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WRVS Incident, May 1945icon for Recommended story

by bestruralbus(iw)

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02 August 2004


Shortly after the sirens sounded at 11p.m. on the night of 4th May enemy aircraft dropped incendiaries and H.E bombs. Almost immediately after the first raid ended about 11.30p.m. the police sent a message to the Cowes Centre Organizer, to open Trinity Hall Rest Centre, the Bernard Road centre being out of action, and St.Faith’s Road, having been opened by the Vicar, was already staffed.

Tea and hot bottles were ready by the time the first people arrived. W.V.S was informed that casualties were arriving at Northwood House and were requested to send an urn of tea, also to help with First Aid and attend the wounded. Six Rest Centres in Cowes were opened and a Church for accommodation.

In East Cowes two Rest Centres were opened immediately after the first raid and although many of the helpers’ own homes were damaged, they soon had everything ready.

The second raid came without warning about two hours later while the Rest Centres were in use and rescue work was in full swing.

When daylight came W.V.S members were told to prepare meals for the whole town as the British Restaurant had a time bomb outside the building, and a large Soldiers’ canteen was damaged. A great portion of the town was found to be in ruins.

The Emergency Cooking Depot was immediately opened and a message sent to the W.V.S Headquarters to send more food and containers. Hot milk was made available for children, tea and blankets taken to old people in the Alms Houses, and an urn of tea and some sandwiches sent to squads of men working at vital points.

In East Cowes one of the Rest Centres was badly damaged by blast during the second raid, which necessitated evacuation to another Rest Centre. Owing to unexploded bombs contact could not be made with outlying districts. The West Cowes Postal authorities asked the Centre Organizer to take the mail and inform Newport authorities of the local conditions. W.V.S were greatly handicapped as so many of the helpers own homes were so badly damaged by the raid. This put a great strain on the Rest Centre staff who had to cope with such a large number of homeless people (In one road alone 1,000 families were rendered homeless)

The W.V.S office soon became the Information Bureau and had to deal with telegrams enquiring for relatives sent to the police, A.R.P and Town Clerk, and another room was loaned for use as the Administration Centre, additional help being obtained from Gosport and our Island centres.

The night after the raid a harassed Food Controller thrust 100 lbs of fish on our Centre Organizer, who next day gave it away to anyone who wanted it!

Emergency meals were served continuously to Rest Centres and Civil Defence personnel, and W.V.S helped to staff the British Restaurant.

Help was also given by the County Office who helped with feeding and transport and arranged for Cooking Depots at Newport, Binstead, Ryde and Brading to be opened up to serve meals, and a mobile Tea Van was also sent to East and West Cowes..

The East Cowes clothing depot received a direct hit and clothing had to be sent from the County Clothing Store in Newport. Urns had to be telephoned for from London as we had insufficient for meals for 100.

An emergency canteen was set up at Ryde Pier Head to look after casualties being evacuated to the mainland. Hot meals were also supplied to police on duty in East and West Cowes. Meals were supplied for several days and it was estimated 25,000 meals were prepared at the emergency cooking depots and rest centres. It was deeply regretted that one of our East Cowes Members, Mrs. Hann, was killed whilst on duty.

Newport and Ryde opened Rest Centres and received evacuees, and helped with feeding at East and West Cowes. Shanklin sent staffs to help at Cowes Rest Centres and also sent a C.A.B Officer. Ventnor also sent C.A.B staff and helped with billeting of evacuees.

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