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Picture gallery: Exhibition marks war-time years of YMCA Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 22:54 14 April 2011

Catering staff from the YMCA in Norwich dressed in period outfits at this week's nostalgic exhibition

Catering staff from the YMCA in Norwich dressed in period outfits at this week's nostalgic exhibition

Archant 2010

A nostalgic exhibition of the war-time years is being held to remember the crucial part the YMCA played in the war effort across Norfolk and to raise the charity’s profile while it continues to raise funds for its new building.

Seventy years ago, the YMCA helped accommodate and feed hundreds of troops with its famous mobile tea wagons.

Back in 1940, three mobile canteens from the Norwich YMCA would set off early in the morning to start their daily visits to isolated troops in the Norfolk countryside. Meanwhile, two large vans, which were almost village stores on wheels, would visit the larger units and take them piping hot tea, cakes, cigarettes, milk, stamps and soap. Watches would be taken to be repaired, socks darned free of charge and letters posted. A smaller tea car also visited all the most inaccessible units, hidden away in desolate spots.

The exhibition, which opened on Tuesday, is being held at the current Norwich YMCA restaurant in St Giles Street until 1.30pm today.

As well as the memorabilia, newspaper clippings and photos on display, visitors also have the chance to tuck into a 1940s-inspired lunch and will be served by staff dressed in traditional outfits.

The look back at yesteryear comes as the new development of 40 self-contained units is being built around the back in Bethel Street.

The project got under way last summer but funds are still desperately needed for the project.

Tim Sweeting, chief executive of YMCA Norfolk, said: “We are really proud to celebrate the significant role of the YMCA during the war years.

“Seventy years later we are still meeting the needs of young people in Norwich and our new accommodation development in Bethel Street will mean we can look forward to another 70 years of supporting our community.”

Norwich historian and author, Joan Banger, recalled the Baedeker raids of 1942 on Norwich and the courageous help given to the injured and homeless by volunteers.

She said: “The six YMCA vans worked in relays reporting for duty while the bombs were still dropping.”

As previously reported, the charity launched its Brick Appeal to raise funds towards the £4.4m project. People are being invited to buy one of the 70,000 bricks to be used to build the development for £1 – covering the cost of each brick, mortar and labour – to help raise £70,000 towards the scheme.

All the names of everyone who makes a donation, whether they are individuals, community groups, churches or schools, will be displayed in a permanent exhibit in the new development.

To find out more about the history of YMCA Norfolk, go to www.ymca-norfolk.org.uk or a book, A History of the YMCA, isavailable by calling Susie Knights on 01603 630049 ext 127.

Donations can be made via www.justgiving.com/ymca-1m-appeal or by contacting Susie Knights at susieknights@ymca-norfolk.org.uk

Are you trying to boost funds for a charitable organisation? Call reporter Kate Scotter on 01603 772326 or email kate.scotter@archant.co.uk

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