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Free Lecture: Compassion in Crisis – 80 years of the Royal Voluntary Service by Matthew McMurray

In 1938 Stella Reading and her million ‘women in green’ revolutionised the way the world thought about voluntary service. During the Second World War these women of the WVS volunteered to help on the Home Front providing compassion in crisis, to anyone who needed it. This is the story of how one woman and her ‘army that Hitler forgot’, quietly changed Britain forever. They pushed forward the cause of women, helped form the modern welfare state and were always on hand in times of crisis; from the threat of nuclear war, to caring for tens of thousands of refugees. Their simple acts of kindness are woven into the very fabric of the nation.

On the 80th anniversary of the Royal Voluntary Service, this free exhibition tells the story of service beyond self given by millions of volunteers. It also asks: How did their actions change Britain? Is compassion itself now in crisis? And are we still willing to give the gift of voluntary service in the 21st century?

RVS Heritage Bulletin Blog and podcast (A Coloured Thread – October 2018) Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist, talks about his inspiration for the exhibition and the journey to bring it to the Wiltshire Museum.

Two free lectures provide an opportunity to learn more about the exhibition and the history of the Royal Voluntary Service (Wednesday 6 June Matthew McMurray and Wednesday 20 June David Dawson).

Free guided tours of the exhibition with Matthew McMurray – please contact the Museum for more information 01380 727369 or

Entry to the exhibition is free (there is a charge to see the rest of the Museum).

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