Sylvia Leppard supported herself by ensuring that POWs themselves received support. She kept accounts at the Penny-a-Week Fund’s offices near Basingstoke. Her family understood that POWs needed help. At the office she worked for Britain’s POWs overseas; at home Sylvia earned alongside German POWs.
What did you do?
Near my old home is a stately home called Bramshill.
Lots of staff came down from London to work.
The Penny-a-Week Fund was funded by people donating a penny a week. This was to support [the Joint War Organisation] during the Second World War.
Mostly the parcels were for the prisoners in camps and our soldiers abroad.
My work was in the accounts department.
This was my work for almost four years. I cycled every day from my home.
My sisters Joyce and Peggy also worked there.
Any special memories?
I made lots of lifetime friends during this period and we used to meet up in the evenings for dancing. Wartime was an exciting time for a 15-year-old and lots of different nationalities met at the dance halls.
A great unity was found between everyone.
During this time my father was a farmer at Clays Farm, Heckfield, Basingstoke, Hants, England. His main crop was potatoes.
To help with the heavy crop, he employed German prisoners of war. They were guarded by armed English soldiers who were in charge.
These Germans were very young, as I also was. We couldn’t understand each other but exchanged smiles. They were not allowed to stop picking up the potatoes.
I mostly remember their young smiling faces and blond hair.
The Appeal’s Agriculture Committee raised a large amount of money in seven main ways. These were donations, auctions of livestock and produce; 443 sales were held during 1940 alone; shows and exhibitions; weekly collections; country fetes, dances, concerts and whist drives; sales of Agriculture Fund stamps; and Rural District Council collections.
There is a permanent memorial to those who worked for the appeal in Windsor Great Park. When the Agriculture Fund reached £5 million, five red oaks were planted, one each by the King, the Queen, Princess Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and the Duke of Norfolk. At the close of the Fund, four more were planted and a plaque laid with the following inscription: “Through God’s great grace, though strength of English oak, we have preserved our faith, our throne, our land; Now, with our freedom saved from tyrant’s yoke we plant these trees. Remember why they stand.”