Warship Weeks

J.W. Bartlett on the response of the British public to government campaigns to finance ship-building during the Second World War.

During the Second World War the Royal Navy lost 254 major warships due to enemy action, in addition to 1,035 minor war vessels and auxiliaries. To counter these losses a huge ship-building programme was organised. However, ships are expensive to build, and to reduce the money borrowed from other countries the government appealed to the British people for help. They responded magnificently, giving, in Cornwall alone, £8 per adult head of population (worth approximately £200 today).

In order to involve the population these collections were made very local. A week was designated Warship Week and committees were set up to organise the various dances, concerts and fund-raising collections. The main town would be the central point of an area with the outriding hamlets and villages contributing to the town’s collection. A target sum would be decided on and a ‘targetboard’ erected in order that the local people could monitor the amount of money they had raised.

A ship of any size is a complex piece of machinery, comprising many semi- independent parts. Thus the target amount would be broken down. The main town would perhaps aim to raise enough for a hull, while a large village nearby would collect for the engines and a small hamlet, a gun or perhaps one of the ship’s boats. This way each part of the locality could have a reachable target.

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