Heritage Bulletin blog

The Heritage Bulletin Blog ran from July 2012 to January 2020, covering a huge range of subjects, from a day in the archives, to extracts from the WVS bulletins, and histories of various WVS/WRVS services.

It’s 219 articles have become a valuable resource in themselves, why not search them or just browse to discover something new.

Showing 1-1 results

A Volcanic Eruption

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.

Original Script

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 1961.

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 islanders arrived.

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 parties.  

Going home 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 biscuits. 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”.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 11:00 Wednesday, 22 February 2017.

Labels: Tristan du Cunha, Refugees, Volcano, WVS, Surrey, Hampshire