W.V.S. Needs Your Help!

Stella Isaacs, the Marchioness of Reading on a wartime poster. Founder of the Women's Voluntary Service. (Wiki image)

Stella Isaacs, the Marchioness of Reading on a wartime poster.
Founder of the Women’s Voluntary Service.
(Wiki image)

The WVS Never Say No

The Woman’s Voluntary Service (WVS) was founded by Stella Isaacs the Marchioness of Reading in 1938. Both the Times and the Observer newspapers cited two differing Great War services in her 1971 obituaries. The Times reporting her work with the British Red Cross Society and the Observer reporting her work with the Voluntary Aid Detachment which was directed by the Red Cross. Regardless, the Marchioness learned from her wartime experiences providing care to those in need. In 1938 Stella Isaacs was called upon by the British Home Secretary to establish a women’s organization that would help the government and local authorities should war be declared. The impetus for such an organization being well proven with the announcement of war in September 1939.

The work of the WVS was varied providing support and training in Air Raid Precautions, to military personnel, war refugees, the evacuation of civilians and children from targeted cities and assisting vulnerable people. The WVS operated mobile canteens providing both troops and civilians with teas, coffees, sandwiches and biscuits. Their work, especially with bombed out civilians, saw government and local authority funded programs developed to feed, clothe and re-house individuals affected by the many air raids across the country. They delivered water by tankers to areas of need, organized knitting circles creating all manner of comforts for troops and the afflicted, gathered and then re-distributed clothing to those who had lost everything in the bombings.

Cap of the Women's Voluntary Service. Imperial War Museum. (P. Ferguson image, November 2022)

Cap of the Women’s Voluntary Service.
Imperial War Museum.
(P. Ferguson image, November 2022)

The WVS was present at British home ports during the return of troops from Dunkirk, at city squares, stations and other posts during the Blitz. And were in the thick of it during the Blitz, as 241 of their members lost their lives. Similarly the WVS repeatedly provided throughout the war their catering expertise including preparations for D-Day and once the Allies were established on the continent took their organization to assist the troops there. Previously the WVS were successful in establishing their systems following the invasion in Italy. During the rocket attacks on London they continued to provide.

In 1942 more than one million women were serving with the WVS across the United Kingdom.  The WVS is now known as the Royal Voluntary Service.

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was captivated by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Over time Paul became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography, narration and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was inspired when he learned Weir visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. "Gallipoli", the film, led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii, Gallipoli, North Macedonia and Salonika. When Paul first watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests was a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, Paul believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


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