What Will I Need?
In order to participate, you will need to look the part. You will need:
A 1940's style outfit suitable for working in a Mobile Canteen.
:: a skirt and blouse or a dress (you'll need seamed stockings to go with these!)
:: slacks, jeans or 40's style dungarees and a suitable top.
:: cardigans, jumpers, tank tops to help you keep warm - we're outside, remember!
:: a warm coat
Shoes or boots
:: appropriate to the outfit you choose
A WVS lapel badge
silver badge with WVS Civil defence and the king's crown in red enamel.
A 40's style handbag
:: or somewhere to put your stuff - wicker shopping baskets are a good idea too, if you've got more than you can fit in a handbag. 40's handbags can be quite small.
There are many options these days for purchasing vintage or vintage-style clothes, from nostalgia events to antiques/collectibles/militaria fairs, shops that sell vintage clothing as well as a myriad online outlets which focus solely on vintage. And don't forget good old ebay! Please see further reading for a list of shopping websites and the calendar for dates of the major militaria fairs in the UK.
What is Expected of Me?
As a member of the WVS unit, you will be required to participate in the Mobile Canteen display. But it’s much more than simply serving tea and cake to the other members of WW2 LHA! We are the hub of social interaction between all the units and as such, we provide a welcoming place where they can come for some ‘down time’ between displays. Each WVS member does their share of tea making during display hours and in the spirit of the original WVS, we ‘keep smiling through’.
We ask that all members lend a hand in the setting up and dismantling of the display at shows as many hands make light work. You may also be asked to store small amounts of equipment between events, provided you have the space and transportation.
During shows, you will be expected to dress appropriately for the period, with as much emphasis on hair and make-up as with other aspects of your look. Other, more experienced, members are always happy to share their expertise in getting you kitted out with the correct styles – especially when buying at fairs or on the internet – and you are encouraged to seek advice before buying anything or applying hair styles and make-up that you’re not sure about.
When members of the public are around, you should be prepared to answer any questions they may have about the WVS, the home front or the war in general. That is what we are there for. It is advised that you read up on the period (a little help is given in this handbook) so you are confident in talking to the public. But if you don’t know the answer to a question (it happens), never fear! Just grab another member and direct the question at them. Never make it up as you are sure to be caught out at some point.
A Word About Re-enactment
If you are new to re-enactment, the whole concept of dressing up in strange clothes and portraying life in another time may seem a little daunting. If you are a seasoned veteran of re-enactment but are used to representing pre-20th Century periods, wartime presents its own unique set of challenges.
It is assumed that you chose to re-enact WW2 because you have a particular interest in that era. Therefore the rule of thumb is simple: as a re-enactor, you are pledged to represent, as accurately as you can, the appearance, attitude and activities of those you seek to portray.
Remember, many spectators have parents or close relatives that fought in the war or lived at that time. There may even be members of the public that witnessed the wartime years first hand. This makes it even more important that we get things right as to do otherwise places us in the way of direct criticism from those that were there. And these people are interesting! It’s rewarding to be approached by someone who remembers the war and who compliments you on the way you look. It’s great to be able to evoke the past for them and hear their wartime tales. The point is, WW2 is still in living memory and it is our duty and honour to commemorate those people accordingly.
It was considered a responsibility of women during WW2 to always look their best, despite shortages of food, clothing and amenities, in order to keep morale high. “Keep smiling through” was a well-used motto at that time and is a good philosophy for us also to adopt.
Codes of Conduct
Taking into account the above, it should be noted that, as a member of the unit, you are part of a team and we are all responsible for keeping standards high.
We are there to create an authentic impression and as such, during display hours:
:: NO modern clothing (except accurate modern reproductions of 40’s fashion) is to be worn on the display.This includes authentic garments which are inappropriately worn (such as styles not appropriate to the age of the participant as well as items that civilians would not have access to such as military items etc.)
:: Modern hair and make-up styles are NOT allowed.You should attempt to style your hair in a way appropriate to the period or, where this is not possible, the hair should be completely covered with a headscarf worn in the correct fashion. Make-up should also be applied with the 40’s in mind or not worn at all.
:: Modern jewellery and watches as well as accessories (such as handbags, hats, scarves, gloves etc) will NOT be permitted in the display area.
:: Modern items such as newspapers, magazines, books and activities as well as food or drinks in modern wrappers/containers, even non-season fruit (or foods that would have been unavailable during the war years – bananas being one obvious case) MUST NOT be brought onto the display.
Even when you’re not in the Mobile Canteen or other LHA display areas, during public hours (and indeed outside them), we all have a duty to behave appropriately as any bad press reflects not only on the WVS as a unit, but on WW2 LHA as well. We have a reputation to uphold!
These rules WILL be enforced and anyone seen not abiding by them will be asked to leave the display. It’s not tolerated in any other unit, so it won’t tolerated in ours!