In war and peace, Kelvingrove exhibition tells the story of extraordinary volunteers

By Ian Marland at

A new exhibition has opened in the West End celebrating more than 80 years of Royal Voluntary Service and the work of its volunteers.

The display at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum covers the organisation’s role during the war to more recent episodes.

Woman with hat

Jennifer Hunt, Archivist, Royal Voluntary Service Heritage Collection with a RVS Long service medal. Photo © Martin Shields

From collecting salvage and distributing ration books during the Second World War to supporting the emergency services at the Lockerbie disaster and running lunch and social clubs, the volunteers of Royal Voluntary Service have always been there to offer comfort and compassion in crisis.

The fascinating story of the volunteers of Royal Voluntary Service in Glasgow is being told at a new exhibit in the gallery’s community exhibition space.

WVS was set up in 1938, after the Home Secretary at the time asked Stella, Lady Reading, to form a nationwide organisation to assist local authorities recruit women into the Air Raid Precautions movement and assist civilians during and after air raids.

However, realising its vast potential and capabilities, the WVS’s role was soon expanded to include just about anything.

In its very beginnings, the women of Glasgow Women’s Voluntary Services (WVS) supported the Home Front to help win the war.

Women with a hat

Jennifer Hunt with a 1940s WVS hat. Photo © Martin Shields

Today, the service and its many volunteers play a vital role in many communities.

Running from Thursday October 3 until January 31, Compassion in Crisis chronicles eight decades of Royal Voluntary Service in the city.

The exhibition borrows from a collection of documents, photographs, objects and film from Royal Voluntary Service’s Heritage Collection [and the modern day].

Compassion in Crisis recounts how the organisation was founded to help civilians in the event of Air Raids, but ended up doing so much more.