Local History Society

 The 'Mercury' and the Home Front in WW1


In 1918 there was a reminder of the truly awful conditions of life in the Trenches - see the appeal for 'Anti-Vermin Garments' from Beatrix Siminds of Farley Hill.


Fund-Raising - a persistent need

From the start, there were notices, editorials and adverts urging people to raise funds and sometimes materials. The first was headed ‘Prince of Wales National Relief Fund’, as mentioned in the article on the start of the war.

On December 18th 1915, a Notice appeared:

British Prisoners of War
Saturday Jan 1.
Half the funds to be given to the Prisoners of the Royal Berkshire Regiment,
10 per cent to the County and Borough Police who are Prisoners.
The remainder to the Prisoners of War Central Fund.
SNOWDROPS (Emblem of Hope)
made by Mr Groom’s Cripple Children and others,
and Badges will be sold.

The first edition of January 1916 reported that the collection had raised well over £300. Later that month, there were extensive reports from British Prisoners of War  in Germany, though the men’s names and the locations were all replaced by ‘______’.

The 25th March issue stated that fund-raising by the Church of England Men's Society for  Chaplains’ Huts at the Front had collected £234.

Tobacco and Cigarettes Appeal, mid-1916A Tobacco and Cigarettes Fund was set up in 1914, and it regularly appealed. Sometimes it hectored, as in this advert from mid-1916:

Fund in Danger! Wake Up, Berkshire!

£800 Required. Five Thousand Appeals Posted.

Only £400 Received.

To the People of Berkshire,
Two years ago the Royal Berks Regiment started to fight for you. We started asking you for Tobacco and Cigarettes as a small recognition of sacrifices, dangers and sufferings incurred to keep you untouched by the horrors of war.

Our appeal was generally acclaimed, and a great meeting in Reading Town Hall cheered to the echo our question: "Will you help the boys till the end of the War?"

That pledge is in danger, and for the honour of Berkshire we appeal to all classes to redeem it.

Newspapers dropped. Keep up the "Baccy"!

For more on the fund, click here.

Notices in newspapers in Autumn 1916 appealed for supplies of Sphagnum Moss, which was found to be ideal for dressing wounds. Later, there were regular articles on how well the local collection schemes were working, as in this article from  March 10th 1917:

The Hants and Berks Moss Depôt.
A branch of the Q.M.N.G. has been able through the severe frost to forward regular supplies of sphagnum moss dressings to the county hospitals of both counties.
Mrs. Cope has now formed Wokingham into a separate branch under Mrs. Cruttwell,
and has organised an adequate supply for the southern part of the county
from the Christ Church district."

On 28th October 1916, there was a notice appealing for funding a ‘Berkshire Room’ at the Star and Garter Home in Richmond. The ‘Star and Garter Day’ was eventually set for January 13th 1917. A concert was to be held to raise funds for the ‘Berkshire Room’. The newspaper pointed out that the ‘Star and Garter’ had originally been a ‘Victorian hostelry’.

The street collection alone was later reported to have raised £200.

On 19th May 1917, it was reported:



‘In connection with the recent successful effort on behalf of the Star and Garter Home at Richmond, Viscountess Reading has received a letter from Sir Edward Wallington, Private Secretary to H. M. The Queen, saying that Her Majesty is greatly interested to hear that the £2,000 required to endow a ‘Berkshire Room’ at the Star and Garter Home has been collected, together with a further sum of £250 for the equipment of the room.

‘Her Majesty further expresses to Lady Reading, and through her to Mrs. Benyon, the Rev. Percy Harrison and the ladies and gentlemen associated with them, her warmest appreciation of their splendid efforts in collecting so large a sum in Berkshire for this deserving institution.’


The rival newspaper the 'Reading Standard' had first reported on the Home much earlier, in an illustrated article on August 28th 1915:

'The Council of the Auctioneers and Estate Agents' Institute has inaugurated a scheme that will meet with universal approval. They propose to establish a permanent home for disabled soldiers and sailors, and to this end they are purchasing the famous Star and Garter Hotel, Richmond, which occupies a site unrivalled from the standpoint of health, while the view from the house and gardens is famous throughout the world.

'The necessary alterations, equipment and maintenance of the institution will be undertaken by the British Red Cross Society, and the annexe will be open in about three months.' 


Advert for Splint and Bandage Day, which appeared on 22nd September 1917


September 29th 1917 was declared to be
'Splint and Bandage Day'
as shown in the advert on the right.

Click here to see the full text.

The same issue carried a slightly different kind of appeal:


– the article asked for
anyone who was prepared
to receive Australian soldiers as guests
for part or whole of their
10-14 days’ furlough in England.

The sixth in the National War Savings series, from mid-September.




From August to mid-November 1918, local newspapers carried a series of adverts on War Savings Certificates.

At this time, the 'swastika' symbol would have been uncontroversial, but 15 years later, it was hijacked by Hitler to become altogether more sinister. Even today, it shocks.



On 16th November 1918, immediately after the Armistice was signed, organisers from the Y.M.C.A. lost no time in announcing:




1,000 BOOKS, Travel, Adventure, Poetry, Good Fiction

10,000 Magazines


The Boys who have won the Victory need these things NOW.


The evenings are long, dull and cheerless till they return to Blighty.

Send ALL YOU CAN to us immediately,
(Next G.P.O.)

To be sent out at once.

   (Miss) F. E. OAKESHOTT,  )
   R. MENS,                         ) Joint Organising Secretaries.

On March 1st 1919, it was reported:

Royal Berks Prisoners of War

Convalescent Home for Twenty Patients.

The Berkshire Prisoners of War Committee, responsible for sending food parcels, bread and biscuit parcels, and clothing, to the prisoners of war, reported the numbers imprisoned on Armistice Day at 1,400, up from 250 at the end of 1917. By March 1919, almost all had been repatriated.



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