The Hemingfords in World War 1
3. Fundraising and Charitable Work
With the outbreak of war many reservists had been recalled to the colours for service with the British Expeditionary Force.
The speed at which this was carried out, sometimes at one hour’s notice, caught thousands of families unaware and caused massive
difficulties for dependents.
On 6 August 1914, in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister was asked “what provision is being made for the Reserve men’s wives and children?”
Mr Asquith evaded the question replying that “a full consideration would be given to it.”
In the event no extra government funds were made available prompting H.R.H. the Prince of Wales to make an urgent appeal,
that same day, from Buckingham Palace printed in The Times :
“All must realise that the present time of deep anxiety will be followed by one of considerable distress among the people
of this country least able to bear it. We must earnestly pray that their suffering may be neither long nor bitter,
but we cannot wait until the need presses heavily upon us. The means of relief must be ready in our hands.
A National Fund has been founded, and I am proud to act as its treasurer.
My first duty is to ask for generous and ready support, and I know that I shall not ask in vain.
At such a moment we all stand by one another, and it is to the heart of the British people that I confidently make this earnest appeal.”
The Prince’s confidence in the public was fully justified and by midnight on 6 August the Palace had received £250,000.
This had risen to one million pounds by the end of the week. The Fund also sold postcards to raise money and these became
very popular, the card depicting the Prince himself being a prized possession.
In September 1914 Mrs Williams, of Hemingford Park, set up the Hunts branch of the Prince’s Fund. The committee comprised
Colonel Linton representing Hemingford Abbots and Mr Geeson representing Hemingford Grey. Miss E K Fuller, of Broom Lodge,
was the secretary.
Following an October lecture, entitled “The War in Belgium” given by Rector R. F. F. Herbert in Hemingford Abbots,
Mrs Williams made it clear that the refugees would be welcomed and allowed to work when possible.
She also re-iterated that no cases of genuine hardship would be refused. Dr Goodall placed his furnished summer
residence at the committee’s disposal.
In December the villagers contributed to the Princess Mary’s Sailors and Soldiers Fund aiming to send every serving
man a gift for Christmas. Thus was born the now famous Princess Mary Gift Box containing cigarettes, writing paper, a pencil, a Christmas card
and picture of the Princess.
A shortage of brass for the boxes resulted in some production difficulties and by 1915 brass was sourced from the USA.
A large consignment was lost when the RMS Lusitania was torpedoed on 7 May 1915
The Hemingfords were heavily involved in fund raising and charitable work :-
In May 1915 £90 was donated to the Prince of Wales National Fund from the parish of Hemingford Grey
In October 1915 the villages responded to a call for woollen articles - mittens, mufflers, helmets, gloves, cardigans and socks.
Funds for the Relief of Allies and the Star and Garter Fund were the aim of an auction in Hemingford Grey the same month.
Villagers contributed livestock, home crafts, homemade jams and pickles, kitchen items, furniture, fishing rods etc. plus an
electric spoon warmer!!
In March 1916 a local Whist Drive raised £5.7s.6d (£5.36) for the St Ives Red Cross Hospital for a washing machine.
November saw a Whist Drive and Social in the Old School, Hemingford Grey. 112 people attended and £9 was sent to St Ives Centre
War Relief Fund.
A Whist Drive in Hemingford Abbots raised £12 for the St Ives Patriotic Sale, a fund that reached over £1000
In June 1917 children collected wool caught in hedges and fences for blankets and clothing for servicemen.
Mrs Rathmell and Mrs Everitt collected 472 eggs for the Hospital.
Hemingford Grey School staged an entertainment in March 1918. Some 21 acts were rendered by the tiny actors to a very large,
appreciative audience. Proceeds of £5.10s (£5.50) were handed over to the Red Cross Society
Vacant plots of land in the villages were used for growing vegetables and fruit, raising chickens and pigs for home
consumption as food shortages hit the area.
A good response was seen to the Red Cross appeal for “comforts” for troops - cushions and bags of sand to steady wounded limbs on journeys.
The villages played their part in the huge fund raising effort that continued throughout the war. As well as for the
benefit of the troops, money was used to help those local people who were suffering through the lack of men folk, lack of jobs and
lack of food.
After the war the thoughts of the bereaved turned to remembering their lost ones in more formal fashion.
In Hemingford Abbots in 1919 the St Margaret’s congregation raised £9.15 towards a memorial which the parents of the fallen
desired to be placed in the Church.
The villagers could be justifiably proud of their contributions and support of the war effort.