Members of the Royal Engineers help with the washing-up after tea, served at a mobile canteen by a WVS volunteer, London, 1941. The mobile canteen vehicles had the names of their donors painted on the sides.
Having a longtime interest in stories of the Blitz, and in women's history, I was especially intrigued to learn of a Kickstarter project collecting funds to digitize, and make available free on the internet, the first of the series of wartime accounts kept on behalf of the Women's Voluntary Service, as the members worked running clothing, scrap, and paper drives, driving ambulances and mobile canteens, providing services during and after air-raids, organizing evacuations of children to foster families in the countryside, and surely a thousand other things at least. Each local WVS center submitted a monthly report outlining its activities and services, giving us, in some 28,000 now-fragile documents, a fascinating and invaluable look at life on the home front in 1940s Britain.
Kitchen scraps are collected by this WVS volunteer, East Barnet, Hertfordshire, 1943. Another volunteer helped load them up, and drove them to a local pig farmer for use as food for his animals.
"May 1941 ... 3 Cases of clothes for bombed out people have been forwarded by the Mayor to W.V.S. They had been sent by Red Cross workers in Bolivia ...."
WVS ladies in Welshpool with donations of scrap metal, July 1940.
"May 1941 ... W.V.S. is undertaking to make a particular type of bed jacket to be worn by spinal cases under plaster-of-paris. They are also making special pyjama coats for cases of burns ...."
Ambulance drivers and members of a stretcher party have a tea break from a WVS mobile canteen, 1941.
"July 1944 ... During May W.V.S. Old Town Dining Centre served 5,402 main meals, 688 tea meals and 5,035 cups of tea ...."
A WVS volunteer cuts strips of cloth to use in making camouflage netting, London, 1943.
"November 1943 ... The amount of knitting done for the Merchant Navy has increased. We have sent off two parcels; containing a total of 54 garments (Sweaters, scarves & socks) ...."
Two WVS volunteers sorting clothing sent by American donors, London, 1941.
"December 1940 ... One of our elderly canteen volunteers, who had the previous week been in the office to see if she could do night work for us -- was in the Town Hall W.V.S. Office the morning after the Sunday night raid, fitting herself out with necessary clothes. We asked her if we could do anything for her, and she replied that if we could send two wires to her soldier sons she would be grateful. Our Secretary took the addresses and the message down -- and the wires both said 'Bombed out -- but still smiling -- Mother.' She had no home, no clothes, no money -- and tears came to her eyes, but her desire to avoid worrying her sons as shown in her telegram was, we considered, almost heroic...."
You can see two videos about the project, including one about the archival digitization process, and a representative sample of the reports, on its Kickstarter web-page.