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 41-50 results
Recently I have been cataloguing the Circular Notices which were produced by WVS and WRVS between 1938 and 1974. It is interesting what is contained within these files and what they tell us about the inner workings of WVS and WRVS. One such notice I came across was related to the General Election in 1945. Royal Voluntary Service, even when it was a Crown Service, has never been a political organisation and in this week’s blog we will discuss that neutral status as well as the circular notice I discovered.
The origins of the WVS are slightly complicated and it is unclear whose idea it was to start an organisation to recruit and train women in ARP roles in 1938. What we do know is that it was Lady Reading founded an organisation which would continue to grow through the Second World War in number and scope. In the beginning it was suggested that work with the Home Office; it originally operated as a Crown Service with a grant of around £15,000 a year from Government. However WVS was not a political organisation and Lady Reading aimed to keep it as independent as possible from Government.
In its first seven years WVS worked under a coalition Government, the General Election which was due in 1940 was not held because of the Second World War. However in 1945 Churchill called a General Election which he and the Conservatives lost to Clement Atlee and the Labour Party. As mentioned above WVS was not a political organisation and in Circular Notice CN.A.9/45 Position of WVS members to Political Work 14.5.45 Headquarters sent out the following information to members.
The position of WVS members in regard to undertaking work for the political parties was recently considered at a conference at Headquarters at which representatives from all the regions were present. It was the opinion of the conference that members of the WVS playing any part in Party Politics and Local Government Elections must do so in a private capacity and not in uniform and this is the general ruling which has been adopted.
CN.A.9/45 Position of WVS members to Political Work 14.5.45
It is, of course, of first importance that the Non-Party character of WVS should be maintained, and the following questions and answers have been framed to give guidance on political points which may arise. Each member is asked to observe the regulations laid down, but, more than that, it will depend on the good judgement and taste, and personal integrity of every member whether Non-party character of the WVS can be preserved in the spirit as well as in the letter, when elections take place in this country.
The Questions and answers included the following:
Q.3. Can a Candidate who is elected resume her WVS work?
CN.A.9/45 Position of WVS members to Political Work 14.5.45
A. No. It is in the in the interests of the nation that she devotes herself to her Parliamentary duties.
Q.8. Can WVS members who are doing political work during an election wear their uniform or badge?
A. During an election period WVS members may wear their uniform and/or badge when they are doing their WVS work, but neither uniform nor badge must be worn while doing political work or attending meetings.
Q.2. What is the position regarding WVS offices etc., in premises belonging to political parties?
A. These offices should be vacated and others found to replace them as soon as possible.
If you would like to know which other questions were included please contact our enquiry service.
The similar information was produced in the Bulletin in October 1951 another election year.
Over the years WVS and WRVS continued to promote it's non-party status to members. In 1992 WRVS became a Charity it was no longer a Crown Service and began to find ways to fundraise for itself, it also remained politically neutral. Today Royal Voluntary Service as well as providing services for older people also works on a national level to raise awareness of the issues older people face. We do this through our media campaigns and research.
Volunteers' Week takes place on 1st to 7th June and is dedicated to celebrating the fantastic contribution made by millions of volunteers across the country. In this week’s blog I thought we would celebrate the contribution made by millions of volunteers for nearly 80 years through WVS/WRVS/Royal Voluntary Service. Over the years these volunteers haven’t just made a contribution to the UK but have inspired volunteering across the globe; one example is the Home Help Service.
In 1944 the WVS Centre Organiser for the City of Oxford, Theresa MacDonald, asked the Local Authorities permission to pioneer a new scheme, Home Helps. Its purpose was to work alongside and form an attachment with the Local Health Services. At first it dealt with maternity as its top priority and then concerned itself with old people as well as chronic cases. Eventually the Helps took on any cases which were a health emergency.
As a public health service, Home Helps took on jobs such as washing, cooking and child care. They were employed by the Local Authority but administration was in the hands of a voluntary organiser. The WVS trained the Helps and promoted the scheme, at first very little formal training was given but later Helps could work towards the National Institute of Houseworkers’ Diploma.
In 1946 WVS opened a Home Helps Department at headquarters in London and used its network to publicise the scheme. The department also ran residential training for Home Help Organisers. Different local schemes added their own flare to training meetings including celebrations such as Christmas, birthday and anniversary parties. Buckinghamshire went further and held a county rally for its Home Helps. When the National Health Service Act (1948) came into force the Ministry of Health stated that Home Helps was vital to the new service. Many Health Services however wanted to take full control of the scheme. In some areas the WVS remained very involved with Home Helps, though over the years many handed over to Local Authorities and paid organisers.
It’s interesting what can motivate you to do research, recently I was reading a novel set in in Italy in 1945 so I wondered what connections WVS had with the country. Sure enough we had a file titled Italy in the Central Registry Series. In this file I came across a report titled Milan Italy which discusses the Associazione Amici Buona Causa, the literal translation Friends of a Good Cause, the Italian version of Home Helps.
Originally this service focused on urgent or needful cases such as maternity and sudden illness but had not really focused on older people who might need regular visits. It’s development pretty much mirrored the WVS Home Helps. In 1956 Donna Ina Gallaritti Scotti who worked with the Associazione Amici Buona Causa travelled to England to research how Home Helps assisted older people in their own homes and talk with WVS about their work. Her main objective was to attend the Home Helps Conference which was attended by WVS members representing their local authorities. It was also attended by the Public Assistance Minister from Rome which, she felt, would aid her cause back in Milan. During her visit to Britain she spoke with the Older People’s Welfare Department at Headquarters who provided information about the costs of their various services. She was very impressed and felt able to carry out this work when she returned to Italy.
WVS continued to run this service but by 1964 only a few WVS run schemes remained in counties such as Cornwall, Worcestershire and East and West Sussex. Home Helps was finally wrapped up in 1974 with the closure of the final scheme in East Sussex. However it inspired many other services which still continue such as Good Neighbours and befriending.
Thank you to all our past and present volunteers for being so inspiring not just on volunteers' week but in the past, present and future.
Today is VE day, it was the day marked to celebrate the end of war in Europe in 1945. It is also a year since we launched our Kickstarter project Hidden histories of a million women wartime women; women who contributed to victory. After 30 days of continuous campaigning we successful funded the project and then the hard work began to digitise 30,000 precious pieces of paper. In this week’s blog we are going to look at how the Narrative Reports which tell the WVS’s story are being digitised, preserved and made ready for online access later this summer.
Firstly we had to choose how we were going to digitise as the decision was to do this in-house it was between a flatbed scanner or a digital camera. We decided on the Cannon EOS 700D with lights to help balance the colour and image quality. A camera stand was then mounted to the wall so the camera could be level and take an aerial view image of each document. The camera settings were decided on to create the best quality images and are as follows:
a. ISO to 200
b. F Stop to F.8
c. Shutter Speed to 1/80
The camera is connected to the PC and the images once captured (yes ok this bit involves pressing a button) sent to Lightroom where they can be edited, usually rotation and cropping. This is stage one of the digitisation process and once a Region has been completed, you can find out more about the admin history on our fact sheets page, they are transferred for storage to our server. As you may or may not know Tiff is the archival standard for images but it does take up an awful lot of space and several separate images, 112 in one case for one centre! Thus we have to consider what would be the most space saving, safe and easily accessible format to upload the Narrative Reports online. In this case we have used pdf; this format is open source, saves space, easily manageable as a preservation copy (for now) and archival standard.
When creating the pdf the images are first water marked like our Heritage Bulletin pages as you can see in the image on the left. They are also resized based on one side to exactly 2500 pixels. Once this stage is completed the reports for each centre for a particular year are converted into PDF documents which are 150dpi and Greyscale but perfectly readable and easier to open than a 200 MB document. They will be added to a multimedia field in CALM and then uploaded to the online catalogue, a red pdf icon will denote if a document is available for download.
The Narrative Reports digitised as part of the project will be uploaded and made available online in the near future. Keep up to date by watching this space, visiting our Kickstarter page, liking us on Facebook and/or following us on Twitter.
It’s interesting what you find when researching for an enquiry even if Lincolnshire and the Women’s Liberation movement are two different things. Finding the Bulletin article below got me thinking about Feminism and WVS/WRVS.
Feminism first appeared in the mid nineteenth century focusing on the promotion of equal contract, marriage, parenting, and property rights for women. It moved on to focus on women’s suffrage and rights which continued into the Twentieth Century. However by the time WVS was founded in 1938 the first wave of feminism had died down; possibly calmed by the role many women played in factories and other traditional men’s roles in World War I and some women obtaining the right to vote in 1918. In my mind WVS/WRVS was never a feminist organisation but a women’s organisation. It never really suited the definition of the ideological and political movement but it was one which used women’s skills to improve the lives of everyone in Britain. During the War WVS took roles in Evacuation, Hospital Supplies, Make do and mend, knitting and many others which used skills traditionally taken on by women in their homes. However some roles such as fire watching had been assigned to the ARP whose reluctance to include women in a way led to the establishment of WVS.
These less traditional roles appeared only to last as long as the War; the re-emergence of Civil Defence in the late 1940s early 1950s didn’t lead to a revival for WVS who took on the Welfare section. Some services they provided were different such as training in what to do if there was a nuclear attack or driving in the Food Flying Squad but they weren’t promoting a political ideology or actively campaigning for women’s rights. In a way WVS did more without having a political cause because they actively changed people’s lives through their actions and gave women a voice through volunteering.
The second wave of feminism came along in the 1970s along with the Women’s Liberation movement campaigning to make women equal to men and give them more control over their lives. WRVS at this time was still striving to make British society a better place for all. The Organisation focused on offering care to those who needed it either on a regular basis or during an emergency. They were also providing children with the opportunity to go on holiday when they might never have got the chance; patients in psychiatric hospitals were also benefiting specially designed canteens/shops to help rehabilitate them in the outside world and those with disabilities were given the chance to progress in the world of work with occupational therapy. However one member must have felt inspired by this new wave as she wrote an article in the WRVS Magazine; though as she says it was an unorthodox contribution.
WRVS Magazine No.377 June 1971
In short although WVS/WRVS wasn’t known for being a feminist or political organisation in its own special and of course unique way it strived to make everyone equal. Today Royal Voluntary Service continues working to help create a society where everyone feels valued and involved whatever their age.
In the years after World War II Britain struggled to recover economically. In stark contrast, the USA was becoming a much richer nation than before. Sterling was no longer a leading currency and national banks wanted US Dollars, not Sterling. Feeling that every citizen should try and “do their bit” for the economy, in November 1949 Queen Mary decided to donate her needlework to the nation, so that it could be sold for dollars. A committee responsible for the “disposal” of the Carpet was formed and chaired by Lady Reading as Head of the WVS.
Before its journey to America the Carpet went on public display at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) on February 8th 1950. From the start queues were averaging 3000 per day who were stewarded by members of the WVS. By the end of the exhibition which finished on March 12th 1950, it had been seen by over 100,000 visitors including Queen Elizabeth (Queen Mother) and Princess Margaret.
Lady Reading’s PA Miss Patricia Hardie was then appointed to care for the carpet on its journey. The only qualification for the job was that Patricia had worked with the American Red Cross during World War II.
As the V&A exhibition closed, the Carpet was carefully folded and placed in its specially made oak & steel casket. Accompanied by Patricia Hardie on the RMS Queen Mary it was shipped to New York. The plan was to take the Carpet on an 80 day, 14,000 mile tour of cities across the USA and Canada, arranged by the son of Lady-in-Waiting, Lady Antrim, Colonel Angus McDonnell, who would also escort the Carpet assisted by Miss Hardie.
The Carpet, Colonel McDonnell and Miss Hardie arrived in New York on March 23rd 1950. The first exhibition was in New York for 5 days before embarking on a tour of 23 cities in the USA and Canada. Every venue had made special arrangements to display the Carpet. Some even removed priceless artefacts to make room.
Miss Hardie noted “In every case the Carpet was in place within half an hour of our arrival. Sometimes it was hung with a curtain background, sometimes against a wooden frame or plinth and sometimes laid flat on a specially built dais.
Young GI brides helped us in many cities, always willing and enthusiastic, arranging their household duties so that they might be free to work a shift at the sales desks selling the literature from which the expenses of the tour would be paid.”
The Carpet was seen by over 400,000 across North America, including Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt former 1st Lady and wife of the former US President Franklin D Roosevelt. Mrs Roosevelt praised Queen Mary for her sacrifice and devotion in sending her needlework to the USA to generate dollar funds for her country. Miss Hardie commented that it was the most exciting three months of her life.
Patricia also commented that “so many I met were needlewomen themselves and everyone, without exception, wanted to feel the texture of the carpet.”
Sadly, present day visitors to the National Gallery of Canada are rarely able to view the Carpet. Due to the light sensitive nature of the wool dyes and degradation of the fabric, the Carpet is not on permanent display.
If you’re interested in more information on Queen Mary’s Carpet you can contact our enquiry service or search the WVS Bulletin/WRVS Magazine.
We hope you enjoy these extracts from the WVS Bulletin and WRVS Magazine which include WVS activities, easter traditions and recipes.
Firstly I would like to make a bid for the earliest mention of Christmas in 2017 with this Bulletin from January 1946
The WVS worked closely with refugees from Holland during the war and established a sister organisation the Dutch UVV and worked with them in April 1948.
IT IS ABOUT two years since the arrival of the first of the long line of Mobile Canteens which W.V.S. so generously gave to its sister organisation, the Dutch U.V.V., after the liberation of Holland. We here in Arnhem were so fortunate as to get the first two. The first arrived a few days before Christmas from Newcastle-on-Tyne, and was immediately put to work on distribution to the aged poor of loaves of sultana bread, a Yuletide speciality in Holland. …
During the bulb season the mobile canteens were used to distribute Easter eggs and daffodils to the aged, and as the bulb growers in the West had given us such tremendous quantities of flowers, we saved a canteen load of them for the Airborne Cemetery.
Over ten years later in April 1959 WVS volunteers were still hard at work.
NORWICH. This Easter we had a pleasant surprise. The staff in our building collected fresh eggs to be distributed to all the old people on the Meals-on-Wheels round.
Also published were a series of Easter Traditions in an article entitled The Egg The Hare and The Hot Cross Bun. You can read the article in full in the Bulletin from April 1963 but here is a short extract.
[T]he hot cross bun. I always assumed that the cross on the bun was a purely Christian symbol, but now I learn that it probably dates back long before that. Little crosses used to be put on cakes made for the worship of the goddess Diana, and it seems possible that the wheaten cakes known to have been eaten at pagan Spring festivals bore the same mark. Our hot cross buns have probably got a much longer history than we imagine.
Incidentally, there is one delightful individual custom associated with hot cross buns which takes place in an inn in London. In the early nineteenth century the licensee put aside one hot cross bun every Good Friday for her son who was away at sea. But one year he did not return. His mother didn't give up hope, but continued each year to replace the old bun with a new one, keeping the old ones in a basket. When new tenants took over the inn they continued to do this, and now there is a clause in the lease of the inn to enforce it.
Finally as we haven't posted any for a while a recipe for Easter Biscuits from April 1972:
12 oz. Plain flour
pinch of salt
6 oz. Butter or margarine
4 oz. Caster sugar
3 oz. Currants
Pinch of saffron, steeped for a few hours in 1 tablespoon milk,
Egg white and caster sugar for finish.
MethodCream the fat and sugar Beat in the eggAdd the currants and saffron mixtureFold in the flour, sifted with the salt, using a metal spoon The dough should be softer than for pastry, but firm enough to roll Kneed lightly and roll out on a floured board to 1/8 inch in thickness Cut in rounds, using a fluted cutterPut on a baking sheet and bake for approx. 20 minutes at 400°f-Mark 6 After 10 minutes in the oven, remove the biscuits, brush with egg white and dredge with caster sugarReturn to the oven for remainder of baking time Cool on a cooling tray Store in an airtight tin.
All our Bulletins and Magazines written between 1939 and 1974 (over 419 Issues) are available to download on our online catalogue. Why not search Easter in the Bulletin Text field for more extracts like these.
“What is this I hear about Sir Samual Hoare wanting us women to help the menfolk at their ARP?”
“Funny” said the friend “I was thinking about the same thing. You know I think Sir Sam has got his head screwed on the right way. What sort of missus has he got? If this ARP business should become a serious affair, I guess we women folk will have to lend a hand if it’s ever going to be any sort of a success.”
two women from Wedmore 1938.
It’s funny that after working here for nearly five years I
still discover new, interesting and exciting documents in the collection. The
quote above comes from a booklet The
Women of Wedmore; Wedmore is a village in Somerset but the booklet was in a
file for Gloucestershire which is probably why I haven’t noticed it before and
I was actually looking for information on Blood Donners. This village was part
of Axbridge Rural District and the services provided by its Wedmore members
included: canning jam, camouflage netting, clothing and the rural pie scheme. However
the booklet describes the Housewives Service as their main focus.
The object of the Housewives Service was to equip housewives
with the knowledge to deal with first aid in an emergency. In 1942 30 women
joined the Housewives Service in Wedmore, many stayed the course and were
presented with a blue window card; the head housewives received a red one. After
their training the women of Wedmore did not just sit around waiting for an
emergency they were extremely active. Activities included monthly meetings, full
blown invasion exercises, lectures on Gas, high explosive bombs, fire-fighting
etc, jumble sales for Wings Week, collecting books and magazines for convalescents
and towards the end of the war preforming as the Housewives’ Players. Indeed
the Head Housewife was so busy she had to upgrade from walking everywhere to a bicycle
and then a “lordlylike progress into a bath-chair (broken leg); this progress
was achieved at the cost of much muscular power on the part of many pushing
The women of Wedmore continued to deliver WVS services after
the war. In January 1952 the Mercury and Somersetshire Herald reported that 100
Wedmore WVS members ran a rest centre exercise taking “evacuees” from a “bombed
out Bristol”. It was still a very active area in the 1960s providing
refreshments at a Darby and Joan Club rally for 500 club members from all over
Somerset in 1963. In the 1970s due to changes in the WRVS’s administration the
village of Wedmore was absorbed into the Mendip district office. However, the
district as a whole continued their important work into the 1980s with services
such as Books on Wheels, hospitals, Meals on Wheels, Lunch Clubs and Clubs for
Older People to name a few. They even rehomed Budgies, the district Organiser
remarked that “if it had been green … I’d have asked him to sign an enrolment
card. There are often a few times when I would find a pair of wings useful”.
As you can see the story of the Women of Wedmore, Axbridge
Rural in Somerset is a very interesting one which was focused on helping people
in the community. Today the Royal Voluntary Service in Somerset assists older
people in their community with older people's welfare and hospitals.
Wednesday 8th March is International Women’s Day which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women across the world. Royal Voluntary Service was founded in 1938 by one of the twentieth century’s most influential but seldom celebrated women Lady Reading; a woman who inspired others to make changes to British Social welfare even after her death in 1971. There isn’t simply enough time in a weekly blog to mention the millions of women who have been bold and changed Britain, with hundred even thousands of activities, but what we will focus on is how they have improved the welfare of psychiatric patients over the years.
It all began in 1946 when members of WVS Headquarters in London made investigations into helping people with mental illnesses in psychiatric hospitals. Once again WVS was one step ahead of everyone else. In 1948 the organisation was officially asked by the Board of Control to assist in hospitals providing much needed services. It became the mission of volunteers to improve the lives of patients and provide them with a connection with the outside world. In 1959 the Mental Health Act was passed it abolished the distinction between psychiatric units and other hospitals while encouraging the development of community care. This allowed the WVS to establish more occupational centres, providing training especially to help patients find occupations after being discharged. Over the years WVS/WRVS ran a number of services in psychiatric wards which ran in general hospitals and other wards which you can find more details on in our Health and Hospitals Factsheet. However their main project was to build social centres for patients and visitors.
Thirty Social Centres were established in the 1960s including St Francis Hospital Hillingdon, Friern Barnet, St Luke’s Middlesbrough St John’s Bracebridge Heath. St Francis was the first to be opened in 1961 by Princess Maria of Kent. The site was purpose built with kitchen, shop, canteen, lounge and entertainment space. It added a new dimension to hospital life as patients could assist WVS with their work and spend money how they liked in the shop building confidence. This inspired the 30 other projects which were funded through loans and repaid with the profits from the canteens and shops, though St Francis was the most pioneering. A few years after it’s opening there was a parliamentary debate discussing the lack of volunteering opportunities for young people. Lady Reading, then a member of the House of Lords, proposed that St Francis needed a swimming pool to benefit patients and staff which led to an International Volunteer Camp in 1966. Hundreds of young volunteers from Mid-Sussex and Europe met to dig the swimming pool. Once again WVS/WRVS had been a force for change which continued into the 1980s.
Although these schemes were mainly setup in the 1960s, in 1989 there was a fire at Bromham Hospital in Bedfordshire, the WRVS shop and canteen was destroyed. However Barbara Statham Bedfordshire Hospital Organiser and her team rebuilt the shop despite some adversities, here is her story:
Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday or as many now refer to it
Pancake Day, in the past this was a day when many Christians prepared to fast
or abstain from rich ingredients used in food such as pancakes. Today there are
plenty of options in the shops from readymade mixes, readymade pancakes or
buying flour and eggs etc. to make them from scratch. However, during World War
II some foods such as eggs were not always as plentiful or they were rationed.
In March 1943
an article was published in the Bulletin to inspire those
celebrating Shrove Tuesday.
VARIATIONS WITH A BATTER: Thanks to "Lease-lend"
we can still make a pre- war batter with real eggs. The dried eggs, whether in
tins or sold loose, as most housewives will now realise, are excellent in all
types of cooking. For batter particularly, they not only increase the food
value, but also help the colour and texture of the mixture.
During the making of the batter, it is essential that all
ingredients are smoothly mixed and well beaten, and success depends on
lightness which is obtained by the introduction of cold air in the beating, and
a high temperature in cooking.
The following are some ideas which the housewife may find
useful in varying the simple foundation batter: Foundation Batter.-4 oz. flour,
1 tablespoon dried egg, 1 oz. dried milk, 1/2- 3/4 pint water. Pinch of salt.
Sieve the flour, salt, egg and milk together, and mix with sufficient water to
make a stiff mixture. Beat well, add rest of water and put aside for one hour.
1. BAKED AS FOR YORKSHIRE PUDDING:
chopped cooked meat, 1/2 lb. sausages, grated cheese and Worcester sauce, 3/4
lb. mixed cooked vegetables, scraps of cooked or tinned fish, plain sweet
batter dredged with sugar before serving, 3 oz. of dried fruit or 1/2 lb. fresh
fruit (dates, prunes, apples, raisins, sultanas), or plain batter served with
syrup, jam or chocolate sauce.
Pancakes.-Stuffed with any of fillings mentioned above, or with fried potato
and pickle or chutney. Served with a sweet or savoury sauce. Rolled or on top
of each with the filling between. Cooked “dry " as for dropped scones
which can be eaten hot stuffed with a filling, or cold spread with butter, or 1
teaspoonful baking powder added to mixture and tablespoonfuls dropped into hot
fat and served with bacon.
Coating.-The liquid reduced to half in the basic recipe and used for coating,
dried fruits (prunes and apples), fresh fruit, slices of cooked vegetable,
croquette mixtures, or small strips of stale cake or bread moistened with
Steaming.-Increase the amount of flour by 1 oz. and use any
of the variations mentioned above.
Note: For a lighter and richer batter add an extra egg and
reduce the amount of liquid equivalent to this. Sugar tends to make a batter
heavy, therefore dredge sweet batters with sugar after cooking.
Of course pancakes aren’t just for this time of year as
demonstrated in this week’s photograph. A WVS Rally at Warmwell Airfield taken on
15/10/1957, where eight WVS members of the Swanage emergency feeding team made
and cooked small pancakes on an improvised hotplate cooker with oven at a WVS
Rally at Warmwell Airfield, Dorset. Two
members cooked the pancakes while others made the batter. On the table is the shield they won when they
came first in the Dorset Emergency Feeding competition.
Enjoy your pancakes!
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.
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
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
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
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
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”.