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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 the second and final week of
Wimbledon and our story of how the WVS, WRVS and Royal Voluntary Service served
After the war WVS was still going
strong but had moved away from its role in supporting a nation at war to sustaining
a nation in peace time, proving welfare for older people, taking children on
holidays, providing clothing, serving in hospital canteens and helping out in
an emergency and Wimbledon volunteers were no different.
In the 1950s Wimbledon WVS were
involved in clothing trolley shops, Civil Defence, Meals on Wheels, National
Savings and Hospital Services to name a few. As well as the usual activities
volunteers were engaged in occupational training clinics, canning fruit and in
august 1950 190 tins were completed. Most of our knowledge of their activities
comes from the Narrative Reports in March 1950 it was reported that the WVS
Exhibition had received a visit from Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) and the
Centre Organiser was honoured to be part of her guard. The first coach trips
for older people were organised in the mid to late 1950s, mostly residents from
the residential homes where the WVS ran trolley shops.
The 1960s and 1970s saw an
administrative change for WVS/WRVS Wimbledon as they became part of the London
Borough of Merton but they were still as energetic as ever. By this time
volunteers were running a Tufty Club, helping with the Sir Winston Churchill
Collection Fund, finding a volunteer to take a man with disseminated
scoliosis to the cinema twice a week and
arranging for volunteers age 17 to help the housebound with library books and
Towards the end of the twentieth
century WRVS Wimbledon was still doing everything and anything it could to help
the people of Merton Borough and further afield. This included helping their
fellow volunteers from across the country providing members running the
information desks at the Wimbledon tennis championship and those taking part in
the WRVS Tennis Competition with accommodation. An unusual request came in 1988
(along with distributing Butter from the EEC) when volunteers were asked to sew
badges on to 150 anoraks for the Great British Olympic Team going to Calgary,
Today Royal Voluntary Service
provides services for older people in Wimbledon and all over London including
Social Clubs, Good Neighbours and Home Library Services.
Two years ago I wrote a blog (WVS/WRVS Serves at Wimbledon) looking
at our association with the Wimbledon Tennis Championship and the eventful two
weeks between 1947 and 2004 when a number of volunteers ran information desks. So
the other day I was wondering what were the WVS doing in Wimbledon before they
got involved in Tennis.
We actually know very little about the WVS in Wimbledon
during the War, unfortunately none of their Narrative Reports survived from
1938-1947 but there are two articles written in the Bulletin Magazine in 1942 and 1942. One of them tells us that on 11th October 1942 there was an
invasion defence exercise involving the Housewives Service, the Centre
Organiser and WVS post leaders who controlled the Street Leaders. The exercise assumed
that the South East of England had been invaded and the WVS were involved in
caring for the wounded and evacuating people from their homes. You can read the
full article here.
Another source of information is the statistic books for 1943-1945 they tell us the services WVS were involved in in those years Wimbledon ran the
- Under 5’s Nurseries
- Civil Defence Canteens
- Work for HM Forces
- Hospital Services
- Work Parties
- National Savings
Back to the Bulletin, which reported that in February 1945 Wimbledon
was adopted by Leicestershire as part of the Re-homing Gift Scheme. Donated items
collected by volunteers in Leicestershire were sent to Wimbledon, where they
were distributed by WVS to those setting up new homes after they had been
bombed out in flying bomb attacks. In June 1945 the WVS of Leicester County
Borough sent Wimbledon 16 1/2 tons of household goods including over 60 chairs
which had been re-seated by the Institute for the Blind.
Next week we look at what the volunteers of Wimbledon did after the War
With the start of the famous tennis tournament today at Wimbledon, we thought it would be good to explore our association with the All England Club.
‘When do you think it is going to stop raining?’
‘Where is the nearest laundrette?’
‘Can you sew on my trouser buttons?’
Believe it or not theses were some of the questions asked at the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament information desks, run by WVS/WRVS between 1947 and 2004.
The All England Club allowed the organisation to hold its own annual Lawn Tennis Competition on the courts as a reward for manning the information desks. As well as answering questions on a range of subjects there were many other situations to deal with including reuniting lost children with their parents and even managers with tennis players. Volunteers also had the opportunity to watch matches on Centre Court and Court One during their breaks though they rarely watched a whole match as a volunteer wrote, ‘work must come first’.
During the 1980s one volunteer kept a record of her experiences of a week at Wimbledon. She wrote about a whole range of things including what she ate, there seems to have been a lot of avocado! On Tuesday 2nd June 1985 she wrote:
‘Panic at 6.50 when Leconte’s Manager came asking where he could get hold of Leconte’s coach who was somewhere within the rabbit warren, being interviewed by French Radio … after much phoning he eventually got hold of him’.
At the beginning of May I went to talk to Maureen Jones as part of Voices of Volunteering who was a WRVS volunteer on the Wimbledon Information Desks between 1982 and 1992. You can listen to a clip about one of her experiences at Wimbledon below.
Voices of Volunteering: 75 Years of Citizenship is an exciting new project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund which is collecting the memories and stories of long serving WVS/WRVS volunteers. Our volunteers are also involved, collecting oral histories in their local areas from WVS/WRVS volunteers. We hope to use these stories to inspire younger generations to volunteer through schools resources on volunteering and citizenship.