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This month in 1940 ...

Thursday 12 May was Mass Observation’s annual call for one day diaries, diaries which will tell the story of people’s daily lives in 2016. During World War II Mass Observation asked for diaries to be sent to them recording the experiences and activities of ordinary people, one of their contributors was WVS volunteer Nella Last. Like Nella Last the WVS Centre Organisers (there were at one point over 2000 of them) recorded the story of their local services once a month. These are some of the activities they were involved in across the country in May 1940.

Burgh of Ayr, Ayrshire

Comforts. During this month, 587 comforts have been received and 515 despatched. As the Red Cross Society has sent out an appeal for additional hospital garments, the WVS work Party has returned making hospital supplies. It had recently been concentrating on comforts for the fighting forces.

Cardiff, Glamorganshire

The main work during this month was dealing with Belgian Refugees nearly 600 of whom came to Cardiff. Centres for accommodation and feeding were established in several halls and billeting processed as quickly as possible. “Keep Calm” posters were distributed and clerical help was given the Blood Transfusion Service. Lady Reading came to Cardiff to address a meeting and over 1000 women attended. Much interest was aroused.

York, North Riding Yorkshire


York is still on the reserved list, but has been informed they will not take children. We are keeping the evacuation organisation together as a body of women which can be used for other services, and have chosen a few of the most reliable for and special services which may arise.


One new feeding centre has been opened. All these centres have now got preliminary stores and blankets. WVS are working in close co-operation with regard to centres with the Public Assistance officer. Small stores have been given out and emergency arrangements made to deal with the cutting off of services such as water and light.

Worcester, Worcestershire

Other activities

On Thursday May 30th the staff of the WVS received an urgent summons to Norton barracks to greet a vast number of BEF home from Dunkirk. Our gifts of cigarettes, sweets and facilities for writing home were much appreciated – but even more welcome were the 2,000 pairs of socks and the many pullovers we distributed among them – but greatest of all was our pride at being able to help in this way, many of us acting as hostesses to the officers in our homes.

Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Odd Jobs

No appeal for help however extraordinary is turned down by our office. Next week one of our helpers is to go to Herne Bay to bring home a convalescent Boy Scout to Cambridge – Herne bay not being considered at the present stage of the war a salubrious locality for convalescent Boy Scouts.

We would love to make these stories and others like them more accessible and celebrate the hidden history of a million women. Our Kickstarter campaign is going really well but we still need more to help reveal the story of one million women during World War II. For more information why not watch our inspiring video at Hidden histories of a million wartime women.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 16 May 2016.

Labels: WVS, Kickstarter, Stories, Hidden, Histories