War Charity Begins at Home
Simon Fowler describes the huge upsurge in charity work in Britain in the First World War, concluding that it was an important way of uniting the nation behind the war effort.
As war broke out in the late summer of 1914 there was more stirring in Britain than the streams of men queuing to enlist. Much of this energy went into voluntary activity. The final report of the Camp Libraries, which was concerned with supplying troops’ literary needs during the war, wrote of its first few days in October 1914:
Within twenty-four hours of the appeal in the press it is apparent how eager the British people were to give the books that were needed. Horse and motor traffic filled Great Smith Street, often blocking the road, while little parties of people with packages of books [proceeded] into the house… Even during the lunch hour… parcels continued to arrive and very often weak but willing women workers munching her home- made sandwich had to rush out into the street to ask a casual passer by to lend his strong arm to lift bulky packages which were beyond women’s strength. Splendid and energetic workmen were the willing passers by in those grave days of war when everybody helped.