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 Glasgow’s Royal Voluntary Service have been offering comfort and compassion in crisis for more than 80 years.

Now, their fascinating story is being told in a new exhibition at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

Running from Thursday (October 3) until January 31, Compassion in Crisis chronicles eight decades of Royal Voluntary Service in the city, from its very beginnings, when the women of Glasgow Women’s Voluntary Services (WVS) supported the Home Front to help win the war, to the vital role its volunteers play today.

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 help 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.

Together with Ruth Balfour, chairman of WVS in Scotland, Lady Reading set about mobilising Scotswomen to provide for the defence of the civilian population. During the war more than four and half thousand women in Glasgow got involved in hard, practical voluntary work across the city.

One photograph from the summer of 1940 shows the women of the WVS at Glasgow Queens Street Station in their posts as station guides, helping to provide servicemen with information on train times, the location of personnel and how to get to their postings.

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After 1945, the WVS, or WRVS as it later became known, continued to provide essential assistance and compassion at major incidents. This includes the tragedy at Lockerbie and on display is a letter of thanks from the Chairman of the Board of Pan Am for the volunteer’s provision of food and comfort at the scene.

Today, the Royal Voluntary Service’s male and female volunteers help thousands of people each month in hospitals and in communities across Glasgow.

Recognising their work, volunteers from Gartnavel General Hospital, West Glasgow Ambulatory Care Hospital and the Bellrock Close Café in Cranhill, star in the exhibit. Also on display is a specially commissioned art piece – Thinking oot tha box – created by members of one of the organisation’s volunteer-led social groups, Art Club One, which runs out of Project Ability, a community arts venue in Glasgow.

Jennifer Hunt, Archivist, Royal Voluntary Service Heritage Collection said: “Royal Voluntary Service’s volunteers have played a vital role in communities in Glasgow since 1938.The hard work and dedication of volunteers is exceptional.We are delighted to share this and other stories of true voluntary service in this exhibition; raising awareness and giving recognition to thousands of volunteers who have gifted their skills and energy to helping others for over 80 years.”

Wilma McDonald from Bearsden volunteers in the RVS café at West Glasgow Ambulatory Care Hospital and features in the exhibition, photographed with the medal she was awarded for 30 years’ service last year.

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Wilma says: “I’m thrilled a part of the exhibition. Volunteering at the hospital gives me so much so much pleasure and satisfaction. I can’t believe I have been here for 30 years. It is great to see all the volunteers recognised in the exhibition.”

Compassion is Crisis runs until 31 January.

*Were you in the RVS? Share your memories and photos by emailing or write to Ann Fotheringham, Evening Times, 200 Renfield Street, Glasgow G2 3QB.