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This week we bring you another Heritage Bulletin Vlog, the script can be seen below.
Hello and welcome back to another Heritage Bulletin Vlog we’ve been very busy over the last few months with lots of exciting projects like the launch of our Narrative reports on our online archive.
In 1950 a report called WVS Work in Hospitals, said that “the effect of a cup of tea is magical” and looking at the many objects which represent tea and its importance to the organisation is like looking down a rabbit hole, you never know what you might find. Here in front of me are just a couple of examples of the mugs and tea pots we have produced over the years.
Providing tea and food during World War II was a main feature of WVS work so I thought I’d share a tea related story with you this week called Caravan Canteen.
“A hospital train pulled into the siding. Stretcher-bearers clambered out. They set their stretchers down and the casualties came to life and converged upon us. We were surrounded. “Coffee? Tea? Soup?”
The soup came out of the tap in a reddish gush into the white mug. An aged man conspicuously labelled fractured femur sniffed at it with the sagacity of an ancient foxhound. “Tomato soup”, I improvised. “Or would you rather have tea?” fractured Femur nodded. I drew off a mugful from the other urn. It swirled into the mug with a deep and greenish look, as if from the dark backward and abysm of time.
“WVS colours, huh?” said a voice in the crowd”. But they drank up, and after the first urn was emptied the tea came out a better colour."
That’s all we have time for but you can read the full story by clicking on the link below.
WVS Bulletin March 1940 page 7
The potato is probably one of the most used and versatile vegetables in the world. On Saturday 19th it is National Potato Day in the USA on 7th October it will be National Potato Day in the Ireland and in 2018 UK National Potato day will be 26th January. So instead of having to wait till next year I thought this week we would celebrate with the USA sharing a recent and interesting find by the Archivist in the Miscellaneous Memoranda files on Queen’s Messenger Convoys; WVS Food Department potato recipes.
Cook and mash potatoes thoroughly.
The best method is to bake the potatoes in their jackets, then remove the insides for use in pastry. By this means they are completely dry, and make a more satisfactory pastry than when the potatoes are moistened by steaming or boiling.
6 lbs. flour.
3 lbs. potatoes.
3 lbs. fat (as much margarine as possible).
A little milk.
Bake the .potatoes in their skins. When cooked, split open, scoop out- the insides and mix with grated cheese and a little milk and seasoning. Stir over a low fire and then replace mixture inside the potatoes. Put under the grill or in the oven for a few moments-before serving.
WVS Bulletin March 1941
dripping. 1/2 pint stock or milk. 1 egg.
potatoes, 1 lb. carrots.
the potatoes and boil them gently in a very little water. When they are nearly
cooked, drain off the liquid reserving it for stock.
potatoes finish cooking in their own steam covering closely with a folded cloth
under the lid and standing at the side of the stove until floury. Remove the
skins and mash well.
beaten egg and mash well. Grease a cake tin and coat it with brown breadcrumbs.
Press in the mashed potatoes to form a thick lining to the tin. Bake in a hot
oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile dice the carrots, having 15 minutes and mix them
with-a sauce made from the fat, oatmeal and liquid. Season and heat the
mixture. When the potato casserole is cooked, turn it out and fill it with the
carrot mixture. Place it in the oven for a few minutes and serve piping hot.
1 lb. potatoes
2 medium sized raw beetroots. 1 oz. margarine,
1 tablespoonful milk.
Boil the beetroots whole until tender (about 2 hours) taking care not to break the skins. When cooked skin them quickly and mash to a pulp and pass them through a sieve. In the meantime the potatoes should have been scraped and boiled in their skins- and when cooked peel and mash with margarine and milk. Mix potato and beetroot, together until thoroughly blended. Season with pepper and salt, put into a vegetable dish, cover and reheat in oven for a few moments.
Prepare potato pastry and roll it out in a long strip - about 4-5 inches wide. Place skinned sausage Or sausage meat down centre of pastry. Season. Moisten edges and fold pastry over the sausages. Cut into individual sausage rolls and mark with a fork or knife. Bake in a hot oven for about 20/30 minutes.
Skinned sausages or sausage meat.
4. oz. Mashed potatoes.6 oz. Plain flour. teaspoonful salt.
2 level teaspoonful-baking powder, 2 oz. fat.
1/2 - 2/3 cupful of milk.
Sieve the flour and salt and baking-powder into a basin and rub in fat. Stir in potatoes until well mixed. Add sufficient milk to make a stiff dough. Turn on to lightly floured board. Knead lightly and roll to half inch thickness. Cut into small rounds, glaze top with a little milk and bake on a greased baking sheet in a hot oven for a quarter of an hour.
More recipes and stories like the one below from October 1943 can be found in the Bulletin; some of the Miscellaneous Memoranda files were recently catalogued and the catalogue entries can be found by searching Archive Online. For more help searching our records please see the guide to archive online or contact our enquiry service.
Let us know if you have a go at any of our recipes.
Learning to deal with an accession at the Royal Voluntary Service
Following my initial
introduction to the wide array of resources held by the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage Collection, and the subsequent
publication of my first Heritage Bulletin blog at the beginning of February
2017, my primary experience of an accession to the archive came in the form of
a collection accumulated by the leader of the ‘Ebley Silver Threads over 60's
Club’, Mrs Mary Curtis. This submission to the archive followed directly on
from an interview for the ‘Voices of Volunteering’ project conducted by the
Deputy Archivist, Jennifer Hunt, with Mary late in 2015.
which had been maintained by Mary between 1962 and 2008, first in her capacity
as a member of WVS and subsequently as the club leader after 1966, had arrived
at the archive in January 2016 following an enquiry from the custodian of the
documents. It came in a hefty and bulging briefcase, along with two large and
very full cardboard boxes. My first task was consequently to unpack the
collection, whilst maintaining the original order, so that a preliminary
assessment of the contents could be made.
Initially it had
been thought that the collection was comprised mainly of the photographs and the
personal records and mementoes of Mary in her association with the WRVS (now Royal Voluntary Service) and the
Ebley Silver Threads club, but during this review it soon became apparent that rather
than a personal collection, it would be better categorised as the records of a
local office. The Ebley Silver Threads over 60's Club’ had been formed in 1966
by Mary and a few other members of the WRVS upon their recognition that no
social group existed for the older members of their local community in the
urban region of Stroud, Gloucestershire. Whilst identified as a local club by
its members, it was nevertheless part of the wide range of older persons’
welfare work conducted by the organisation, belonging to the service originally
known nationwide as the ‘Darby and Joan Clubs’.
As a consequence
included amongst the documents were several WVS Circular Notices such as, "Model
Rules for the Constitution of a Local Darby and Joan Club run by WVS", “"WVS
Darby and Joan Clubs, Notes for the Guidance of Leaders" and “WVS
Insurance in Darby and Joan Clubs”. In addition there were blank ‘Older
People's Club’ membership cards which recorded subscription payments, and a
WRVS newssheet on “Meals on Wheels and Lunch Clubs”.
At the club
level there was a minute book of Committee Meetings and the Annual General
Meetings between 1971 and 2008, extracts from the financial records and
statements, in addition to copies of the letters and correspondence sent and
received by Mary in her role as club leader. Whilst the bulk of the collection
related to the holidays and activities organised for the club members, and was
made up in particular of the photographs taken of the group, there were also
records of the recognition paid and awards given to Mary by the WRVS and her
local community for her work and commitment to the older citizens in Ebley and
the surrounding area.
was no doubt that this collection fitted with the collection policy of the
archive and that it would be a valuable addition. As a consequence a gift agreement
was therefore sought from the custodian to allow work to proceed to incorporate
it into the archive.
Look out for my next blog in September when I will describe
my next stage of the journey: learning to catalogue the collection.
As already discussed in a previous blog, Updating the online catalogue, we have just released the digitised copies of the diaries (1938-1942) from the Hidden Histories of a Million Wartime Women project collectively known as the Narrative Reports. To ensure that everybody has the opportunity to read them, this trusty guide should hopefully help you navigate your way through the thousands of diaries that are available to read online. Before discovering this endless historical source, I advise topping up the midnight oil!
The first stage is to go to the Archive Online page. I would then suggest clicking on Advanced Search as this will help you find your area of interest a lot easier. Due to the geographical nature of the collection, the easiest way to find a diary that will interest you is to search for a town, city or county. Enter your chosen area into the keyword(s) section, (Bath, for example) and then select Narrative Report from the drop down menu in the category section. After clicking search at the bottom of the page your choice of centre should hopefully appear.
If your centre of choice does appear in the search result, it will be listed chronologically. It is important to remember that not all centres were established in 1938, so some places may not have records from the earliest years. Nevertheless, click on your chosen year of preference (I am sure you will end up reading every year anyway) and scroll down to the section named Media Download.
This is where you will find the wonderful stories of the WVS. Simply click on the PDF link and a document containing all the reports for that year will be available to read as many times as you like. Each report has been individually photographed and cropped using our editing software to ensure that you get the best reading experience. I hope that this guide will help you navigate through the abundant memories of the WVS. If you are experiencing any problems or you are have difficulty accessing the Narrative Reports, please contact our enquiry service. We are only too happy to help you read though this unique collection of stories and volunteer experiences.
To help encourage you to start perusing the wealth of the Narrative Reports, here is an interesting little snippet describing the instructions for air raid precautions from a local Housewives’ Section meeting that took place in the city of Bath on 13th July 1942.
After the excitement and perhaps in some cases disappointment of the results of the Wimbledon finals over the weekend I thought you would be interested in reading about WVS/WRVS’s involvement with Wimbledon. A past blog three years ago talked about volunteers running the information desks during the competition in July. This service was in return for the use of the courts for a tournament run in September originally organised by the WVS Club.
On 4th June 1947 the Queen Mother opened the WVS Club at 41 Cadogan Square London/. The club was open to members and ex-members who could apply to join for an annual subscription of £2 2s 2d with a £3 3s 0d entrance fee. It was to be a central meeting place for all members and organised the WVS Tennis Tournament from September 1948 till it closed in 1955.
First held in 1948 the Tennis Tournament was held in September at Wimbledon on the first day WVS supported an American Tournament and on the second day members were invited to play in a ladies doubles competition. In November the following report was printed in the WVS Bulletin:
Although the WVS closed the Tennis continued into the 1980s and possibly 1990s though the last mention in the Archives is the WRVS Association Newsletter No.18 May 1983.
It’s been a while since we updated the online catalogue but never fear the archive team have been working hard to tackle the backlog and bring you more interesting and exciting records.
Cataloguing is one of my favourite activities as the Deputy Archivist I have been able to work on a few different projects over the past twelve months. The first was cataloguing the Central Registry files relating to the Good Neighbours scheme. The files contain information about how the scheme was set up in each region of WRVS in the 1970s and policy for the service. You can find them be searching Good Companions in the Keyword field (the schemes original name) and Central Registry in the category field of the advanced search.
Another series which I catalogued in six weeks (one day per week) and thanks to funding from Leeds Beckett University was the Circular Notices. This is a series of letters/memorandum circulated to regional administrators, county and county borough offices and all members from 1938-1974. They cover a wide range of topics from the ARP Animals Committee, Assistance for evacuees & Homeless Persons, WRVS Information Desks-Wimbledon and the Books On Wheels Film. In fact most of the services you associate with WVS/WRVS plus a few more can be found in these files. Search Circular Notice in the category field of the advanced search.
Our Archivist spends most of his time working hard to promote and develop the archive however during those rare quite periods he does get the opportunity to catalogue. This time he has chosen the ominous Miscellaneous Memoranda collection (yes I know a naughty word in archives). This series is made up of documents detailing wartime and post war work of WVS including the Personal Parcels Scheme, The Volunteer Car Pool and Rationing - Notes Compiled for Mrs Roosevelt. Search Miscellaneous Memoranda in the category field of the advanced search.
I can’t believe it’s been over 3 years since I was working on the project to catalogue all the reports written between 1938 and 1965. Now because of the wonderful support of 705 Kickstarter backers the reports written between 1938 and 1942 our Archives Assistant has now digitised and published the reports with their catalogue records. They can be downloaded by clicking on the red PDF icon where available. More Narrative Reports will be added to the catalogue by April 2018. You can access digital copies of the narrative Reports through our online catalogue searching your local area or county.
In March we brought you the blog What the does the Deputy Archivist get up to on Wednesdays? This discussed the work that went into cataloguing our large and varied collection of publications. Over the course of nearly 80 years Royal Voluntary Service has been producing publications to advertise their services and appeal for volunteers. The catalogue records for over 1000 leaflets, booklets, posters, cards, bookmarks and certificates are now available to search online. Using the advanced search look for services in the keywords field or the different types of publication in the category field.
The Archive team including our dedicated volunteers will continue to catalogue more material including photographs and local office material, so watch this space. If you have any quires about material in the collection please contact our enquiry service.
WRVS had a number of headquarters over the years including
Park lane, Brixton, Milton Hill, Cardiff and not forgetting Scottish HQ in
Edinburgh. However WVS’s (1938-1966) Headquarters was 41 Tothill Street now the
Conrad London St James. This was the office where the hard work really began when
Lady Reading sat down in a tiny office in Tothill Street in Whitehall, London;
crammed in with four other handpicked women she laid the foundations of what
would quickly become the largest volunteering organisation in British history.
I wonder if they ever thought this organisation would still be around today.
The Women’s Voluntary Services for Air Raid Precautions was founded and took up residence at 41 Tothill Street on 16th May 1938. Originally this was a single room secured by
Lady Reading’s Secretary and former Civil Servant in the Ministry of Labour
Mary Smieton. The WVS Offices expanded quickly to occupy the whole 4th Floor. A
reception was established on the ground floor and not long after a shop for the
purchase of WVS uniform. Over the years the shop window was used for a number
of displays including Make do and Mend in 1943 as seen in the image above.By the end of the War there were 176 members working at Headquarters.
Over the years many other WVS activities took place at
Tothill Street including:
The labelling Princess Elizabeth gift food parcels distributed
to the needy as a wedding present from the future Queen in 1948.
- Collecting gifts including a Sheffield Plate Soup Tureen for
Canadian Flood Relief in 1950
- One in Five introductory talks in November 1958, the
department was established by Lady Lucas Tooth at Headquarters in 1955.
- The sorting of magazines for Services Welfare, as part of
the books and magazines adoption scheme in 1962.
WVS Headquarters moved from Tothill Street to Park Lane in
May 1966 the year they were renamed Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS). At the time there were 361 members of staff working at Headquarters more than double the numbers in 1945.
Today we are delighted to honour
our founder, Lady Reading, with an English Heritage blue plaque in London at
The Conrad London St James (formally the WVS Headquarters 41 Tothill Street). Today is
also the digital launch of all those fascinating hidden histories of one million wartime women which we have been digitising since September. Follow us
on Twitter to find out whats happening at todays launch event.
As the Deputy Archivist I am constantly looking at ways to make our collections more accessible. At Royal Voluntary Service we have run a small number of digitisation projects and opened an enquiry Service (running since 2013) but there are large parts of our collection which remain uncatalogued and only accessible to the Archives team. One way of tackling this is to create finding aids; they are defined as a document containing detailed information about a specific collection of papers or records within an archive. Finding aids are used by researchers to determine whether information within a collection is relevant to their research. Thus over the years we have used collections to create a number of fact sheets to help researchers gain an understanding of different services we have provided since 1938.
The fact sheets on our main site cover a number of topics including:
Health and Hospital Work 1938-2013 – this is a comprehensive look at the work of WVS and WRVS in hospitals since it was founded. Research to compile this document included Central Registry files, publications local office collection accessions and Narrative Reports.
Roll of Honour and History of the Roll of Honour – the former document is a colour copy of the beautifully illustrated book which contains the names of 245 WVS members who were killed during the Second World War. The latter explains its history and compilation, providing you with access to the history of this very important Roll of Honour.
WVS Uniform – on our website you can choose two ways to learn about the history of our uniform and how Royal Voluntary Service has chosen to represent itself. There is the more traditional factsheet containing a number of pictures of wartime uniform with descriptions and it uses publications to provide details on the costs. There is also a video which explores all uniforms from WVS for ARP to Royal Voluntary Service a quick guide with images, publications and uniforms all with video commentary to help you move from Green and red to orange and purple and then back to green and red.
There are also fact sheets on:
• The origins of Meals on Wheels
• Darby and Joan Clubs
• One in Five
• Salvage on the Home Front
• Story of WVS Bristol
• Origins of WVS
• Narrative Reports
• Books on WVS and WRVS
And copies of documents
• Ten Years Work (1938-48)
• WVS Housewives Service
There are also some shorter one page factsheets on our Voices of Volunteering schools resources pages which can help researchers to understand a topic before going to look at the online catalogue for more information about their chosen subject. These factsheets include:
• Books on Wheels
• Clothing Depots
• Darby & Joan Clubs
• Good neighbours
• Hospital canteens
• Lunch Clubs
• Meals on Wheels
• Psychiatric Hospitals
• Services Welfare
All our factsheets aim to provide you with source material which isn’t available or easily accessible in other forms. We hope you will take a look, absorb the information and perhaps start some research of your own into our history. If you have any specific questions get in touch with our remote enquiry service.
WVS Bulletin December 1956
This week is Refugee Week, it takes place every year around
the globe to celebrate World Refugee Day on 20th June. In the past we have shared many stories with
you about WVS and WRVS’s involvement in refugee crisis across the world from
Belgian and French refugees during World War II to Ugandan Asians and
Vietnamese in the 1970s. This week we thought we’d bring you a different story
that of Hungarian Refugees who came to the UK in 1956.
On 23rd October 1956 the Hungarian people rose up
against the government of the Hungarian People’s Republic. It spread quickly
across the country but was eventually crushed on 10th November.
Thousands of those who revolted fled the country as refugees 21,500 came to the
UK although 5,500 later re-emigrated. Ready to assist the refugees was WVS who
took full responsibility for clothing, arranged hospitality in people’s homes
and worked in reception centres and hostels.
There are many records on the efforts of WVS in 1956 and
1957 to help the refugees on a national level. However there are also local
reports two which come from cities still known for their work to help refugees,
Sheffield and Leeds.
Leeds was involved in various different aspects of relief
for refugees including sorting 400 blankets, housing students at the university,
assisting refugees with employment and clothing. One story particularly stands
out as a huge act of kindness.
Sheffield was also very busy working with Hungarians arriving
in the city they were initially involved in clothing even before Hungarians
arrived. Sheffield United Tours took clothing from the WVS to Austria along
with one ton of sugar given to Sheffield WVS by Bassetts Ltd. Some refugees
were brought back on returning coaches and clothing still remained and issue.
In 1957 WVS Sheffield was mostly concerned with billeting
taking on a role which they had been responsible for during the War. This included
private billets as well as hostels for 64 Hungarians, by June 1957 29 had left Sheffield. One boy had returned to Hungary and three people had left for Canada.
Aid continued for many years in Report on 25 years work 1938 -1963 the following was written:
“Most Hungarians have now become fully integrated into the life of the country, but a few still live in these communal billets, while many others continue to depend on WVS for advice in connection with their families and homes.”
Nettles and broken gramophone records, just a couple of the things we don’t search for very often in the collection however this month both cropped up in our Twitter and Facebook accounts. Both were collected by WVS during the war, nettles for medicinal purposes as much needed herbs and gramophone records for recycling; at the time they would have called this salvage. Inspired by our social media posts and some comments from our followers I decided to embark on some research in the collection. I wanted to find out about Royal Voluntary Service’s relationship with nettles and gramophone records. This is what I found
If you type in the word nettle or nettles into the catalogue you will find 3 mentions in the Bulletin between 1943 and 1969.
In 1942 WVS started to collect much needed herbs for medicinal purposes to assist with the war effort. In that year, nationally, they collected 60 tons of the herbaceous perennial flowering plant. Along with dandelion leaves, burdock leaves/roots and elder flowers to name a few it was considered to be of secondary purpose but I’m sure they were collected with just as much enthusiasm as rose hips or valerian root. Nettles along with some other herbs don’t really get a mention after the war however they are referred to in the Bulletin in August 1960.
The article A London Herb Garden written by a Bon Viveur describes in detail the plans for a garden at a decrepit Georgian house in Blackheath. Part of the article discusses what the herbs they grow will be used for. This includes Cumberland and Westmoreland herb puddings a recipe which includes bistort and “nettles of course!” Today, I don’t think we always associate nettles as being useful or something we would consume and of course they can always feature in a well told story like MUM’S STAND-IN from March 1969.
[I] hoped that the recipients would tolerate my inexperience and help me out, which of course they did and if they felt any surprise that their regular helper wasn't there they never expressed it and perhaps enjoyed initiating a young stranger in the rituals of delivering Meals on Wheels. First problem-to find the right door-at No. 5 . . . Place. The slippery brick path lies between nettles on one side and rows of dustbins on the other side and the latch of the gate round the bend to the left is held by string, but the peeling kitchen door is ajar and the matches actually are behind the Ajax, and Mrs. D. seems really pleased to see the steaming steak and kidney pie going into the oven and the fruit and custard on a plate on the table. … But it is very hard to get away quickly from the flats for Mrs. F. is giving the baker's roundsman a cup of tea and she hurries to find another cup for me, but eventually reconciles herself merely to pressing two peppermints into my hand to help me on the way. Bang goes my diet!
This segment from an Oxford Narrative Report mentions broken gramophone records being collected for salvage. According to other sources this was for recycling into new records. However a quick search for gramophone records in the collection shows the WVS didn’t just collect broken ones for salvage. Those in Good condition were obtained for troop canteens, book depots and a Gramophone lending library at Scottish Headquarters.
You can read the rest of the Article from the Bulletin September 1944 online.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this odd assortment of stories about two completely unrelated topics and perhaps you’ll be inspired to conduct your own search of the online catalogue. Happy hunting!