When war broke out Queen Alexandra appealed to the public for their help, imploring ‘The heart of the great British nation will surely and generously go out to those who are so gallantly upholding the cause of their country’. The British nation responded and a variety of schemes were deployed to raise funds for the war effort.
Agnes Morrison, a Scot, established Our Day collections and created flag days, the first of which took place on the 5th of September 1914. Selling for a penny a piece, the flags bore images of soldiers and slogans showing solidarity with prisoners of war.
We know from looking at the Red Cross archives that local people contributed. One example is Dorothy Arnold of Delmers End, Flamstead, who sold flags for the Red Cross for three years.
A tactile keepsake, the flags proved immensely popular and by the end of the First World War, Our Day collections had raised more than £25 million, the equivalent of £1.75 billion today.
Other fundraising schemes were decidedly inventive. At a fundraising event in June 1918, held at Champneys in Tring, aeroplanes dropped parachutes onto the grounds which contained gifts to the Red Cross. The gifts were retrieved and sold at an auction which raised £200.
The oftentimes light-hearted nature of such events was underwritten by a steely intent and fundraising proved crucial to the war effort. During the First World War the British Red Cross raised over £21 million, the equivalent of £1.3 billion today. Fundraising buoyed the nation’s spirit, keeping the flags flying at home for those fighting on the frontlines.