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Women's Voluntary Service (WVS)

By September 1943, more than 1 million women had joined the WVS. They performed tasks which eased the problems on the Home Front, such as:

Caring for evacuee children
Organising tea stations and canteens for people who had been bombed out of their homes, and for air raid shelters
Caring for children who were ill
Looking after British prisoners of war in the Far East, when war had come to an end
Organising salvage (recycling) campaigns
Driving ambulances

Gas Masks

The fear of a gas attack was very real, and by September 1938, everyone had received a gas mask, around 38 million gas masks in total. The sensation of clammy breathlessness and the smell of rubber and disinfectant they experienced when donning the mask was the first intimation of the looming war. All ARP volunteers were drilled in anti-gas measures, gingerly sniffing tiny phials of the poisonous stuff to learn how to distinguish the distinctive odours of each type.

Gas masks came in an amazing array of shapes and sizes. Young children took quite happily to the special' Mickey Mouse' gas masks designed to give this macabre precaution the appearance of a game, its Google eyes and snout-like filter resembled the famous cartoon character. They soon found that they could infuriate their parents and elders by making a 'raspberry' noise, like breaking wind, every time they breathed out. Older children and adults had the most boring of gas masks. It was made simply of rubber, webbing and a one-piece acetate visor that had a habit of cracking.

Civil Defence personnel were issued with a more robust design, similar in appearance to the 'Mickey Mouse' gas masks for young children, but much less colourful. The police and service personnel had a more substantial gas mask, normally carried in a haversack, which contained the gas mask and a separate, interchangeable, filter unit connected by a length of tubing.

Newborn babies had a ghastly one-piece mask that covered the whole body. The baby was strapped into a small airtight chamber, into which filtered air could be pumped by means of a hand bellows.

May 24th 1902: Rifle Range for Witheridge - The Volunteer Movement in Witheridge has made rapid strides since a section was formed in March 1900.The Company now numbers about 110 men under Captain Shelley and Lieutenants Cruwys and Gurney. The Vicar readily assented to a range on his property at Bradford in the tenancy of Mr Wreford, who also gave his consent. It was decided to make Saturday week the opening day. The weather was very rough, the honour of firing the first shot was accorded to Mrs Shelley, and when the signal was given for a bull, there was a hearty cheer. The Vicar also proved himself a steady shot. All present then had a few shots each at 200 and 500 yards, and returned to the village to partake of a luncheon provided at the Angel Hotel by Host Fradd. The afternoon was spent in the Drill Hall, where there was some very good Morris Tube shooting.

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Last Edited 03/07/2006    Copyright © 2000-2006 Witheridge

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