Kathleen Thomas walked all over Liverpool collecting donations for prisoners of war. Pubs proved especially good places to visit. She recalls one day at the Philharmonic, when pub regulars gave more than her tin could hold. Kathleen gamely strode the countertop, gathering money in her skirt and cap.
Any special memories?
At St. John we used to have collections during the war for the POWs.
One particular collection I remember: we’ve got a very famous pub in Liverpool, the Philharmonic. Beautiful pub! Right by the Philharmonic Hall.
We were in there collecting and the tins were all full. We only had small tins in those days.
Remember, I [was] only in me twenties. Lifted me up on the counter. Put me hat on one side and we gathered me apron up like that and they just threw their money into the apron.
We had collections all the time for prisoners of war.
What did you do?
We’d go round before the public houses and the hotels and say, ‘could we come and do a collection?’ There was always two of us, maybe three.
And we used to collect, collect a lot of money, too. [The public] were very good and very outgoing:
We took [the money] to Porter’s. Porters, they’re still there. They were always generous. They always lent us their premises to do the counting in.
We used to count it. And then it was put into bags and taken to the bank and it was paid into the bank for the St. John and Red Cross Prisoner of War parcels.
If we [collected] in a particular pub and it was only the one lot, we tried to let the pub know how much they collected. So that people knew how much had been collected and where it had been collected.
All the pubs were very responsive, very warm.
And of course, [so were] the prisoners of war when they came back home. My husband, he was a prisoner of war, and he said they were a lifeline.
Money was raised in all kinds of ways and gave a great opportunity to persons in all walks of life to show gratitude or appreciation. Mrs Prime, an old lady lying bedridden in a Joint War Organisation sick bay in a London suburb, insisted on paying the whole of her old-age pension to the fund, but felt this was not enough. One day a young mother and her baby were admitted and placed in the bed next to her. Mrs Prime then charged visitors one penny to ‘view the baby’.
The numbers of posters and leaflets that could be printed by the Joint War Organisation to promote their work and encourage donations were limited because of paper shortages. This made the work of collectors very important. Some posters were printed. Find out more about Joint War Organisation fundraising posters.
Collections were also made on Joint War Organisation flag days. These were national fundraising events where money was collected on the street in return for a flag, or badge. In all, the appeal held 12 flag days, raising £2.7 million. Money was also collected in cinemas. After 1943 a short film about the work of the Joint War Organisation would be shown before the main feature, after which there would be an interval where the money was collected. Some of the film clips you can see in this website come from this promotional film.