Page 1

Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

CONTENTS The 1930s


The 1940s


The 1950s


The 1960s


The 1970s


The 1980s


The 1990s


The 2000s


The 2010s



Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

1930s 2

Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

The Women’s Voluntary Services (WVS) was established on 20th May 1938. Their original purpose was for Air Raid Precautions (ARP). These precautions were set in place for civilians that were at risk of air raids in the Second World War. The WVS helped to make it known to households what an air attack may mean and how to protect themselves. In addition to this they fitted gas masks, helped prepare local schemes for distributing them and persuade friends to enrol in the ARP. The outbreak of war in 1939, saw an increase in WVS members, which rose to over one million. Evacuation begun in 1939, the WVS played a vital role in this, accompanying children on trains and arranged for accommodation on arrival. The WVS took the city children to the outbound trains and accompanied them on their journey to the countryside. They are credited with helping to move 1.5 million people out of the cities in September 1939.

Air Raid Damage.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

By December 1939 over 30,000 women had joined. The outbreak of war saw an increase members, which rose to over 1,000,000 members.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

INTERVIEW WITH MARIE, AGE 104 Hi Marie, have you heard of the Royal Voluntary Service? No

Have you heard of the Women’s Voluntary Services?

The latest campaign they have is The Big Sunday Lunch; it is said that Sunday is the loneliest day of the year for the elderly so they are asking if people will join together this weekend and invite their elderly relatives/ friends round for Sunday lunch. What is your opinion?

Yes, I remember the WVS my friend volunteered. I couldn’t because I had 4 children and they wouldn’t let women with children join. I was evacuated to Torquay in the war and the WVS did a lot to help people. They cooked meals and looked after anyone who needed them. They helped me with my children sometimes because I was on my own with them. They worked hard and did a lot of night work and many jobs that men would have done. A lot of women joined. I remember they wore a green uniform.

I think it’s a wonderful idea. Before I came into this residential home and lived on my own Sunday was a lonely day. It was so quiet, not many people about. Sometimes I went to lunch with my daughter and that was nice. Now I am in here I have Sunday lunch with lots of other people.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

Meals on Wheels, 1943


1940s 1943 saw the creation of ‘Meals on Wheels’. It was initially designed to help those housebound due to illness, specifically sufferers of the 1942-3 influenza outbreak. It was not until the end of the war that ‘Meals on Wheels’ was rolled out to the rest of the country.


Joyce, age 96

Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service


They wore a uniform, I think it was green. They did a lot of good work helping people. I didn’t join because I had a job working in the village shop. I think they were well thought of. I remember ‘Meals on Wheels’. A lot of my friends used to have them. They delivered them by car in big metal boxes. I like the idea of The Big Sunday Lunch. Sunday is a lonely day. People live such busy lives these days and they don’t have time to visit people. In the week I see lots of people walking about but on Sundays there are very few. Joyce, age 96

The first ‘Meals on Wheels’ began in Welwyn Garden City during 1948. The shops were too far away for the older people and food was short. For this reason, a few members of WVS got hold of necessary rations, cooked in their own kitchens and delivered them round to the homes in pannikins, keeping it as hot as possible. A year after the war ended members were still taking these meals to communal feeding centres, either on their ownor joint with British Red Cross Society and the Councils of Social Service. ‘Meals are Wheels’ still exist to the present day, delivering two million hot meals a year to people who have difficulty shopping or cooking at home. In some cases, the driver may deliver a frozen meal and the volunteer with stay with the person and cook it while keeping them company. When meals are delivered it is also a time when the volunteer can check that the person is safe and well.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service


In WWII the WVS offered tea and food in 930 canteens, 120 mobile canteens and 25 railway station canteens. There was lots of communal feeding and soup kitchen’s for people who needed it. Bristol was the fifth most heavily bombed British city. The WVS had mobile canteens in this area serving the fire and casualty services and visited between 2,000 and 3,000 army troops. (1)

The members of the WVS took a great risk when it came to helping others. An example of this is, in Bristol two of the canteens were bombed, but they continued to serve the community and one was back in action the very next day, by serving people in a stable.


‘If Hitler had stopped tea coming into this country, things might have been very different.’ Lady Reading

Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

I think they wore green uniforms with red around the collars and cuffs, and were active in the Second World War. I was only 6 years old during the war so do not remember them personally. Barbara, age 75


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service


I became a member of the WVS at Knowsley in Lancashire 50+ years ago. A group of ladies in the village lead by a Dr ‘s wife got together to form a luncheon club. We were given the money to buy cooking utensils etc probably by the WVS Lancashire/Liverpool committee which I think we had to return. We bought and cooked our own ingredients and once a week provided a hot meal for local pensioners who paid. The local Rotary Club provided a van so that we could supply the housebound. When we moved to Appleby in Westmoreland, I remember that when the snow caused Stainmore to be closed the people who were stuck were brought into Appleby Public Hall and the WRVS (Royal now) provided a soup kitchen and blankets for them. *During the 2nd World War my mother was a member of the WVS and her job was to take the evacuees to their new homes in our area. Anyone who could spare a room was obliged to give shelter to these children. They shared our schools and we often had them to play in our garden. When there was a lull in the bombing most of them drifted back to Liverpool, but some stayed until the end of the war. *I had never seen my mother in trousers before! These events!! At Appleby, WRVS had a trolley of goods at the local care home.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

JEAN GRAYSON PHONE INTERVIEW Why did you volunteer? I didn’t volunteer, the Doctor’s wife went round and ‘encouraged’ us to join and we were enrolled by her. We didn’t have training as such but had to do a First Aid course. When the snow fell in Appleby a tractor had to deliver food to the village hall. The day had started as a glorious summer’s day and everyone had gone out . When the snow came they were stuck and so the tractor had to take them to the hall and the WRVS provided food. Did you wear a uniform? We wore a dark green pinafore. There was also a dress that could be worn and the posh people who were higher up the organisation wore velour hats. Was the organisation open to women only? No, men helped with the meals on wheels. The men drove the vans. The food was cooked in kitchens and put in a heated box with charcoal underneath. We cooked two courses. What uniform did your mum wear? My mother didn’t go to work, they didn’t in those days, but she volunteered to help with the war effort and joined the WVS. She wore a beret and green trousers. My father was an Air Raid Warden. He had an artifial leg as a result of an injury from the First World War. My mother didn’t have training but was given instructions.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service


This dress was priced at 2 pounds 7 shillings and 6 pence so was seen as affordable but one style of dress was produced by the owner of Harrods, costing 9 pounds 4 shillings and 7 pence! The WVS needed uniforms but had to pay for them themselves as the Home Office refused to fund them. The names of the particular county were part of the badge. They were instructed that their uniform should be complete when worn and with brown low heeled shoes.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

Many had enquired about a lighter material to be worn in summer, but due to lack of resources in the war this was not possible. Instead there was the launch of a dress for the women to wear. Below is a utility dress manufactured by Brilkie. This particular one was for Bedfordshire as shown on the embroidery badge.

The hat was priced at 12 shillings and 6 pence, the beret was introduced in 1941 which was sold at a cheaper price of 3 shillings and 3 pence. By 1942 all the uniforms were administered by the Ministry of Supply due to rationing and material was provided to those who wanted to make their own. In May 1942 a permit card was needed to purchase and wear the uniform.


In 1946 the WVS brightened and smartened up newly built housing. The prefab homes were built in factories and were transported on lorries to prepared sites, the housing contained everything a family would need. The reactions to the prefabs were one of respect and affection. It was better quality than the working class were used to. Between 1945 to 1949, 150,000 prefabs of different types were built across the country, at a cost of approximately ÂŁ200,000,000. These were only supposed to be temporary post-war housing but there are still some prefabs around today. Six prefab houses on an estate in Catford, London have been granted Grade II listed building but many also face demolition through the Council.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

WVS GARDEN GIFT SCHEME After the war, the WVS ejected colour into the landscapes of which were often little more than barren building sites. Through the scheme, WVS volunteers collected plants and flowers from donors and delivered them to new residents. The WVS ran a competition for the best prefab garden, they were offering a silver trophy to be presented by Queen Mary. This was a good way to publicise the scheme, and get more people involved.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

20 Queen Elizabeth II Coronation, 1953

Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service


In 1956 Queen Elizabeth II agreed to become a patron of the Women’s Voluntary Services. WVS Roll of Honour was made, a book that lists the 235 WVS members killed by enemy action in the Second World War. 1953 saw the East Coast floods, one of the worst natural disasters to hit Britain in the 20th Century. The WVS set up and ran rest centres for the displaced and helped to feed the men that were rebuilding the sea defences. They also sorted through and dispatched 12 million donated items to flood victims.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

ONE IN FIVE SCHEME The One in Five scheme started in 1956, the aims were to prepare people for a nuclear strike. The Cold War lasted 1945 to 1989, of which there was a fear of nuclear war, the WVS were preparing women and families for what they can do to help themselves if this did happen. The talks were carried out throughout the majority of this time. To achieve the aims of the One in Five scheme, the WVS originally ran three talks on nuclear strikes and the actions women should take if they occurred. Each of the talks covered different topics including: How to protect your home and your family; How you would be cared for, How to be independent and how to care for a sick person. How to make a refuge room was taught. Also what would be safe to eat if there was a nuclear war. It was essential to know that food should be kept in a sealed container so cannot be harmed by radioactivity.


In March, 1961, One in Five reached the House of Lords. Previous to this Miss Joan Vickers, later to be Baroness, had said in the House of Commons that the WVS ‘are doing excellent work with their One in Five scheme.’ Along with Sir David Renton commenting on their ‘magnificent work in helping to educate the public through the One in Five scheme.’

Image taken of One in Five Talk at Home Office, 1961.

Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

FLOODS OF 1953 It was not only the homeless from the floods that needed help but the police, fireman, army and many more men that were out helping in the midst of it all, working in nasty conditions trying to remake parts of the sea wall before the next bought of tide came.

The national disaster of the East Coast floods, 1953, happened without warning and within a few hours over 300 people lost their lives and over 32,000 lost their homes. Without any electricity or telephones the WVS worked by candlelight from the Police Station, comforting those who came along with providing tea. As soon as communication became possible the WVS throughout the country worked together. Rest centres were set up through the flooded areas. Food was provided within these centres.

East Coast Big Flood, 1953


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

Queen, Elizabeth II, 1966


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

1960s The WVS Long Service Medal was approved by Her Majesty the Queen in 1961, after 15 years of service. Queen Elizabeth II in 1966, honoured the WVS by adding ‘Royal’ to it’s title. They became known as Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS).


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

My mum talked about the WVS when she told me about the war. She was a young woman in the Second World War and I can remember her talking about the WVS and how they helped to keep up morale of the people in London where she lived. I remember she said they wore a uniform, and they used to provide cups of tea and meals and also helped with evacuating children from London. Marcia, age 63


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

The WVS became known as Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) when the Queen honoured them in 1966. A new WRVS badge was commissioned, designed by Cartier, London, and worn for the first time by the 2,324 members who attended the service of re-dedication at Westminster Abbey on 21 November 1966.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service


‘This leaflet was an advertisement by the WVS Housing Association and WVS Trustees Limited, encouraging the donation of properties to create flats and residential clubs for older people. Such accommodations allowed older people to live independently but with the security of suitable, affordable shelter. The Ministry of Housing recognised the scheme as an important contribution to housing in this country. The Women’s Voluntary Service also created flat lets for young professional women of limited means, as well as short rest havens for tired mothers needing time away from the stresses of family and home life.’ Royal Voluntary Service.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

‘This tapestry carpet was made by founder Lady Reading, who worked for over two and a half years between her duties as WVS chairman to complete it. It contains twenty panels, each depicting different aspects of the work done by the Women’s Voluntary Services such as clothing, evacuation, emergency feeding, and the rural pie scheme. Once finished, the carpet hung in the reception area of the headquarters. It now resides in the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage Collection; a lasting testament to Lady Reading and the WVS’ service to the community.’ Royal Voluntary Service.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

1970s In 1971 a great sadness was brought to the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service, the founder Lady Reading passed away. A memorial service was held at Westminster Abbey.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

MEMORIAL SERVICE BOOKLET LADY READING’S SERVICE It was held at Westminster Abbey to give thanks for all she had achieved. During the service she was described as a lady with a unique blend of charm and determination, who elevated voluntary service to the height of caring and efficiency while establishing her work on a national scale. The greatest tribute to her legacy was the collective determination of WRVS to work together, with added purpose, to ensure the growth of Lady Reading’s vision. They have strived to do so ever since.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service


This poster for the Good Companions scheme, was part of a campaign launched by the Secretary of State for Social Services with WRVS that aimed to increase public awareness of their responsibility to older people. Originally begun in late 1970, Good Companions was the successor of the Home Help scheme. During the campaign WRVS acted as planning and publicity consultants, promoting the campaign’s message through posters like these, while also acting as a local reference point for those who wanted to help. Volunteers would be put in contact with those who needed visiting or help with household chores, such as shopping.



1980s During the 1980’s, the WRVS continued to support the country, no matter what the task, they could always be relied upon. A WRVS magazine was launched in 1983, published was three issues each year. The annual subscription was £1.95. 1988 saw the WRVS’ 50th golden jubilee anniversary, popular commemorative souvenirs were made, gold leafed plates, gold plated teaspoons and decorative mugs.

Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service


The WRVS started their work in prisons during 1947. They used their skills and experience to help those in prison and the offender’s families, to cope with the situation and make it easier for the families. Groups for prisons wives were created, as well as transport for the women when visiting boyfriends or husbands. This is the kind of support that really helped these women at a time of need. The volunteers also helped to store the prisoner’s luggage and provided fresh clothing for those leaving prison, to help them feel less alienated when going back to the outside world again.



The image is taken in 1997 in Chapel Street. The occassion being, a volunteer’s retirement from the WRVS after 30 years of volunteering. It is volunteer, Mrs Margaret Mackie, retiring after many years of serving ‘Meal’s on Wheels’. The government decided Britain could not cope without the WRVS, but change was inevitable as it became a registered charity. It started to focus its care for older people. The government funded them with a grant, but in 1997 they were informed that this was going to be stopped in the near future, and had to rely on donations since 2008.

Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

WRVS became an independent charity on 31 December 1992. Although it still received a grant from the government of ÂŁ5.6 million a year, they were going to need to stand on their own two feet. It had been strictly forbidden to fundraise by Lady Reading and her successors but now they would need to, to keep functioning properly. Efforts began with simple collection tins but the government informed them in 1997 that they would no longer receive the grant, fundraising had to be stepped up. The government grant finally stopped in 2008 and the WRVS have been reliant on donations ever since.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

In 1996, the newsletter that the WRVS had was replaced by a magazine, entitled ‘Action’. In 2010, Action magazine won Best Publication at the Institute of Internal Communication, beating over 60 other magazines and newsletters, including Lloyds Banking and Marks and Spencers. Due to costs, after releasing 33 issues, the WRVS had to go back to the newsprint format. The charity could not afford to make these colour magazine editions now they are relying completely on donations.



In 2004 the colours changed to bright purple and orange, with a new strapline; ‘Make it count’. The focus of the organisation was still to make Britian a great place to grow old through the kindness of the WRVS. In 2008, had a deal with the sandwich providers, Food Partners, that they could put their branding on the sandwiches, to get their message across and helping to gain volunteers.

Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

Since the early 1990’s, there was debate as to whether the title ‘Women’s Royal Voluntary Service’ put men off joining. Therefore, in 2004, the charity was renamed just ‘WRVS’. The green and burgundy colours that had remained the same since the beginning changed to vibrant purple and orange.



Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service


The Heritage Plus Project was one of their projects in the 00’s. It ran from 2007 to 2010 to record peoples memories through weekly activities, creative workshops, exhibitions, celebratory events, oral histories and outings to heritage sites. The Portslade Portraits was a book created from ten weeks of creative writing sessions for people over the age of 55 at the WRVS community centre in Portslade. ‘The stories in it are heart-warming, melancholy, humorous, and everything in between.’ Royal Voluntary Service, If you are interested about this project, find out stories at


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

2010s Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service. On their 75th anniversary in May 2013 the WRVS became the Royal Voluntary Service, because their work has changed over time this was a better reflection of them today.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

In 2010, the WRVS Narrative Reports were awarded UNESCO UK Memory of the World status, putting them in good company alongside other nation-defining documents such as the Domesday Book.

in 2013 ‘it was announced that a new ‘hub’ model was to be rolled out across 67 locations in England, Scotland and Wales. Each hub provides a core set of services including transport, companionship and social activities, allowing older people to receive ‘mix-and-match’ assistance that is suited to their

The 75th Anniversary Brochure WRVS celebrated its 75th anniversary on 22 May, 2013, with a thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral. ‘The new changes have seen a return to the organisation’s roots, such as the reintroduction of the green and burgundy colour scheme. This anniversary brochure captures the history, the ethos and the spirit of Royal Voluntary Service; both its past and its hopes for the future.’ Royal Voluntary Service.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

GINSTERS SANDWICH PACKAGING Ginsters state they have a long and proud relationship with the Royal Voluntary Service, so much that they have advertised them on their recent packaging and donating towards the cause. ‘To help mark Royal Voluntary Service’s 75th anniversary and brand re-launch and further strengthen our relationship with this worthwhile charity, we are raising awareness of the charity by featuring their logo on the side of our sandwich range. As part of our support, we are also donating £50,000 towards the charity this year.’ Ginsters, 2014


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

50 Images of St Micheal’s Hospital Shop, 2014

Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

RVS staff many hospital shops around the country still with volunteers and paid members, below is a recent interview with Barbara, works in the WRVS shop at St Michael’s hospital, Bristol. Why do you work for the RVS? B. I was working voluntary here for a few years, then a job came available here, that I applied for and got, so I now work as the assistant manager here. How long have you been involved with the RVS? B. 2 years as a volunteer and then 6 years as an assistant manager. What do you feel is the best thing you get out of working for the RVS? B. It’s a charity isn’t it and the money goes to good causes.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service



Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service



Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service


INVOLVED FROM FUNDRAISING TO VOLUNTEERING There’s a wide range of opportunities all over the UK to get involved with. Type in your postcode and find the local volunteering opportunities are out there, visit; or call 0845 608 0122 to find out more.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

‘SUNDAY IS THE LONELIEST DAY FOR ONE MILLION OLDER PEOPLE’ Invite your older friends, relatives or neighbours round for Sunday lunch? It could mean more to them than you think.


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

THERE ARE MANY WAYS THE ROYAL VOLUNTARY SERVICE HELPS THE COMMUNITY They have been supporting our emergency services during the recent flooding across Britain, providing them with food and refreshments. Much like back in the war, they saw people were in need and help them. They have also set up centres for people that have had to move out of their homes due to flooding, offering them support and cups of tea.

They have approximately 450 community centres and lunch clubs, 50 community transport schemes and over 500 cafĂŠs, shops and trolley services in hospitals.

Each month Royal Voluntary Service helps over 100,000 older people, and every year we deliver two million meals; undertake around 90,000 journeys to hospital and GP appointments, to the shops or into town; and deliver 134,000 books through our 400 Books on Wheels services


Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service



Women’s Voluntary Services to Royal Voluntary Service

1. Royal Voluntary Service, 2012. The Story of WVS Bristol. [online] Uploads/Documents/About%20us/history_of_WVS_in_bristol_during_WWII.pdf Accessed: 6/3/14

Image References Air Raid Damage Bedfordshire WVS uniform Big Flood Chapel Street, 1997 Ginsters, 2014 Meals on Wheels Prefab Story Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Queen Elizabeth II Royal Voluntary Service Westminster Abbey WRVS


Rvs book issuu2  
Rvs book issuu2