Saturday, 23 June 2012

A Day in the Life - Girl's of the Blitz Canteen

The post I was going to publish today has been magically deleted by blogger (the title is there but all the text in the post is from another yet unpublished one? How? Three evenings work evaporated!! I'm not a happy bunny!)

So instead (while I go off and have a sulk) I'll give you another installment from the Imperial War museums Collection Archives. Today we follow society girls Patience Brand and Rachel Bingham as the go about their daily operations of the Blitz Canteen in 1941.



Patience 'Boo' Brand wakes up Rachel Bingham at the WVS Canteen Service depot at 2:30am, in order that they can prepare to distribute refreshments to shelterers emerging for work after a night in the shelter.

Patience 'Boo' Brand fastens the belt at the back of her coat, whilst Rachel Bingham ties up her shoe laces at the WVS Canteen Service depot in London, 1941. Rachel is wearing a steel helmet and Boo's helmet is on the bed, ready to be put on.

Rachel Bingham applies her lipstick while Patience 'Boo' Brand ties her shoelaces at the WVS Canteen Service depot in 1941. Both are wearing steel helmets and are preparing to leave the depot to distribute refreshments to shelterers emerging for work after a night in the shelter.

It is 2:45am and Patience 'Boo' Brand and Rachel Bingham are preparing their canteen at the WVS Canteen Service depot in 1941. Rachel lights a primus stove, whilst Boo makes tea before pouring it into large Thermos urns ready for serving on arrival at their destination.

Patience 'Boo' Brand puts meat pies in to cook in the gas oven in the mobile canteen so that they are piping hot when served to shelterers, while Rachel Bingham holds the tray. They are both members of the Women's' Voluntary Service and are preparing the canteen before they leave the WVS Canteen Service depot to supply refreshments to shelterers emerging for work after a night in the shelter, London, 1941.

Women in the Voluntary Services: Two WVS girls working at a Blitz canteen. They are pictured lifting a heavy urn full of tea.

At 3:45am, Patience 'Boo' Brand drives the tea car and canteen from the WVS Canteen Service depot, whilst Rachel Bingham directs her by torchlight. They have together hitched the trailer onto the car and are on their way to supply refreshments to shelterers emerging for work after a night in the shelter.

At 4:15am, Patience 'Boo' Brand reports the arrival of the WVS mobile canteen to the ARP warden at his post in the park in which Londoners sleep in trench shelters. The canteen will provide shelterers with tea and buns before they leave the shelter to set off for work, London, 1941.

Patience 'Boo' Brand serves tea to a shelterer from the WVS canteen, as an ARP warden drinks his tea, a bun in his hand, under the awning of the canteen. Rachel Bingham is also working behind the counter, pouring tea from an urn into a mug. All refreshments are sold to the shelterers at cost price, and the WVS makes no profit.

At 5:30am, Patience 'Boo' Brand and Rachel Bingham carry trays of tea and buns to shelterers who have been unable to visit the canteen. Many elderly people in this trench shelter are too infirm to come out of the shelter and other shelterers are scared of the noise of the blitz overhead.

Patience 'Boo' Brand and Rachel Bingham of the WVS distribute tea and buns to ladies sheltering in a trench shelter in a London park, 1941. The ladies have made the shelter more comfortable by bringing chairs, tables and lamps from home.

Rachel Bingham scrubs the floor of the WVS canteen on her return to the Canteen Service depot, somewhere in London in 1941. The original caption states that Rachel had not had to scrub a floor before she joined the WVS, as she is part of 'Society' and had a maid to do it for her. This demonstrates that all parts of society were volunteering for the WVS.

It is now 8am, and having returned to the depot and cleaned the canteen, Patience 'Boo' Brand loads a tea urn into the smaller tea car, in preparation for a call to another location, somewhere in London.

Rachel Bingham serves tea from the back of her WVS tea car to a man who has been helping to clear up the rubble and debris caused by an air raid in this area of London, 1941.

Rachal Bingham sets up mugs ready to start selling cups of tea and buns to people helping to clear up damage and debris in this bombed area of London. Patience 'Boo' Brand stands behind Rachel, in front of the tea car, where a counter has been set up.

Rachel Bingham counts out the change for a man buying a cup of tea and a bun from the WVS tea car that she is running with her friend Patience 'Boo' Brand. Boo stands behind the counter of the tea car and waits to deal with the next person queuing at the car. These men were previously unemployed, but have now found work helping to clear up the rubble and debris caused by an air raid to this area of London.

Patience 'Boo' Brand reaches into a compartment in the WVS tea car to get a pack of cigarettes for one of the men queuing to buy tea can buns, somewhere in London, 1941. These men were previously unemployed, but are now working to clear rubble and debris caused by an air raid to this area.

Patience 'Boo' Brand pours tea into the cup of a man who has been bombed out of his home, from the back of the WVS tea car. This man's wife is currently staying with friends. The cup which is being filled has been brought to the tea car by the man, so that it can be filled with tea for his cat! The man has a mug of tea for himself in his other hand.

Patience 'Boo' Brand washes mugs in a bowl of water on the ground next to the WVS tea car, somewhere in London, 1941. The cups are washed straight after use and put away so that they are immediately ready when the tea car arrives at its next destination. In the background, bomb-damaged houses and piles of debris can be seen.


It is now 11am and members of the Pioneer Corps help WVS ladies unload trays of buns and pies from the WVS canteen, somewhere in London, 1941. The Pioneer Corps have been helping to clear up the rubble and debris caused by an air raid in this area.

At 11:30am, a queue of hungry Pioneer Corps men forms at the WVS canteen. These men have been helping to clear away debris and rubble caused by an air raid in this area of London and are now waiting to buy their lunchtime snack.

Men of the Pioneer Corps gather around a WVS canteen and relax with tea and buns after a morning of clearing rubble and debris following an air raid in this area of London, 1941.


Patience 'Boo' Brand fills a large saucepan with water from the urn on board the mobile canteen that she and her friend run on behalf of the Women's Voluntary Service, as men of the Pioneer Corps gather outside. In front of her, another urn and stacks of mugs can also be seen.

Patience 'Boo' Brand, a WVS volunteer, stands on the 'wrong' side of the counter of the WVS canteen amongst a group of thirsty Pioneer Corps. She is receiving a cup of tea from a WVS colleague inside the canteen and is just about to hand it to one of the waiting Pioneer Corps men. These men have been helping to clear rubble following an air raid in this area of London, 1941.

Miss Patience 'Boo' Brand is 18 years old and is part of London's 'Society'. She is now a member of the Women's Voluntary Service and runs a mobile canteen in London. Here we see her raising her cup in front of the canteen vehicle.


Men of the Pioneer Corps eat buns and drink tea alongside a WVS canteen during their midday day break on a bomb site, somewhere in London. The photograph is taken from the site of a house that was completely destroyed in the raid. More bomb-damaged houses, including one with a sign for 'Lloyd's Laundry' can be seen in the background.

Patience 'Boo' Brand and Rachel Bingham serve tea to men of the Royal Engineers from the back of a WVS tea car, donated to the WVS by the American Red Cross. The Royal Engineers had been building bridges across bomb craters in main thoroughfares. This photograph was taken somewhere in London in 1941.

A Royal Engineer smiles for the camera in front of the WVS tea car, donated to the WVS by the American Red Cross. He is holding a mug of tea and a fruit pie, which are his 3 o'clock afternoon tea, purchased from the WVS tea car. The Royal Engineers had been building bridges across bomb craters in main throughfares and this photograph was taken somewhere in London in 1941.




After tea, a group of Royal Engineers help Patience 'Boo' Brand with the washing up, by drying the mugs and stacking them back in their trays. The Engineers have been building bridges across bomb craters on main thoroughfares and have just bought afternoon tea and buns from the WVS tea car, (which can be seen behind them), run by Boo and her friend Rachel Bingham. This photograph was taken somewhere in London in 1941.
18 year old Patience 'Boo' Brand and her friend Rachel Bingham prepare for bed at the WVS Canteen Service depot. Rachel sets the alarm for 2:30am, so that they will be ready to supply refreshments to shelterers emerging for work after a night in the shelter.










So there you go Patience 'Boo' Brand (what a great name by the way!) and Rachel's day in the Blitz Canteen, It must have been quite a culture shock to these young society girls, to suddenly have been thrust in amongst the devastation of the Blitz, but I'm sure that though it was hard work and the hours were long, it must have been an endlessly rewarding role to have had.
Wendy x

15 comments:

  1. Wonderful photos and story, boo is such a cute nickname. Yeah I was excited to see your W.E post! xx

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  2. Thanks Hannah!

    Oh its a lovely film I really enjoyed it and the clothes are flipping GORGEOUS!!
    Oooh I can't tell you how angry with blogger I am right now! All the text and pictures got deleted and all it published were the sodding links I'd saved in a SEPERATE post for reference! Arrrgh!! I will try again once I have calmed down enough not to want to scream ;)

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  3. I wonder if Patience and Rachel, lived, married, had children? I wonder what their GrandDaughters are doing now? I wonder what their GreatGrandDaughters think of them? I hope they were able to enjoy a wonderful life.

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    1. I would love to know more about what happened to these girls too, I did try and have a little google of them but got no result :(

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  4. I'm just reading The Camomile Lawn, which I really love. Inbetween the swear and the sexy bits it talks a lot about society girls and how they deal with working. I love "Boo", she's darling, despite getting up so early, the girls seem to be smiling quite a lot!

    Hopefully stupid blogger will recover your lost post! xxxx

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    1. I watched the 90's channel 4 series The Camomile Lawn recently and yep its quite saucy, not what I was expecting at all, no wonder my mum would not let us watch it when it was first on :) xxx

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  5. Visited your blog via The Vintage Pattern Files, and love it! Will be definitely coming back! Thanks for such interesting material.

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  6. Thank you Sandra, I am very glad you like it:)

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  7. This article was very useful as I was fitting out my mobile canteen, seen here at the wartime event at Chatham Dockyard a few weeks ago. More of our activities are here: nfs-afs.org.uk

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  8. Tried uploading some photos in the previous comment, but it didn't seem to work.

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  9. I would love to know more about what happened to these girls too, I did try and have a little google of them but got no result :(

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  10. Thank you Sandra, I am very glad you like it:)

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  11. I watched the 90's channel 4 series The Camomile Lawn recently and yep its quite saucy, not what I was expecting at all, no wonder my mum would not let us watch it when it was first on :) xxx

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  12. Thanks Hannah!
    Oh its a lovely film I really enjoyed it and the clothes are flipping GORGEOUS!!
    Oooh I can't tell you how angry with blogger I am right now! All the text and pictures got deleted and all it published were the sodding links I'd saved in a SEPERATE post for reference! Arrrgh!! I will try again once I have calmed down enough not to want to scream ;)

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  13. Hi David! Thank you for sharing these photos, I have to say I am blown away by your canteen it looks just perfect, such attention to detail! It must have been a fair bit of work to do, so I am glad that this post helped in some small way!

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