Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at the Royal Voluntary Service Archive, tells us about her thoughts ahead of Remembrance Day.
At this time of year, we take time to remember the fallen during all conflicts. It’s a thought-provoking time to focus on resolution and be thankful for peace when it touches our lives.
My thoughts turn immediately to service men and women whose lives were so greatly affected in their dedication to protecting our country. I also think of the civilians and service people on home ground that gave their lives; many were sadly killed during wartime, including some 245 Women’s Voluntary Services (WVS) ladies who were on duty.
These inspiring women volunteered their services and were essential in keeping the home fires burning. They helped during the Blitz, oversaw the evacuation of children from cities, and ran British Restaurants and mobile canteens to feed the needy as well as many other Services between 1938 and 1945.
Members lost their lives during the War, most of whom were on duty, are remembered in the Roll of Honour which is on display in Westminster Abbey. We remember all those who died, including:
- Kathleen Pinder of the Housewives Service was killed on 13th December 1940 while on her Housewives duty in Sheffield by a heavy explosive attack on the house next door.
- Winifred Alliker who was Leader of a Sewing Party in Thurrock, Essex. She remained sewing instead of taking shelter as the work in hand was urgently needed in hospital. Her whole family was killed at the same time on 9th April 1941.
- Margaret Jackson, Catherine Little, Ada Morris, Elizabeth Gertrude Sherwood, Agnes Cooper Vernon and Jeanie Wright were all on duty as Rest Centre Workers at St Andrews Rest Centre in Bootle, Liverpool when it received a direct hit on 3rd May 1941.
- Ethel and Winifred Hayward; sisters who were killed by a direct hit on the Clothing Depot in Crayford, Dartford on 13th July 1944 while issuing clothing to Evacuees. Fortunately most of the people were waiting outside as, of those inside, only two were alive when dug out.
- Dorothy Cook, a Mobile Canteen Driver, was driving a YMCA Canteen van in the Bristol Docks area during the blackout on 9th December 1940. The vehicle fell into the water and Mrs Cook was trapped in her van and drowned. She had been driving continuously for a week through the Blitz.
- Isabella Muirhead Hunter, a First Aid Post Worker in Paisley Large Burgh, was on duty when the post was destroyed by a Parachute Mine, on 6th May 1941.
- Rose Bonsall, a Rest Centre Worker ARP Warden, died from injuries received from the explosion of a time bomb while on her way to a Rest Centre, Wrexham on 31st August 1940.
Thanks to the support of donors, we are currently digitising the reports of over a million wartime women so that all can appreciate them and find out more about this key time in history. Until our Million Women project is complete, you can find out more about our archive and you can view the full Roll of Honour online.