Local History Society

 Memories - Wartime Fund-raising in Arborfield

A.R.P. Black-Out Simulation Exercise, May 1939

The parishioners of Arborfield and surrounding villages spent a lot of time in fund-raising during the war.

There were very many whist-drives, dances, pony shows, etc., plus house-to-house collections, all faithfully recorded in the columns of the 'Reading Mercury' and less often in the 'Times and Weekly News'.

In November 1939, the 'Mercury' announced a 'Poppy Day Record' as follows: 'The Newland, Arborfield, Barkham and Bear Wood branch of the British Legion collected a total of £63. 11s. 6d, bringing the overall total collected since 1921 to £463 12s. 5d.' The year ended with a British Legion whist-drive at the Village Hall.

On August 31st 1940, the 'Mercury' stated: 'H. M. S. Garth Comforts Fund – Show at Newlands, Arborfield' : 'The horse and dog show held at Newlands, Arborfield, on Wednesday in aid of the fund to provide comforts for the ship’s company of H.M.S. Garth, was a great success.' [There was a long list of winners].

The following year at the same time, a horse show was organised by Mrs. Simonds of Newlands in aid of Prisoner of War funds, at a time when the villagers knew that a few of their number had been captured and imprisoned.

On September 5th 1942, it was announced that, as a result of a house-to-house collection, organised by Mr. J. H. Simonds, '£7 1s. 8d. has been raised for the National Air Raid Distress Fund.'

Later in September, a Fete and Baby Show, held at Newlands, was organised by Mrs. Simonds in aid of the funds of the Women’s Section of the British Legion, £7 - 8s. being made.

The November 14th issue of the 'Mercury'  stated that the village raised £2,726 in the ten weeks of the Tanks For Attack campaign.

At the end of 1942, it was reported that a whist drive at the Village Hall, organised by Mr. W. J. Verrall and a committee raised £18 – 14s – 10d for the Royal Berkshire Hospital Special Appeal., which a few months before, needed to raise around £45,000 (every little helped). 'Winners were: Messrs. F. Parker, Lush, Martin, Saunders, M. Hunt, C. Hunt, A. Lawrence, Mesdames J. Streak, R. Day, Ryan, P. Hornby, R. Hall, F. Parker, E. Parker, Hunt'. By January 2nd, the appeal still needed £2,500 to clear the £50,000 debt. A full page was devoted to a list of donors from throughout Berkshire.

In mid-March 1943, 'the social and dance evening organised by the Women’s Section of the Arborfield and Barkham branch of the British Legion realised £15. 14s. for the Red Cross Prisoners of War Fund'.

On May 1st, the 'Wings For Victory' committee 'announce that the target figure will be £1,750. There will be a church parade on May 16th; other events in the week following include a whist drive, a dance, a garden party at "Newlands", and an entertainment'. Meanwhile, mid-way through the same month, 'A pony and dog show organised by Mrs. J. H. Simonds and held at Newlands realised over £80 for the Berkshire Prisoners of War Fund'. There followed a long list of winners.

The edition of August 7th reported two fund-raising efforts. For the Hospital Contributory Scheme, it said that in the quarter ending June 30th 1943, £43. 14s. 2d. was collected – the highest amount ever recorded in one quarter. For Cancer Relief, 'the sum of £17. 7s. 5d. has been sent to the Empire Cancer Relief Fund: £16. 7s. 2d. from a house-to-house collection and £1. 0s. 3d. as a result of a whist drive organised by Mr. W. J. Verrall'.

In October, it was announced that 'The Prisoners of War (Red Cross) Fund benefited by £16. 16s. as a result of the sale of surplus produce at the recent Village Produce Association Show'.

The Women's Institute put on an entertainment at the Village Hall, as recorded in the 'Mercury' of October 6th 1943: 'The large audience joined in community singing, which was led by the local band (Mrs. Cowley, Mr. B. Kent, Cpl. G. Allen, and "Bernard"), the last two having given up an important engagement in order to be present. Two humorous sketches were presented, "Red Wax", in which Mesdames Newton, Capper, Jarvis, Moore, Goddard and Slade appeared, while Mrs. Edwards, Mrs. Scott and Mrs. B. Kent were "Good Neighbours". "The Tramps" (Sidney Cook and Gordon W. Stidder), rendered Hill Billy songs. Mrs. Verrall, the producer, was presented with a bunch of carnations by Mrs. J. H. Simonds, on behalf of the performers. Part of the proceeds will be sent to St. Dunstan’s.'

On May 20th 1944, the 'Mercury' stated that 'The sum of £24 10s 9d was raised last week for the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, through the efforts of Mr. A. J. Bentley, Mr. E. Parker, and a committee composed of Mesdames Streak, Inglis, Kent and Oates. A whist drive realised £3, a dance £8, competitions £10 6s 6d, and donations £3 0s 6d. Prizes were presented for the competitions by Mrs. E. Parker, Mrs. Orchard and Miss J. Wakeley.'

Four weeks later, 'In response to an appeal from Queen Charlotte Maternity Hospital, a successful whist drive was organised by Mrs. Inglis and Mrs. Streak, on behalf of the British Legion Women’s Section. As a result, and a most generous gift by Mrs. E. Parker, dance organiser, a cheque for £18 has been sent. Thanks are extended to all who helped and gave prizes.'

These sums paled into insignificance when the July 8th edition announced: 'The sum of £6,979 was raised in the village during Salute the Soldier Week, handsomely exceeding the target.' The newspapers had been carrying reports and photos of ‘Salute the Soldier Weeks’ in towns and villages since before D-Day, squeezing out other items.

In its monthly news item, the Arborfield branch of the Women's Institute branch reported: 'A talk on Occupational Handicrafts for Invalid Prisoners of War was given by Mrs. Giles, of Finchampstead, at the July meeting at Arborfield. She explained how this work helps the wounded, many of whom are bed-ridden, paralysed or have lost limbs, and she gave a practical demonstration of the kind of work produced by our prisoners from the materials sent out to them by the Red Cross. The members went home determined to turn out their rag-bags and lumber rooms for contributions in kind to help our prisoners.' The following month's W.I. report stated: 'To raise funds for Friendless Sailors’ Christmas parcels, a comprehensive house-to-house collection is being organised'.

Closer to home, the 'Mercury' carried this news item on October 28th: 'Church Appeal – Under the joint signatures of Canon J. A. Anderson (Chairman), Mr. J. H. Simonds, Mrs. E. M. Prescott (treasurer) and Major H. S. Morris, the Parochial Church Council has launched an appeal for contributions towards the cost of renovating the church organ, which is in danger of imminent collapse. The total cost will be at least £1,000, and it is hoped to raise at least £30 by November 1st, each household being invited to contribute 2s. 6d. It is understood that this can be taken as part of the £50 asked for by the end of the year by the Bishop of Oxford in his recent Diocesan Appeal.'

In early 1945, there was a whole string of fund-raising events:

February 10th: 'Welcome Home Fund: A concert was presented by the Barkham Youth Club at Arborfield Village Hall on Thursday last, and realised £6 – 10s. for "Tich" Barker’s Welcome Home Fund.'

February 17th: 'Welcome Home Fund: A dance at the Village Hall on Saturday realised £4. 2s. 9d. for "Tich" Barker’s Welcome Home Fund.'

February 24th: 'Welcome Home Fund: £14. 14s. 6d. was raised for "Tich" Barker’s Welcome Home Fund at a dance held at the Village Hall on Saturday.'

March 3rd: 'Welcome Home Fund. The "Tich" Barker appeal on behalf of the Welcome Home Fund organised by Mrs. Inglis and the entertainments committee of the British Legion, Women’s Section, has raised to date £25. 11s. 4d.

March 10th: 'Welcome Home Fund: £4. 15s. was realised for "Tich" Barker’s appeal for the Welcome Home Fund at a dance at the Village Hall on Saturday.'

It wasn't all for the 'Welcome Home Fund'. The same issue stated: 'At a whist drive held at the Village Hall, £24. 6s. 6d. was raised for the funds of St. Dunstan’s. On Tuesday next and succeeding Tuesdays, whist drives in aid of the Red Cross will be held at the Village Hall.' Also, the Women's Institute announced that it 'is co-operating in the Household Gift Scheme organised by the W.V.S., for bomb-damaged Lewisham.'

There were several other dances held in aid of the 'Welcome Home Fund', but as yet we haven't found out what happened to the Fund.....

On October 27th, the Mercury reported: 'Savings Week: Arborfield exceeded their target of £1,500 easily with a total of £1,903. 15s. 6d. Whist drives and dances held during the week contributed £7. 2s.'

With acknowledgements to Surrey & Berkshire Media, and to Berkshire Newspapers

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