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In 1939 WVS first began to recruit volunteers to work in mobile canteens which were largely used to feed Civil Defence workers and civilians in need. WVS volunteers also gave their support within hospitals during the war, working in hospital canteens, answering telephones, doing domestic jobs and completing other duties of every kind to help assist with staff shortages. When the NHS was established in 1948 Lady Reading and the Minister for Health, Aneurin Bevan, agreed that WVS would expand into running out-patient canteens.
Towards the end of the 1960s there were three types of hospital canteens: two of these were static, the first situated within the hospital building and the second in separate buildings in the grounds. Finally, trolley services were provided which toured wards selling goods and refreshments to bedridden patients.
The canteens provided an area within hospitals that allowed patients and visitors to escape from the wards. A 1969 Health and Hospitals News Sheet stated that WRVS offered the opportunity to experience a place run by ‘“normal” people, i.e. non-professionals’. It allowed long term patients to feel independent and to have real connections with the outside world.
Over time the food served at the hospital canteens changed from simple snack foods to hot meals. In the early years the canteens’ leading provisions were sandwiches with lentil, pea or bean spread and cream cheese fillings. However, by the 1970s the food provided had changed to include meat pies and sausage rolls, available due to the introduction of hot counters and freezers.
Any profits made were gifted back to the hospital to enable them to purchase new equipment needed to help the patients. One example of this was the WRVS shop and canteen service in Bedford’s South Wing Hospital. They were able to raise £148,522 in the 12 years before it was refurbished and expanded in 1994. These profits allowed the WRVS to gift the following equipment to Bedford’s South Wing Hospital:
• Aesculap drill - £4014
• Surgical telescopes - £720
• Two heart monitors - £6000
• Many smaller items such as furniture, patient trolleys and medical utensils
Today there are approximately 900 hospitals in which the RVS provides its services ranging from shops to canteens and trolley services. The proceeds from these are still gifted back to the hospital in order to provide better care for patients as well as better standards for staff and visitors.
In case you had been missing our regular columns over the past month, no fear, the Diary of a Centre Organiser is back! This time from December 1949.
We were asked to visit a woman who is the mother of nine children and who is expecting the tenth within a few days. "I'm dreadfully tired of having babies," she complained.
"Then why don't you stop ?" demanded Mrs Blunt, who accompanied me.
The woman sighed. "It's the only way I know of to keep the youngest from being spoiled," she said.
When our Regional Administrator paid a visit today to one of our longest-established "Darby and Joan" Clubs she recognised a grey-bearded old man who had told her his age was 77 when she last saw him. "That was four years ago, wasn't it," she suggested, "so now you must be . . . ?"
"77," he maintained solidly.
"But how is that," she asked him." Do explain."
"Explain ?" he spluttered indignantly. "There's nothing to explain. Do I look the sort of chap who would be telling you one thing one day and something else the next ?"
Our County Organiser passed on an excellent tip she had picked up at the recent conference at Ashridge. "One of our members who distributes Welfare Foods keeps an eye on the laundry lines," a speaker had told the audience, "and directly she sees a row of nappies she calls at the house with orange juice and cod liver oil. It's wonderful how the number of bottles distributed by her has increased since she adopted this plan."
The Centre has collected a lot of pot plants for distribution at Christmas to the more bedridden of our Meals on Wheels clients - and there will even be some over. A worried-looking man, peering through our window, ventured in to ask if we could let him have a geranium for his wife who was coming out of hospital. "I'm afraid we haven't any geraniums," Miss MacFee told him, "but we have some nice potted chrysanthemums - and here's a very pretty cyclamen."
"No, they won't do," was the gloomy reply. "It's a geranium I promised my wife I'd water for her while she was away."
1 lb flour
1/2 lb butter or margarine
1/2 lb castor sugar
1/2 lb sultanas
1/4 lb glace cherries
1 teasp Baking Powder
1 breakfastcup milk
Pinch of salt
Cream butter and sugar. Sift in the flour, salt and baking powder. Add eggs one at a time, then the milk. Beat all well together for 10 minutes. Grease and paper a cake tin. Pour in mixture and bake in a moderate oven for 1 1/2 hours. When cool cover with plain white icing and decorate.
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00
Monday, 14 September 2015.
Darby and Joan,
meals on Wheels,
This week's Diary of a Centre Organiser comes from the WVS Bulletin, November 1951
Matron is always glad when a young son or daughter, nephew or niece, accompanies one or more of our Trolley Shop team on their weekly rounds at the Old People’s Hospital. The patients enjoy seeing the children and one of them, 86 year old Mr Croke, gives great joy as a rule by moving sideways on his water-bed so that a glup-glup noise is made as he rocks the contents. Today, however, no smile broke the solemnity of a young visitor’s face when Mr Croke did his trick. Instead, overwhelmed with curiosity, the small boy took a step forward and asked anxiously : “If I put my finger in your mouth, would I feel the water?”
Have not yet found a niche in W.V.S. for Miss Pheckless. Had wondered whether she could deliver some of our Meals on Wheels, but my eye happened to light on an entry for August (when I was away) in our office Day Book which read : “Police called to ask us to remove some containers which had been standing outside No 5 London Street (an empty, boarded-up house) for some days and which were causing annoyance to the neighbours. Sent Miss Brown to collect them.” A later entry stated : “Miss Brown reported the containers were without lids, were buzzing with flies and smelling violently. Have traced that the meals were left by Miss Pheckless instead of at No 5 London Road.” Felt ashamed of myself for not reading the August entries before: what is the use of keeping a Day Book if nobody reads it? Was glad to discover due apologies had been sent to No 5 London Road.
Tunny Fish en Casserole
1 medium size tin tunny fish
1 medium size onion (chopped)
3 packets potato crisps
Pepper and salt
1 tin mushroom soup
Line a casserole dish with one packet of potato crisps. Break the tunny fish into small pieces. Place part of it in the casserole, then a small quantity of the chopped onion; repeat until supply of tunny fish and onion are exhausted. Pour into the casserole the tin of soup (which has previously been heated) and put into a moderate oven for about half an hour. Cover the top with a layer of potato crisps, return to the oven for another ten minutes, garnish with parsley and serve.
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 00:00
Tuesday, 11 August 2015.
heritage Bulletin Blog,
Meals on Wheels ,
Tunny Fish casserole,
BATH. One of our old ladies who had been visited for a long time by W.V.S. dropped a hint that she had a birthday the following week. This was duly noted by the member and the landlady. Small gifts of candies, biscuits etc. were produced for the great day and they all had tea together. During the little celebration the old lady coyly announced that it was not her birthday at all but she would like to make sure of it now! Tailpiece—she died before her birthday ; she was over 80.
BURTON-ON-TRENT. The Hat Stall. The Matron at the Andressey Hospital approached the leader of the trolley shop to see if it was possible to supply those mental patients who were able to go out with new hats, as the ones they had were getting very shabby. As nothing appears impossible to W.V.S. our leader went to the manager of one of our large stores to see what he could do. He most kindly agreed to help and sent up a large quantity of hats to the hospital and the trolley helpers held an extra session one evening in the women’s sitting room. It was a most exciting and interesting evening. The patients were frightfully thrilled and tried on the hats with great enthusiasm, matching them with their coats, laughing heartily when the hat didn’t suit. They had been saving up for this occasion and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The helpers and nurses were completely exhausted at the end as there were between fifty and sixty patients. We are wondering what we shall be asked for next.
ESTON (SOUTHBANK). On arriving at the post office one morning the Centre Organiser found a note asking her to telephone a crippled women who wanted W.V.S. help. It was found a self-propelling chair was needed. The Centre Organiser made several enquiries, and then told the woman what to do (all in the same morning). In less than three weeks the woman had been interviewed and examined and found eligible and now, having received the chair, she is so grateful she wants to do shopping for old people not able to do their own.
MORPETH. We have called on 38 old people to see if they need help, and came across many sad cases and some with humorous endings. For example, two poor old sisters over 80 living in most squalid conditions, no bedding, having sold belongings to keep going ; very proud and refusing any help. The National Assistance Board officer was asked to call and the Medical Officer of Health notified. The N.A.B. officer, after a lot of questioning awoke vague memories of money in their minds, and after a lengthy search he and they discovered £400 in notes in an old handbag!
. A little girl, very badly burned was transferred from the Isle of Wight to the plastic ward of Odstock Hospital. W.V.S. Isle of Wight told Southern Region and they passed the message on to South Western Region who asked Salisbury to send a visitor. Within two hours of receiving the request a member was on her way. The child was very ill and of course homesick. Our member quickly established herself as a trusted and beloved “ aunt,” and has been visiting the little girl three or four times a week for more than two months.
Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00
Monday, 22 June 2015.
Burton on Trent,
Reports from everywhere
This weeks Reports from Everywhere features just a single report from May 1965. It is a typical story of the help the WVS gave and continue to give on a daily basis.
Lost and Found
There had been no WVS programme and no meeting on that afternoon, when the Area Organiser at Ellon, Aberdeenshire, driving home, noticed an elderly woman walking, or rather tottering towards the city. Feeling that it was better to risk a snub than to ignore someone in distress she turned her car and went back.
The woman, more than glad to step into the car, said that she was lost but had a vague idea of where she lived. She seemed hazy and bewildered. The Area Organiser decided that it would be best to go straight to Police Headquarters and ask for advice. They had no report there of anyone of that description missing but suggested that they follow at a discreet distance while our member took the old lady to the address she had given.
Getting no reply at the door, the member rang the bell at a neighbouring house where she found the old lady’s gardener wondering what ought to be done as he had taken her to the bank in the morning, moved away to turn the car and come back to find she had disappeared. She must have been walking for hours.
The gardener opened the door of the old lady’s house to reveal a sadly neglected and unkempt place. Having suffered two very bad shocks some time before - finding her husband dead in the garden and having her maid killed in a car crash - her health had deteriorated until she was unfit to cope with life.
After requesting that they keep her informed of the old lady’s welfare, the member left the old lady in the care of the police, and was very surprised and delighted when on hospital duty the following week, to find her tucked up cosily in bed in a lovely large bright ward where she is now undergoing treatment for complete exhaustion.
The police were tremendously impressed by the care taken of an entirely unknown person, and very grateful for the co-operation as well as interested in our concern, not realising that this was simply the way in which WVS expects to be of help.
With the tragedy over the weekend in Nepal we thought we would bring some good news of how the WVS helped the families of Nepalese Gurkha soldiers , a task that would last for over 40 years and how it all started in an account from 1948.
When the decision was made that a Gurkha Brigade would be recruited by the British to serve in Malaya, those responsible felt very strongly that if this experiment were to succeed a welfare service must be provided for the families.
These families had never been out of Nepal in their lives; had probably never seen the sea; had anything from a five to 14 days’ walk to reach the port of embarkation, and could speak no English. To go overseas to live in a strange country with strange people in unknown and unimagined conditions would be a tremendous step.
Early in 1948 WVS agreed to send members to act in a welfare capacity. There are now Families’ Camps attached to the eight battalions serving in Malaya. The families at present live in tents which are wonderfully well kept, and around which little gardens have been planted.
The work of the WVS member varies in each camp, but everywhere a main concern is the health of the women and children. She issues additional milk and vitamin foods, possibly once a week makes an inspection of the tents, weighs the numerous babies, takes the expectant mothers to ante-natal clinic, goes to hospital with all who need treatment, and generally endeavours to reassure the very nervous Gurkha woman and persuade her there is nothing to fear, either in regard to seeing a doctor or going into hospital.
A sewing machine is often provided which the women are taught to use, and the WVS member buys thin material which, in turn, the women buy from her to make light clothes for the children. When the families first arrived the children wore thick, knitted, woollen garments. In a tropical climate the result was very severe prickly heat and often outbreaks of impetigo and other skin diseases. It was not easy to convince the women at first that light clothes were suitable and would be most comfortable, and it was only by getting one or two of the more enterprising of them to try the experiment, which proved successful, that now practically all the women wear light bright coloured saris.
These Gurkha wives are most of them very young people, many of them only 16, 17 or 18. There are, naturally, some who are considerably older, but for the young ones such a tremendous upheaval must be a startling experience, it is extremely easy to frighten and upset them.
By far the chief occupation is having babies!
Every WVS. member feels a tremendous pride in the number and size of the new arrivals, and there is considerable rivalry between the various battalions !
Another activity is running a little class or school for the younger children. It is, naturally, difficult for the WVS member to teach children to count, read and write in a language of which she knows only comparatively few words herself, but nevertheless she manages extremely well by either pointing or drawing an object, the little Gurkha giving the Gurkhali word, the WVS. member giving the English equivalent, thereby both acquiring knowledge at the same time.
The women are on the whole extremely enterprising, very excited with anything new and most receptive to any fresh experience. An outing was once arranged for the wives and families from one camp, On arrival the smaller children walked straight into the sea and started paddling, many of the women immediately took off their top layer of clothes and plunged in in their underclothes. As our WVS member said: “I never thought I would find myself teaching a Gurkha lady to float, with her sari trailing on the waves behind her.”
It is extremely interesting to go round the tents and see what the different families manage to do with the same equipment. Each family is issued with the basic furniture : beds, chairs, tables, chest of drawers. Some remain rather bare and cheerless but others, from apparently nowhere, very soon have many bright flowers about and extraordinary collections of coloured pictures and photographs, and very often an advertisement cut from an illustrated paper appears next door to a brightly coloured picture of a local god.
There is no shadow of doubt that the WVS members working with the Gurkhas have done a really first class job of welfare in the fullest and best sense of the word. The work is exacting and strenuous, but I am sure that everyone who has worked with the Gurkhas is very glad to have had the experience.
Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00
Monday, 27 April 2015.
This week a story from February 1955.
TRAVEL may sound odd in conjunction with a hospital trolley shop, but those who manoeuvre our trolley at a particular hospital will agree that is the only word for it. The journey by van, lift, or sheer mountaineering on foot with the help of a kindly porter, leaves no doubt as to its authenticity, or the trolley’s similarity to the original ending of the title.
Still, however mulish its back wheels can become, it plays its part sturdily in all circumstances. In addition, the noise it can make in certain corridors is valuable in warning the patients of our approach, thereby saving time by them having their money ready. We were joyfully greeted on one occasion with “Oh good, here’s the trolley shop”, so we venture to hope that the noise is not too bad. Seriously, it is a rewarding task, and a privilege, to be allowed to bring a little of the outside world to those confined to hospital; whether they are the sick, or the bright and helpful staff who with every courtesy make us feel welcome.
The patients love to have a chat and the opportunity to buy something for those at home. The anticipation in awaiting the happy surprise their relatives and friends receive on being given these unexpected gifts is, I am sure, a tonic to the patients. A man’s wife has a birthday coming, a mother can send sweets to the children, the things they thought would have to wait until they were well again are brought to them on the trolley shop. The nurses too are not forgotten. A patient shows appreciation by asking a nurse to choose something for herself: “ She has been so good,” they say.
So the shop-on-wheels is not just something being pushed round to sell things; it is a means by which we learn to understand the needs of others in many ways.
There are frantic moments when one is asked for the unusual, and the empties are forgotten in the reckoning up, but the thought of the dainty tea waiting in the canteen, served with such kindness, fortifies us.
Thus ends another day of travel and we look forward to the next. A mixed pleasure, for sometimes we find friends not there, but we hope it means their recovery and re-union with family and home.
MABLETHORPE. When a party of children came here on a school treat, about 20 were swept out to sea by a sudden enormous wave. Fortunately all were saved. They were brought to us. We gave them tea and lent them clothes while we dried and pressed their wet ones. By 6 o’clock they were ready to catch the bus for home as arranged.
DARLINGTON C.B. Writing postcards in a crowded London Post Office, I was asked by a man with both hands bandaged to address a parcel for him. He thanked me saying “ I knew you would help me,” proving that even the back view of a W.V.S. uniform attracts those in need. Long may it remain so !
PADDINGTON B. A member visiting the doctor’s surgery was in uniform. While in the waiting room a harassed G.P. looked in, saw the W.V.S. member, and asked, “ Can you cope with looking out files?” An hour later she entered the surgery. “ Gosh,” said the doctor, “ I apologise, but I was hours behind and am only a locum. In the hospital I’ve just left we had two W.V.S. who did cope, and so have you! Do you want a regular job ?”
RUISLIP U.D. The Guide Commissioner asked us to find some work of public service for a 15-year-old Guide, so we arranged for her to help in the Darby and Joan Club one afternoon. She continued helping all through the holidays, serving tea and washing up, and prepared vegetables for meals on wheels when we were short of a cook. She was always smiling and willing and the old people were delighted to see her.
BROMSGROVE U.D. A demonstration of emergency feeding was said to be the best of its kind so far. Eight women who can build ovens and feed fifty people at a time assembled an oven from a few bricks, a hotplate and a dustbin within an hour. The following day the oven was tested and quickly turned out cakes and tea.
Posted by Matthew McMurray at 09:00
Monday, 01 December 2014.
Darby and Joan ,
Meals on Wheels ,