The Winant Volunteers – A History

One of the longest running programmes started by Toc H was The Winant Volunteers, which began shortly after the Second World War and finished less than a decade ago, though it had long left the umbrella of Toc H. Now the story has been told in full and is freely available online.

The author, Nick Robertshaw, was a Clayton Volunteer in 1970. He returned to the U.S. the following year, and was employed at his Clayton assignment, in mid-town Manhattan, for thirty years. His wife, Nanette Rousseau, served as the American coordinator for some fifteen years. They are now retired, and live sixty miles north of New York City, in the township of Pawling, New York. The preface to the book was written by Edgar Masters, who was a Winant Volunteer in 1952. He has served as President and Chairman of the organization.

Photo Liverpool Post

The organization was the brainchild of John Gilbert Winant, the U.S Ambassador to Great Britain during the Second World War, and of Tubby Clayton, Founding Padre of Toc H, and long-time vicar of All Hallows. After Winant’s untimely death in 1947, Tubby organized a small group of young Americans to work in London’s social service organizations for the summer. At that time London was only slowly recovering from the catastrophic damage of the War. The U.S. was comparatively unscathed, and the initial groups were largely from backgrounds who could afford to work alongside the youth of London without financial worries. Tubby travelled widely, and through his efforts recruited and raised funds in the United Sates, especially in Texas, through his connections with the oil industry.

John Winant (Licenced under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Netherlands)

The numbers of Volunteers increased over the years until by the 1960s there were close to seventy in each year’s group. For some years an orientation was held on the island of Iona at the beginning of the summer, and after the eight weeks or so of work, Tubby would host a review at Talbot House in Poperinge. The Queen Mother was an early supporter, and for many years held a reception specifically for the Volunteers at Clarence House.  From 1960 Volunteers were placed in cities outside London, starting with Bristol. Toc H Committees were instrumental in setting up placements, initially in settlement houses and church- based programs.   Other cities included Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool, and for many years the majority of the Volunteers were placed outside London

Susie Ellis from Oklahoma visiting an older person whilst volunteering for Lambeth Social Services (Photo Bob Broeder)

The History makes the observation that the year 1968 was a turning point in the organization’s development- a year that saw turbulence in the United States and rethinking by many young people of society’s goals, leading to smaller and more diverse groups. There were major changes in Britain as well. Inner city settlement houses gave way to placements to local authority social service departments. As Toc H contracted throughout Britain, Volunteers were concentrated in London. Accommodations were mostly centralized in one residence, and the groups were much smaller. At the same time as costs increased the number of alumnae and alumni who had time to help declined, as with many other voluntary organizations.

The organization formally closed its doors in 2011, after close to 2,000 young American volunteers participated as Ambassadors of Goodwill, a term coined by the longtime American Honorary Chairman, Dwight D. Eisenhower,

It should be noted that in the U.S.  the organization is called Winant and Clayton Volunteers (in the U.K. Winant Clayton) This is a history of Americans going to Britain only. From 1959 over 700 Clayton Volunteers participated in assignments in social service programs on the East Coast of the U.S. Their story remains to be told.

Click this link to download the book

Winant Volunteers taking a group of children to the Isle of Wight (Photo Portsmouth News)

3 thoughts on “The Winant Volunteers – A History

  1. I am a former Winant Volunteer, 1959 and 1960. I would love to get a copy of the Winant history. Can you tell me how? Thank you, John F. Smith, III

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  2. John. I have updated the link at the end of the article and it now works. This is for teh eBook. If you want a printed copy please follow Nick’s instructions below:

    If you wish to receive one or more copies (while supplies last) of the Winant History book, free, by mail, send an email to WinantVolunteers@gmail.com.

    You can use the link above or, if you prefer, your own email program but in that email please make sure to include your name as a Winant, the year you went to the UK as a volunteer, your current mailing name & address and the number of copies of the book you wish to receive.

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