Thursday, July 14, 2016

Royal Voluntary Service Records Project

The Hidden Histories of A Million Wartime Women project went live on Kickstarter throughout May with the target of £25,000 to digitise the first 28,000 pages of diaries from 1938 to 1941. Public support has been so overwhelming that the charity hasn’t just met its target, but superseded it having raised £27,724 thanks to the 705 backers who kindly donated.

These pledges have given Royal Voluntary Service the opportunity to reveal a vivid insight into life during World War II. For the past six years, our archivist and a team of volunteers at Royal Voluntary Service has been sorting and protecting the diaries but thanks to public donations, a specially trained staff member will now begin digitising them ready for publication on their website in July 2017.

Within two years of the outbreak of the Second World War, 1-in-10 women had set aside their own lives to volunteer and help others as members of the Women's Voluntary Services (WVS).   These ordinary women who volunteered for the charity played a vital role on the Home Front and worked tirelessly to contribute towards the war effort. As well as sewing, cooking and helping the community recover after raids, they learnt new skills such as extinguishing bombs, driving in the black-out and making clothes from dog hair.

One example out of the thousands of diaries describes a major Blitz in Bath between 28 and 29 April 1941. This saw volunteers fit 80 children with masks and issue 205 helmets for babies. The centre also served 3,350 meals and helped coordinate housing for more than 9,000 people made homeless following the raids. One volunteer from the centre had lost her home and all of her belongings during the blitz but turned up to volunteer the following morning. She also sent a brave telegram to her soldier sons reading “bombed out, but still smiling,” so not to worry them.   Several other examples are also available on the project's page.

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