By just one day, well that’s worth working for
And if we are tired and weary, we don’t care a jot
For we are part of the “Army that Hitler Forgot”.
By Mrs S C Needham, county organiser for the Isle of Wight, October 1943
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00
Tuesday, 26 May 2015.
Land Army ,
Make do and mend,
With VE Day just gone and the new ITV series Homefires, about the Women's Institute, (WI), on our Sunday night television sets, you might be forgiven for thinking that the WI was the only women’s organisation working on the Home Front in WWII.
The WVS during WWII was led by a grand coalition of over 60 women’s groups, but not including the WI (except for on matters relating to evacuation). This seems to have been caused by a clash of personalities between Lady Denman and Lady Reading, the leaders of the respective organisations. This however did not stop the WI and the WVS co-operating closely together at a local level, where central politics was of little consequence to winning a war!
As a follow on to this I thought we would look at the contribution of the WVS to the war effort in and around the Village of Bunbury in Cheshire, where Homefires was filmed.
Bunbury did not have its own WVS centre, but was part of the Nantwich Borough and Rural District. The Rural District which covered all of the villages around Nantwich and had representatives in 41 villages and hamlets. In total nearly 500 WVS members served the area, specialising in canteens for the troops (which on occasion fed over 1,500 troops in a day) first aid post and rest centres, work parties and rural transport. With 20 members touring the villages collecting for National Savings.
The WVS did, as everywhere else, just about anything; distributing ration cards, darning socks, undertaking billeting surveys, and providing food and entertainment for troops. The WVS even had a ‘herb committee’ which was tasked with collecting nettles herbs, rosehips (if which in September 1943 they collected 1 tonne) and other forage.
Transport in rural counties was also a big issue, as it is today, and over 1,500 passengers were transported by the Volunteer Car Pool (VCP) every month. This on top of knitting over 300 comforts every month for troops and 30 camouflage nets were woven (when the webbing was available!).
Jam making is never mentioned, but it may be that in this area the links between the WI and the WVS were not so strong. Whatever the case, women made an amazing and often unsung contribution to the war effort, and without their sacrifice things may have ended very differently.
Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00
Monday, 04 May 2015.
Heritage Bulletin Blog,