Picture Postcards from the Great War

ww1 Penny-Flags and Flag-Days - Tony Allen

our day flag ww1
To the best of my knowledge, there are no publications dedicated to charity-flags of the First World War, although they occasionally get a mention in books on the conflict. This page is not a definitive account intended to fill the gap, nor is it a listing or price guide. It is simply an attempt to describe and illustrate a few of the fascinating small pieces of coloured paper, which were once common everyday things. Some of the flags here are from a small collection put together during the 1914‑18 war by Rene Dale of Leeds.
church army pin flag


During the Great War millions of British working‑class women were employed in munitions and agriculture, tens of thousands from the middle classes became nurses or joined the women's army services and thousands of upper‑class and titled ladies looked for ways in which they "could also be useful". Some became involved in 'welfare' and 'social’ work, many became involved in Voluntary Aid Detachments (V.A.D.'s) and some put their organisational skills to use by setting up and running their own war charities. For them, raising money was a major task and one method  - which is well-known - was that of selling themed fund‑raising picture postcards. Another scheme was the 'flag-day', when small colourful paper flags, emblems and badges were sold for a penny or more each. Today, fund-raising cards are easy to find, paper flags - which were produced in much larger numbers - are less common. Charity flags and flag-days were also featured on contemporary picture postcards and some of  them are shown here also.

mrs morrison

The first official flag-day is thought to have been organised by Mrs Brysson Morrison, daughter of an Edinburgh lawyer. Before the war she had been involved in ‘philanthropic and social work’ and for some years was president of the Glasgow Branch of the Scottish Children’s League of Pity. During that time she organised numerous charity matinees, the first in March 1900 in aid of the ‘Fund for Sufferers in the South African War’.

What inspired Agnes Morrison to establish the Flag‑day movement which would raise over £25 million for ‘worthy causes’ before the Great War was over?

A sketch of Mrs Agnes Brysson Morrison, CBE (1867-1934). Taken from the Bailie - 28th April 1915.

Soon after hostilities commenced, the Prince of Wales launched an appeal to aid dependants of the Reserve and Territorial Forces about to embark for France. Mrs Morrison wanted to help and it occurred to her “that if a street collection was held it would raise a large sum of money in the least possible time with a minimum of expense and from the magnificent manner which the whole Empire has responded to the call of the Motherland” she said, “I decided that no more suitable emblem could be sold than the Union Jack.” She placed an advertisement in the Glasgow Herald, announcing a forthcoming ‘Union Jack Day’ and asked readers to “Help those fighting for the colours, by wearing the Colours.” She needed volunteers. The response to her appeal was overwhelming and within two weeks she had “interviewed and enlisted the help of over 3,000 ladies.”

union flag
Mrs Morrison employed a local firm ‑ William Lyon ‑ to produce half a million paper flags and at one stage production almost ceased “when the whole stock of pins in Glasgow became speedily exhausted and further supplies had to be obtained from the Midlands”. During this time excitement was high, as "the German advance on Paris had been checked and our spirits had been rising in proportion” she said.
In the early days of the war the flags of Britain and her Allies were displayed everywhere, on buildings, vehicles, in the streets and on numerous patriotic picture postcards hurriedly released by enthusiastic publishers. Examples of some are shown below
flags of freedom

This rather optimistically worded postcard from the 'EXCELLENT SERIES' by 'D&M' ' was mailed from London on 23rd December 1915. It was one of the numerous patriotic cards that appeared in the first 18 months of the Great War. Flags had a popular appeal as the success of flag-days would demonstrate.

three flag cards ww1
Three cards all displaying a colourful array of national flags. At first sight the card on the left appears to be a printed one. However a closer look shows it to be a rather splendid  hand-drawn and coloured illustration on what was previously a blank postcard. It was signed by 'Ansdell' who was either fourteen years old or created the card in 1914.The centre card was from the Jarrold series 'Emblems of Freedom'. The card on the right was printed and published by J. Salmon of Sevenoaks, England, and was number 623. It was posted on 15th March 1915, to an address in Ash Vale, Surrey.
one flag card ww1
This colourful card featuring Lord Kitchener surrounded by a host of flags of the Allies, was number 307 in 'The Woodland Series' and was 'Printed and Published by - The Woodland Card Co., Ltd., London, E.C.' The card was mailed on 24th December 1915 to an address in Richmond.

First Official Flag Day

On Saturday 5th September 1914, Mrs Morrison launched her first collection of the Great War. Three thousand six hundred collecting tins were issued “and each collector carried a tray laden with flags”. It soon became evident that the sellers ‑ with their red, white and blue scarves, and members of the Boys' Brigade and Boy Scouts who assisted them – “had entirely captured the sympathy of the public” said Mrs Morrison. One lady had been energetic enough to get up at five o'clock to began selling to “workmen on the night‑shift returning home and collected five half‑crowns  in one tramway car”. By midday the entire stock of Union Jacks had almost gone and “another half a million could have been sold with ease”.
penny flag lady
The only detail on the back of this card is this "W 100 Printed in Great Britain."
Not to be outdone, several resourceful ladies “cut up and sold their own ribbons and [official] badges”, and willing hands at the main depot, set to work “cutting ribbon rolls of the national colours into tiny pieces and making flags of them. It was a most unexceptional thing”, said Mrs Morrison, “to meet anybody who did not sport a flag or fragment of ribbon”. The agreeable manner in which the public, “from the errand boy, to the Weary Willie on the park seat, to the City Magnate, responded to the appeal showed how deeply they were affected”, she said.

Forty four sellers travelled on the river steamers and did good business for the fund. At the end of the day, the “weight and bulk of the collecting boxes returned to the Central Office, was far in excess of what had been anticipated”, so that “the handling of them presented a serious problem”. When the boxes were emptied it was found that the total weight of coins amounted to about five tons and it took 60 people two days to count the pile. On Tuesday morning the press was informed that the remarkable sum of £3,800 had been raised. 

The extraordinary success of Mrs Morrison's first flag-day was widely noticed and soon  “I received letters from all parts of the country”, she said, “asking for information and assistance, as others were anxious to take up the idea, when it was seen how easily large sums could be obtained, by such a simple method”. The holding of flag-days as a rewarding means of raising money for worthy causes was proved for all to see.

The publishers Maclure, Macdonald & Company of Glasgow, issued a black and white postcard in honour of Agnes Morrison. Her portrait in the centre of it was surrounded by a multitude of charity flags ‑ 'SYMBOLS OF A NATION'S GENEROSITY' 

mrs morrison and penny flags
'SYMBOLS OF A NATION'S GENEROSITY'. A fine array of flags and badges are displayed on this black and white printed photographic card. Mrs Morrison personally organised over 80 flag-days, which brought in more than £1,000,000. The larger badges seen on the card, were worn by the official flag sellers.

The text reads, "RESENTATIVE Collection of Flags, sold on various Flag Days, including specimens from Malta and Salonica, with Portrait of Mrs. Arthur Morrison, the originator of the Flag-day Movement a means by which nearly £7,000,000 has been raised throughout the United Kingdom for War Charities."

All Manner of  Flags

As the war progressed, so did the number of charitable causes and the designs of their penny-flags were many and varied. The first were simply small replicas of national flags, and as already mentioned, the Union Jack was a popular choice, as were 'adaptations' of it.
In July 1916, according to Rene Dale - collectors were on the streets of Whitley Bay, selling this Union Jack flag for the benefit of wounded soldiers. On one side was a super‑imposed portrait of the King and on the other the legend "GOD SAVE THE KING". Similar designs carried legends like, "FOR KING AND COUNTRY", "DUTY TO KING AND COUNTRY", "FOR KING AND EMPIRE" and "KEEP THE FLAG FLYING". Not all were attached to pins - some flags were fixed to tiny metal swords and others to 'flag poles'
Soon flags and badges were appearing supporting a variety of good causes, including for example, those offered by the R.S.P.C.A. Below is a poster by the said organisation advertising such an event.
rspca flag day poster ww1

Soon after war was declared the R.S.P.C.A. contacted the War Office and offered its services to the Army Veterinary Corps (A.V.C.). The offer was gratefully accepted and within a few days the charity had set up the Fund for Sick & Wounded Horses. By 1915, over half of the R.S.P.C.A inspectors and staff had enlisted in the A.V.C. During the course of the conflict the R.S.P.C.A. fund raised over £250,000 (Over £12 million at today’s rate). And of course the flag-day movement were on hand to help the R.S.P.C.A. raise money for its war horse fund.

avc ww1 postcard
This card was marked "Copyright of the Sphere." It was number Z3 in the LVG Series. The caption was in French and English and the latter version said, "THE WAR - THE CARE OF THE WOUNDED WAR HORSE." The R.S.P.C.A. gave an account of how the money raised was spent. “The money raised was spent on four complete field veterinary hospitals, each one of which was able to hold up to 2,000 horses and mules, and paid for stabling at eight other veterinary hospitals. We helped establish forward treatment stations and equipped these with 28 motor ambulances to help injured animals get to hospitals quicker. The fund also paid for 180 horse drawn ambulances, the main form of transport for horses injured in war.”
The R.S.P.C.A. promoted several Union Jack Days 'FOR SICK AND WOUNDED HORSES'. On the back of the centre flag featured below, a printed message said donations would benefit "THE ONLY FUND THAT HELPS THE BRITISH ARMY HORSES". 
rspca flag 2
rspca flag
toff with penny flag ww1
This postcard depicting a Union Jack Day was published by 'W & K London'.

In the picture a poster asked 'ARE YOU DOING YOUR BIT?’ which of course referred to enlisting in the Army. The cards first went on sale before the introduction of conscription. This postally used example was mailed in August 1916, several months after compulsory service was introduced.

In the drawing a 'toff is saying "OH WELL, I'M DOING MY BIT, ANYWAY  -  I'VE BOUGHT A PENNY FLAG"  while others look on with disdain. 

The initials on the card, 'A. E., were those of  the artist Archibald English.

Flag days to Help Belgium Refugees

As the German invasion and occupation of Belgium continued throughout the early weeks of the war, from Ostend, a steady trickle of refugees arrived in folkstone, and the War Refugees Committee (W.R.C.) was brought into action to help them. On 24th August national newspapers carried the Committee’s first public appeal. The response was overwhelming, and within two weeks the organization was in a position to offer hospitality to almost 100,000 displaced persons. Every place that could be obtained for these unfortunate people would be needed, for by the middle of September they were streaming into London at the rate of 500 a day. The fall of Antwerp then turned the stream into a flood and in one day alone, 1,000 were processed through Folkstone. Similarly, 26,000 Belgians arrived at the port in the week which followed the fall of Ostend. The Times reported, "The Belgium migration stands without a precedent in the modern history of Europe...The majority fled from the reputation which their conquerors has sedulously made for themselves...it was the magnitude of this migration which put the goodwill and organisation of English hospitality to the severest test."

Glasgow Corporation set up a Belgian Refugees Committee and on 3rd October 1914, held a fund raising flag-day for the refugees. According to The Aberdeen Press and Journal  the day was a huge success and raised almost £6,000  "A number of Belgian refugees took part in the collection, including a child of three years, who comes from the Louvain district." said the paper. On the left, is a penny-flag sold in Glasgow on Belgium Refugees Day.

With the approval of the Local Government Board, the War Refugees Committee set up over 2,500 local reception centres to find homes for the refugees. It was not always an easy task, particularly when large families (often twelve or more) did not want to be split up.

Goodwill towards the refugees was to continue and The Times announced that a fund-raising campaign would be launched to help those who remained in Belgium and named it ‘The Belgium Relief Fund.’

Joseph Clarkson of Manchester answered the call to help these victims of war and released a series of postcards under the title of ‘BELGIAN RELIEF FUND’. They carried the printed message; "Will you kindly use the cards as long as they are needed?"

Welsh Flag Day

red dragon penny flag
On 2nd March 1916, The Times announced there had been a 'WELSH FLAG DAY IN LONDON [which resulted in] SUCCESSFUL STREET SALES', when 3,000 ladies sold flags and badges to buy comforts for Welsh troops at home and abroad. Thousands of “silk and paper flags with the flaming red dragon, and postcards of the Welsh troops, were sold for sums ranging from a penny to a £5 note”, said The Times, but although the public were generous with their contributions, “some refused [to give] on the grounds that they did not approve of the Welsh miners”. (Many of whom were on strike.)

Hospital Ship Flag Day

Throughout 1915-16, Mrs Morrison continued to organise flag-days. One of the most notable raised funds to equip a Red Cross hospital ship. Later the Prime Minister said to her, “as a result of the flag day which you held...the Scottish branch [of the Red Cross] was able to equip and present to the Royal Navy the splendid hospital ship Saint Margaret of Scotland. Please accept my warmest wishes for the success of the undertaking”. The Red Cross celebrated the success of the venture too and published a postcard depicting the medical ship.
st margaret of scotland hospital ship
Saint Margaret of Scotland was formally the Royal Mail Steam Packet ship the Balantia. In its former role the vessel was employed on the inter-island West Indies service. When converted to a hospital ship the vessel was run by an all Scottish medical staff. Some of the £20,000 raised by flag days and other means to help equip the ship was also used to provide 12 medical motor launches for employment in the Dardanelles, Egypt and Mesopotamia.

"French Flag Day"

french flag day
Also on sale in July 1915, was a special commemorative postcard painted by Willy Hardtbourg. Printed at the top of the card are the words "SOUVENIR 'French Flag Day' London - July - 1915". Details on the reverse reveal that the card was "Published by Librairie de I'Entente Cordiale, 57 & 523, Oxford St., London, W."
Charities collecting for the French needy, frequently sold penny-flags displaying the French tricolour. They always sold well, particularly on 14th July - France's national day.

In Britain, the 'France's Day' appeal of 1915 exceeded all expectations, when the flag-sellers and other ladies sold “souvenirs from the trenches” and articles made by French soldiers from German shells. Relics of every description “were offered and bought”. Several people gave a “folded slip of paper in which notes and in some cases cheques were enclosed”
french penny flag

Flag Days for Serbia

russian penny flag
The flag of Serbia (horizontal red, blue and white stripes, overlaid with a double headed eagle) was popular with Londoners. On 22nd September 1915, they bought over three million of them from 10,000 flag-sellers. 'Serbia's Day' was the first flag-day held under new police regulations, which stipulated that “each seller [should] confine her operations to a prescribed spot, and every collector...had to be over 16 years of age”. In Whitehall and Downing Street some of the ladies “wore Welsh costumes...and Mrs Lloyd George and her daughter made purchases from them”. It was not only civilians who subscribed to the appeal, a number of British soldiers serving in the trenches on the Western Front asked for Serbian flags to be sent out to them and this was done.

Russian Flag days

Russian Flag Day
Many times during the war, British charities sold flags to help the needy in Russia. Two examples are shown below.
russian penny flag
Rene Dale said this pin-flag was offered to the public in Scotland in 1916.
russian penny flag 2
This  pin-flag said Rene was on sale in York in 1917.
One example carried a black eagle, a red cross and the words 'HELP RUSSIA'. In 1915, funds raised from flag-days were sent to Russia in instalments and by November, four had been dispatched. The Russian Tsarina Alexandra telegraphed her “heartfelt thanks for the great financial success which has accompanied the efforts of the workers in the [flag] movement [and] the generous response of the British public”.
There was another Russian flag day in London and some 400 other centres in the United Kingdom. This time it was to raise funds to aid the Anglo Russlan Hospital in Petrograd, provide ambulances for the Russian wounded and comforts for Russian prisoners in German camps. Seven thousand flag-sellers took part in the London event alone. There was a huge demand for the flags, including a request for some from the crew of H.M.S. Ganges.
ww1 wounded soldiers as flag sellers
'RUSSIAN FLAG DAY'. This card by 'Gontoft of Ilkley', depicts convalescent soldiers and almost as many lady volunteers, about to set out on a flag selling excursion. There are no flag trays in evidence but many of the group are carrying pin cushions full of flags and a variety of collecting boxes are displayed. Almost all the soldiers have attached penny-flags to their caps.

Romanian Flag Day

In October 1916, newspapers carried reports of the fighting in Romania and on the 26th a Romanian flag-day was held in London. The Times said, “The wearing of the Romanian colours today, is likely to be all the more general because of the fact that our new Ally is at the present moment hard pressed. Her difficult position has given stimulus to the [flag] movement and the demand for flags...has in volume surprised the organiser”
Romanian flag
According to Rene Dale this penny-flag was on sale in Leeds sometime in 1917.
Despite the now occasional lack of support for flag-days Romanian day was well received and soon “everybody was wearing a red, yellow and blue flag”. As often happened during popular appeals the stocks of flags soon ran out and sellers were forced “to cut into strips their tricolour sashes and sell the pieces”. Notes and silver were given as freely as copper coins and few people “were content to take a flag for the payment of a single penny” said The Times. Picture postcards of Romanian scenes signed by 'Carmen Sylva' were sold for a guinea each. Next day The Times said the day had been a “HEARTY RESPONSE TO A POPULAR APPEAL”.

Flag production

How were the huge numbers of charity flags, emblems and badges produced? It seems the smaller and regional based charities had their flags made locally, the organisers of the larger National Flag Days had the items produced at a central point and then posted supplies to events throughout the United Kingdom. The earliest flags, printed in multiples on sheets of paper or thin card, were simply cut into strips which were then folded in half and a pin was placed in the crease. The halves were then glued together to form a flag. 'Pinning' was a job often done by school children.

In a short time 'flags' appeared with illustrations, motifs or logos on both sides. Then came irregular shaped ones, for example to simulate a waving flag and then all manner of shapes appeared cut out with specially made metal dies. As the war progressed the shapes and designs of these fascinating and once common-place bits of coloured paper became as varied as the charities they represented.
rspca horseshoe flag
lord roberts flag
alberts penny flag
leeds day nursery flag ww1

A pin badge shaped like a horseshoe, carried in the centre of it a horse's head and the words 'R.S.P.C.A. WAR FUND'. 

A badge shaped like a building had this printed on its red roof  'LORD ROBERTS memorial Workshops EXTENSION FUND, for Disabled Soldiers & Sailors'. (Lord Roberts died in France in late 1914, while inspecting troops, and the workshops named after him were established in Fulham in 1915).

The head of King Albert of Belgium appeared in an oval framed pin badge - under a knotted ribbon which displayed the Belgian national colours. The cutting die used for Albert's badge was probably the same one used for the National Egg Collection Week emblem. The outline shape of both were identical.

A silk flag was sold in aid of convalescent soldiers at a 'soldiers fete' in Leeds in 1918 and also on sale in the city that year was a circular badge displaying a white background, on which was a Union Jack and a Royal Navy ensign surmounted by a crown. The badges, wrote Rene dale, were sold for the benefit of  the "LEEDS DAY NURSERIES", which provided pre-school care for the children of women factory and munition workers.

tank penny flag
red cross flag
Most of the items mentioned so far were made from paper or thin card but some flags were made from silk or satin. A silk pin flag on offer on one of the Red Cross days, for example, carried a picture (in vivid colours) of a British tank with shells exploding around it. 

Another 'silk' flag depicted a red cross on a white background. In the top left quarter of it was a Union Jack, on the right side was a soldier with his arm in a sling.
card of red cross flags
Unsold flags on a flag-sellers card.

Prisoners of War

In 1917, a pin-flag almost led to the unmasking of an escaped German PoW. When Oberleutnant Heinz Justus absconded from a British prison camp, he decided to go to London where he visited a theatre, took in the sights and enjoyed himself for a while. He later recalled something which happened one morning shortly after leaving his hotel. “There was a Red Cross day on or something, and I was stopped by a kind elderly lady, who insisted on selling me a little Union Jack, which she tried to pin on to my mackintosh”, he said. She tried several times but the pin would not go through. “The trouble was she always stubbed against the iron cross I was wearing on my tunic”. He thought of saying to her that the Union Jack did not go to well with the iron cross but thought better of it and took the flag from her, and “fastened it myself just above my decoration”, he said.

For British prisoners of war in German camps the greatest enemy was the shortage of food and the lifeline for British captives were food parcels from home. In the early days of the war a prisoner's family usually wanted to send parcels to Germany, or at least pay for them to be sent. To accommodate the demand, newspapers started to carry notices from commercial outlets which advertised;  "FOOD FOR PRISONERS OF WAR, if your soldier friend or relative is a prisoner of war in Germany, he will appreciate A PARCEL OF FOOD FROM HOME". Prices ranged from 5/- to £1. Another advertisement urged people to "render a national service by opening [your] purses and send parcels of comforts to the brave officers and men who are suffering dire privation in the hands of the enemy".

pow poistcard
.A view of a typical German prisoner of war camp. The photograph on this German postcard was taken by Verlog von Wilhelm and mailed from Ohrdrus on 29th August 1915.

Soon, there were penny-flags and badges on sale that supported British Prisoners of War. For example, a pin badge on sale in Scotland on 17th July 1915, was sold to aid 'SOLDIERS INTERNED IN GERMANY'. It was later reproduced on a postcard. 

pow postcard 2
This card, bearing a replica of a charity flag, - was sold on 17th July 1915. It was printed by the 'Hillside Printing Works, Gorgle, Edinburgh'.
pow flag 1
pow flag 2
pow flag 3
pow flag 4
On 17th March 1917, green flags and bunches of shamrock were sold in London for the benefit of Irish soldiers on active service and those Irishmen held in German prisoner of war camps. The supply of shamrock was sent to London by recently exchanged wounded Irish prisoners who were “grateful and mindful of all that had been done for them [to secure their release]. It was a bad year for shamrock, owing to the frost, but these poor broken men searched their hills for it, and secured a fair quantity”. The keenest buyers were Australian and Canadian soldiers “many of whom are of Irish descent and brought large numbers of flags to send back to Irish relatives in the Colonies”, said The Times.

Y.M.C.A. Hut Fund flag days

On 28th August, 1914 (while the regular British Army was involved in fighting as it retreated from Mons) Kitchener launched a second appeal “for another 100,000 men”. The response was dramatic. On one day alone over 35,000 men enlisted.

As existing barracks and other military buildings were too few to accommodate all the volunteers, the Army erected tented encampments on wasteland, commons and in public parks. In some areas, the recruits and territorials were dumped on local councils - who had to arrange their accommodation. Some councils could not cope with the large numbers of men forced upon them and were obliged to look elsewhere for help.

The Times reported that in the early days of the war “many of the recruits were living under canvas, in barns, halls, and schools [and] billeted in private houses, or in many cases empty ones often without beds, blankets, chairs, forms or tables”. Accommodating the men taxed all resources to breaking point, said The Times, but then, “the Y.M.C.A. came to the assistance of the New Army”  said the paper. The Association offered its services to the War Office and the offer was gratefully accepted.

The Y.M.C.A. launched a public appeal to boost its funds and within days £25,000 was raised. Now with substantial funds behind it (about two million pounds at today’s rate) the association was able to erect marquees and a ‘writing tent’ in every New Army training camp which requested them. “The enthusiasm of the undertaking”, said The Times, “and the splendid spirit of the New Army carried the [Y.M.C.A.] helpers along and it was not unusual for them to keep at their duties...16 or 18 hours of every day of the week.”

ymca flag
In the late autumn of 1914, the Y.M.C.A. suffered a temporary setback. Heavy gales, followed by an exceptionally wet winter, destroyed hundreds of tents and marquees, so the Association decided to replace damaged tents with huts made from timber and corrugated iron sheets. The Y.M.C.A. also decided to extend its welfare activities to the Western Front. On the Home Front and the Western Front and elsewhere, tens of thousands of huts were constructed. The sale of penny-flags and postcards were just two of the means by which money was raised for the Hut Fund.
hut week postcard
"HELP US TO BUILD MORE HUTS LIKE THESE FOR OUR SOLDIERS IN FRANCE" A printed photographic appeal card released by the Y.M.CA. to publicise its good work in providing recreation huts for soldiers at home and on the Western Front.
ymca flag
The Y.M.C.A. held a flag-day in London in early May 1916, and between them 10,000 sellers had “five million paper and satin flags to dispose of”.
ymca flag 2
The London flag-sellers also offered the public “a post card bearing a drawing of a Y.M.C.A. hut, which can be cut out and joined together to make a little model building”.
hut postcard ymca

A Y.M.C.A. publicity cutout card. Many children probably had one of these miniature huts in their toy box. The association was always anxious to draw to the public’s attention its fund-raising efforts - this was just one of the many ways it did so. The card was issued "Copyright of the Y.M.C.A. Hut Day Committee, 1916".

The proceeds from the London Y.M.C.A. flag-day were put into a fund which it was hoped would grow to £100,000. The money would be used to maintain 11,000 or so huts on the Western Front and elsewhere. At the same time as the London appeal was held, similar events were taking place in a number of French towns. It was reported that some of the Y.M.C.A. recreation huts were “within half a mile of the firing line".

By the summer of 1916, it seems the public were becoming resistant to the number of flag days being held and it is possible the money donated to the Y.M.C.A. on 5th May fell short of that anticipated. Why could this be so? Were there simply to many appeals? Anyway, some said donations had fallen off and a few days later the Association issued a postcard advertising yet another appeal and asked the public to 'Remember OUR Flag Day May 16th 1916'. The sepia coloured card was not very attractive to look at and holding another appeal almost immediately after another had seemingly failed, seemed rather optimistic.

pin flag lady
Printed details on the back of this card reveal that the picture was taken by 'GALE'S STUDIOS Ltd,' and that there were "Branches Everywhere".  There are no details of the charity for which this cheerful lady was collecting. However, on the money box is painted a red cross and that was probably the charity for which she was selling her penny-flags.
In June 1916, a piece appeared in The Times which seems to reinforce the idea of flag-day 'fatigue'.

The Countess of Limerick felt compelled to ask readers “Are flag days becoming a nuisance?" She hoped not and thought the reason for the reduction in contributions might just be “a few selfish and mean spirited people, who regard it an annoyance to be asked to buy a penny flag in a good cause”. Nevertheless, throughout the summer of 1916 The Times and other newspapers continued to publicise forthcoming flag-days. On 4th July for instance, as the first reports of the Somme Offensive were appearing, The Times said and perhaps rather wearily "Today London is to have another Flag day". It was the one mentioned earlier for the "provision of funds for hospital beds in Petrograd for the Russian soldier"

War Charities Act 1916

The majority of civilian and convalescent soldier flag-sellers were honest, a minority of civilian sellers were not. In the summer of 1916, the activities of unscrupulous tricksters forced the government to introduce the 'War Charities Act'. Under it, charities seeking funds by public donation were required to register and local and police authorities were told that “in all cases where consent to such flag days...is sought, great care should be exercised” in granting it. Any person found guilty of an offence under the Act was liable on conviction “to a fine of one hundred pounds, or imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding three months”.

Flags for the Navy

There were many flag-day appeals for sailors and their families and they proved particularly popular in coastal towns and ports.
navy day flag 1
navy day 2
navy day 3
Rene dale said this pin-flag was on sale in Whitby on 5th September 1918.
navy day 4
"NAVY DAY" An imprint of a flag on a paper flag. Said by Rene Dale to have been on sale in March 1917.
 Another Navy Day was reported by The Times on 5th October 1916. The Navy League and the Foreign Sailors' Society had organised 13,000 women and girls who “were engaged in selling little red and white ensigns” in London and the suburbs. The event was planned like a military campaign and “Flag sellers were ready to take toll from travellers on all railway and tramway routes and later took up their stations at the principle hotels”. Not many escaped the energetic ladies with their rattling tins and trays of flags and “by midday there were few people on the streets not wearing an emblem” said The Times. A limited number of flags had been autographed by Sir John Jellicoe and Sir David Beatty and were keenly sought after and “went for high prices”.
 A blue and white paper flag depicting a cruiser and a battleship was sold in aid of  "THE SAILORS' ORPHAN HOMES" in Hull. A tribute from Admiral Sir John Jellicoe appeared on the back of it. “I am glad to commend the Sailors' Orphan Homes at Hull”, he said, “knowing of the good work and liberality in taking children whose Fathers have laid down their lives for King and Country during the war”.
An anchor shaped emblem within an oval shield, carried a Union Jack and the words "THE SAILORS' DAY, 1916"

As mentioned above, a few collectors saw 'flag-days' as a means of making a little something for themselves and the morning after a 'Sailors Day', this headline appeared in the press, ‘FLAG SELLERS CHARGED WITH THEFT’. Working under cover Detective Sergeant Ward had become suspicious of two helpers Eva Whittaker aged 23 and Queenie Lipscombe aged 16. Giving evidence at Bow Street Police Court, Detective Sergeant Ward said, “at different times during the day I handed the defendants marked shillings and sixpences in return for flags. When they handed in their boxes at the Westminster City hall some of the coins were missing from their boxes and were afterwards found in the defendants' pockets”. Both women were remanded on a charge of “Stealing money while engaged in selling flags for the Sailors' Day Fund”.

There was another Navy Day later in the year, in Mrs Morrison's home town of Glasgow, where in addition to flags a special 'commemorative war medal' was also on sale. In November she sent one to the Queen, who in her reply said, “The Queen is greatly interested to hear that nearly four million pounds sterling has been raised throughout the United Kingdom by means of the flag day movement which you originated”.

Red Cross day

On 24th October 1914, the British Red Cross and the Order of St. John merged to form the Joint War Committee. It was hoped the merger would help reduce duplication of effort. The St Andrew's Ambulance Association in Scotland also joined the organisation. Fund raising activities and resources were pooled and everyone worked together under the protective emblem of the Red Cross.

Members of the British Red Cross and the Order of St John were organised into Voluntary Aid Detachments (V.A.D.'s). Each detachment had either male or female members

flag seller 4
A studio real photographic postcard depicting a lady collecting for the French Red Cross. On the back of the card is written this. "Miss. G, Pettit, 99.Cumberland St., Woodbridge, Suffork."
The big event in the flag-sellers calendar was the British Red Cross Society's appeal, known as 'OUR DAY’. It was supported by the press and public and planned months in advance and the 1916 appeal took place on Thursday 19th October. In the weeks leading up to it, The Times kept readers informed of preparations for the big day. 

For example on 4th October the paper said, “There are millions of flags to be sent in parcels to the different parts of the country, thousands of street sellers to be enrolled and allotted to their districts, and a hundred and one things to be done”. In the same edition, there was another report of dishonesty. Four young girls were imprisoned for stealing money they had collected. 

The incident prompted the paper to reassure its readers that, “the organisers of ‘Our Day’, are taking every care to ensure that the public may have confidence in the honesty of their collectors”, but suggested that subscribers put their money straight into the collecting tins and not leave it on the flag trays.

With the Charity Act in existence any women or girl now wishing to work for the Red Cross was asked to produce a reference from a householder. The organisation was right to tighten up its rules, because two days later another report appeared of a dishonest helper. At Marylebone Police Court, Hannah Wilcock, 38, described as a 'private nurse', was charged with selling flags on Sailors' Day and “obtaining charitable contributions by fraud”. The court was told it was not Wilcock's first appearance in the dock - she had been convicted of  'begging at Highgate'. Found guilty on the fraud charge she was sentenced to a month in prison with hard labour.

On Tuesday the 17th October, The Times reminded its readers that the country-wide Red Cross Appeal “is on Thursday next, the day on which every man, woman and child in the Kingdom should wear the Red Cross with pride and thanksgiving, and pay handsomely for the privilege”. Thirty two million flags in two different designs would be on sale - one in silk for 3d. and one in 'stiff card' for a penny, “the silk one will make a very handsome addition to the home collections of war charity flags which some people are decorating their living rooms”, said The Times. On the 19th, the paper carried a half page illustrated announcement for Our Day. A headline asked "Consider what our soldiers and sailors are doing for YOU. What are you  doing for them?" Another said, "DON'T FORGET, 'OUR DAY' IS YOUR DAY TO HELP OUR SICK AND WOUNDED SOLDIERS AT THE FRONT".
Before dawn, some of London's 15,000 flag sellers were out on the streets, eager to catch the early morning workers and by breakfast time “many had already collected considerable sums of money”. A group of 200 helpers assembled at the Mansion House at 7 a.m. with their trays and collecting tins and three times during the day “their stocks of flags and emblems were entirely cleared out and had to be replenished”.
Amongst those pressed into service on Red Cross Day, were convalescent soldiers in their blue invalid uniforms. A real photographic card depicted a group of them with collecting tins and flags and a banner proclaiming "WHAT 1 SPENT I HAVE, WHAT I SAVED I LOST ,WHAT I GAVE I HAVE".
flag sellers 5

The location and date of this Red Cross appeal day are not indicated on this real photographic postcard. Some of the convalescents are wearing Red Cross flags on their blue hospital uniforms. Collecting tins and trays of flags and a poster advertising the event are also evident.

Also offered for sale on Our Day were "Regimental flags in silk which can be had for 9d. each. Nearly all the famous regiments are included in the series", said an advertisement. On that day, many countries of the Empire were represented on the streets of London. For instance, there were "Canadian ladies acting as sellers in Whitehall; Australian ladies in the Strand; and African ladies at the Piccadilly Hotel". India was represented in the Haymarket, by Princess Sophia Duleep Singh and Indian ladies in national dress were there too. In addition to the flags, badges and emblems other items were on offer, including a raft from the Lusitania "on which 10 bodies were washed ashore on the Irish Coast". The raft was driven through the streets on a lorry and was auctioned in the afternoon and made 105 guineas.

A Joint War Committee pin-badge.
To promote Red Cross flag-day events,  Canadian women living in London sold tinted maple leaves. Australian sellers sold special Australian flags and leather kangaroos. Women from New Zealand sold kiwi badges.

At first, monies collected from Our Day events went to central control, but it soon became evident that some of the funds collected at local level should remain there.  Local V.A.D.'s were therefore allowed to keep 20% of takings with the remaining 80% going to Central Control.

A pin-flag from the 'OUR DAY' appeal. It carries the emblems of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John. - collectively known as the Joint War Committee.

In 1914, there were 2,000 V.A.D.’s with 70,000 volunteers, within four years this had grown to 4,000 detachments and 125,000 volunteers who were trained in a number of skills, with classes and examinations arranged by a local V.A.D. Detachment nurses were introduced into R.A.M.C. hospitals in England and France. V.A.D.'s also replaced males in hospitals so they could be sent to the field. V.A.D.'s also worked overseas in transport and hospitals.

Auxiliary hospitals were established in suitable buildings where V.A.D.'s could serve including part-time V.A.D.'s, looking after recuperating patients. By the end of the war there were 1,786 such hospitals. Often known as "V.A.D. Hospitals".

"Zeppelin shot down at Cuffley - 3rd September 1916"

On the night of 2/3 September 1916, a German airship - one of 16 which had left bases in Germany for the largest airship raid of the war over England - was sighted over the village of Cuffley, Hertfordshire. The airship was the wooden-framed Schütte-Lanz SL11, although at the time and for many years after, it was misidentified as Zeppelin L21.

Lieutenant Robinson, flying a converted B.E.2c night fighter No. 2693, sighted the German airship but lost it in clouds. Later he made contact with it again and attacked the airship at an altitude of 11,500 ft., approaching from below and closing to within 500 ft. he raked it with incendiary bullets. But it was not until his third run and last drum of ammunition that the airship burst into flames and crashed in a field behind the Plough Inn at Cuffley. Commander Hauptmann Wilhelm Schramm and his 15-man crew were killed.

As well as Red Cross flag-days the organisation took advantage of another source of potential income which became known as "The Kaiser's gifts to the Red Cross" and involved the remains of the German airship shot down at Cuffley.
zep postcard
'Relics' from the remains of the German airship  SL11, were offered for sale. The War Office had presented the Red Cross with three tons of wire, which had "formed the wrapping of the airship".

The Red Cross decided to turn the wire into mementos and six convalescent soldiers spent several days cutting some of it into suitable lengths. These were then sent to 12 firms, who undertook the conversion into souvenirs. The soldiers cut the remainder of the wire into a million pieces, which were put in 'souvenir' envelopes and sold for a shilling each. A  printed guarantee on the envelope said "This is a piece of the wire of the first Zeppelin brought down at CUFFLEY, HERTS, September 3rd, 1916"

One old gentleman sent a cheque for £100, and "asked for nothing in return but a shilling bit of wire".

Bracelets, brooches, cuff-links and rings, fashioned from airship wire were sold on street stalls and in shops and became known as "The Kaiser's gifts to the Red Cross".
Captioned "L21, brought down in flames at Cuffley, Herts, by FLIGHT- LIEUT ROBINSON, V.C., Sept. 3rd. 1916". This picture postcard does not carry the artist's signature, but was "designed by the Acme Studios, 5 Great Titchfield Street, W.", and "published by E. Ernest Cheetham, 289a, Regent Street."

Postcard publishers issued several cards depicting artist's impressions, which celebrated the destruction of airships and zeppelins at the hands of anti-aircraft batteries and the Royal Flying Corps. 
wreck of zep
Within days of the Cuffley incident the postcard publisher Rotary released a set of sepia coloured real photographic postcards - featuring the wreck of the airship. This card was number 3787C. Inset is a picture of Flight-Lieut Leefe Robinson V.C. - who was given the award within days of the incident.
zep wire
On the left is an envelope and a piece of the wire from the airship Schütte-Lanz SL11. Known as "The Kaiser's gifts to the Red Cross", the souvenir was "sold to help the wounded at the front." and was "Sold in London"
The 'Zeppelin' frenzy contiued and at Devonshire House two small gates were thrown open and stalls erected, "where Lady Dobbs and the ladies who help her in her Prisoners of War depot, sold Zeppelin souvenirs and postcards made from photographs of drawings sent by Prisoners of War, and photographs from some of the camps" said The Times. A Mrs Boese, selling "flags, postcards and Zeppelin relics" soon found her entire stock sold out and even had to sell her own 'Zeppelin bracelet' to an enthusiastic member of the public, who generously gave £10 for it. Over £71,000 was raised in London on Red Cross Day. Street collections brought in £39,000, "plus £29,000 as a direct result of donations sent to Miss Beeman, who organised the sale of flags". The sale of "enemy airship relies brought in over £3,000".

"Fag Day Fund"

One of the most successful and enduring fund-raising efforts of the war was the 'Smokes for the Troops Fund'. On 29th October 1914, The Times announced to its readers that at Lord Kitchener's request a Smokes for Soldiers and Sailors Fund had been formed "to provide our wounded…with tobacco and cigarettes in hospitals here and at the front…and is at the moment sending regular supplies to over 200 hospitals and convalescent homes". Those who were serving at the front were not forgotten either. To make it easier for the public to send cigarettes and tobacco to members of the B.E.F. the Post Office allowed such 'comforts' to be mailed by the cheaper letter post instead of parcel post. The French Government also consented to waive customs duty on tobacco and cigarettes addressed to British troops serving in France. A few days later The Times said, "Those who have just returned from the front report that many of our soldiers still long for a supply of cigarettes and tobacco. To meet this need, the Weekly Dispatch has started a Tobacco Fund, and…£12,000 has already been collected. But much more is required to keep up a steady supply".

fag day poster
A 1917 poster reminding the public of a forthcoming "FAG" DAY collection. The smoke fund was "...OFFICIALLY APPROVED BY THE WAR OFFICE & ADMIRALTY."

Soon, cheap cigarettes were as much a part of trench life as barbed wire. The Rev. Studdert Kennedy, M.C, an army chaplain, sometimes known as ‘Woodbine Willie’ (from his habit of distributing cigarettes around the frontline trenches) wrote in ROUGH RHYMES OF A PADRE; "Quarters kids us it’s the rations, And the dinners as we gets, But I know what keeps us smiling’, Its the Woodbine cigarettes." 

The distribution of free cigarettes was not without controversy. On 3rd October 1916, a letter appeared in The Times sent by a worried Sir Thomas Fraser, in which he questioned the wisdom of sending huge quantities of free cigarettes to the men at the front. "It is fully recognised by medical men that excessive smoking is injurious. It disorders the functions of the nervous and digestive systems and perhaps more emphatically of the heart and blood vessels…Is it, therefore, an actual kindness so indiscriminately and profusely to supply tobacco to our gallant troops, and by so doing actually to encourage and further the habit of excessive smoking?"

Fraser was also worried that young soldiers, who had never used cigarettes before joining the army, were now becoming seasoned smokers because of free distribution by the Tobacco Funds. However, he relented a little, by saying "Entire deprivation is not called for", but went on, "tobacco distribution should be regarded as a ration. It should no longer be permissible to supply it indiscriminately by independent organisations or private friends, but only by them under official supervision, guided by the medical officers". 

Letters to The Times which expressed opinions both for and against the 'free smokes for the troops campaign' continued to land on the editor's deck, but those who agreed with Sir Thomas Fraser were outnumbered and Tobacco Funds continued to thrive and were supported by the Flag-Day movement - as the items illustrated below testify.
fag flag 1
fag flag 2
fag flag 3

Hospital Flag Days

Red Cross appeal days were always a success and flag-days held by 'war hospitals' and convalescent homes were usually just as popular. In addition to women volunteers, convalescent soldiers were usually on duty at these events and were sometimes captured on film and recorded on postcards
wounded soldier flag seller
These convalescent soldiers carry trays of flags, collecting tins and postcards, and some are wearing an official flag seller's lapel badge. The man in the wicker bath-chair has tucked a crutch in beside him. Their hospital and the cause they were collecting for is unknown.
Mentioned below are just a few of the colourful flags, badges and emblems, sold in support of war hospitals, military convalescent homes and civilian establishments which cared for sick and wounded serviceman. 
st dunstans postcard

“BLINDED FOR YOU.”  This postcard illustration the second in the third set - is very similar to one which was “Especially drawn for St. Dunstan's Hospital sale” by Louis Raemaekers and titled “An inmate of St Dunstan's“.  In 1917, the London Fine Art Society said the drawing was “one of many contributions that the artist has made in furtherance of war charities”.

 St Dunstan's Hostel for blinded servicemen held a number of flag-days to boost its funds and advertise its work. The design of one particularly distinctive badge was similar to one of its fund raising cards. It was one depicting a blind soldier with a young girl by his side. The legend on both the card and the flag said simply 'BLINDED FOR YOU'.
st dunstans flag
Ian Sanderson’s uncle, Cuthbert Malloy, was at St Dunstan’s  in 1915 and remembered  the young girl - featured on the card and the penny-flag – as  Annie.  She was the daughter of the head gardener at St Dunstan’s and spent a lot of time with the blind men, “accompanying them and guiding them on walks in the park.” said Ian.
ww1 hospital flag day
In July 1916, the Doncaster War Hospital Supply Depot held a flag-day in the town to raise funds to boost its rapidly decreasing stock of dressings, crutches and other medical supplies. That month was one of the worst in British Army history and the Doncaster flag - which carried a picture of a wounded soldier over a large red cross on the front - was to become a sad reminder of a particularly terrible day. The date of the flag-day itself is printed on the back of the flag - Ist July 1916. The first day of the Battle of the Somme, when over 57,000 casualties were suffered by the British, including almost 20,000 killed, amongst whom were 993 officers. The ground gained was a maximum of 1,000 yards.

scottish flag
wounded soldier flag
soldier flag 2
indian flag
Dr Elsie Inglis - who early in the Great War offered to form a women's ambulance unit and was told by the War Office, to "go home and sit still" - held many appeal days to support the missions of the ambulance units connected with the Scottish Women's Hospitals in France and Serbia. Fund raising picture postcards were issued as were pin-flags carrying the red, blue and white stripes of Serbia.
The illustration on a flag for a 'LEITH HOSPITAL' day, showed a nurse attending a bed ridden soldier, the outline of which had irregular edges to simulate a waving flag. 
A 'medical' pin badge cut to the outline shape of a convalescent soldier, with his arm in a sIing, also carried no indication of the hospital or cause for which it had been sold.
Another hospital appeal flag carried on the back the word 'VICTORY' set within a wreath. Printed on the front were the words 'INDIAN WOUNDED SOLDIERS' FLAG DAY 22nd APRIL 1916'. 

In December 1914, the Brighton Pavilion was converted into a hospital for sick and wounded soldiers from the Indian Army. The Pavilion hospital also incorporated the adjacent Dome and Corn Exchange. These buildings had formerly been part of the large stable complex associated with the residence.

The Pavilion hospital was set up with two operating theatres and more than 720 beds. Over 2,300 men were treated at the hospital and elaborate arrangements were made to cater for the patients' variety of religious and cultural needs. Nine different kitchens were set up in the grounds of the hospital, so that food could be cooked by the soldiers' fellow caste members and co-religionists. Muslims were given space on the eastern lawns to pray facing towards Mecca, while Sikhs were provided with a tented gurdwara in the grounds.

The Indian hospital closed at the end of January 1916, as most of the Indian Army had been withdrawn from the Western Front and redeployed to the Middle East.

The Pavilion reopened as a hospital in April 1916. It became a hospital for 'limbless men,' treating British soldiers who had lost arms and legs, usually from amputation. The Pavilion hospital operated until the summer of 1920, when the building was returned to Brighton Corporation.

wounded indians
With government approval a series of photographs were taken to show the resplendent rooms converted into hospital wards and the gardens. Some of the photos were also released as picture postcards. This postcard was number six in the set "issued by the corporation of Brighton with the assistance of the military authorities". It was captioned "in the pavilion grounds, dome in background."
Other 'medical' penny-flags and badges are those carrying illustrations of motor ambulances. At the start of the Great War, the Royal Army Medical Corps (R.A.M.C.) had to rely on horse drawn wagons to evacuate the wounded. By mid September a few motorised vehicles had been sent to the Front. Eventually, thanks mainly to a campaign started by The Times, ambulance cars were donated to the R.A.M.C. by private individuals, businesses and societies. The St Andrew Ambulance Association was one of the donaters and a method it employed to raise funds was selling penny-flags. One of its designs carried a red cross on one side and on the other a fine drawing of a motor ambulance. The Salvation Army issued at least three different designs of ambulance car flags. One was titled "A FRIEND IN NEED IS A FRIEND INDEED", and another said simply "SALVATION ARMY AMBULANCE UNIT".
amb flag 1
amb flag 2
amb flag 3
amb postcard

Mrs Morrison also organised flag-days to secure funds to send motor ambulances to the Front. In February 1915, she sent a letter to the Prince of Wales in which she said, "I herewith send you a [folder] containing specimens of flags sold in Glasgow on different 'Flag Days', which 1 hope you will honour me by accepting". Among the 20 or so specimens therein, one depicted a motor ambulance set against a red cross on a white background. A notice on the vehicle said "SCOTTISH BRANCH (RED CROSS) SOCIETY". A similar ambulance flag in the folder carried no details of the organisation for which it was produced.
amb flag sellers

Sometimes the organisers and staff of flag-days posed for a group photograph, like the elderly gentlemen with pin-flags and collecting tins depicted above. In the foreground of this real photographic postcard is a large picture of a Red Cross motor ambulance, which carries the words "presented by the district of Gloucestershire". The sale of pin-flags presumably contributed towards its purchase.

War Hospital Supply Depots

As the war progressed and large numbers of wounded and convalescent servicemen arrived back in the UK, the medical items required for their recovery and rehabilitation were held in special war hospital supply depots. By 1916, over 2,700 War Hospital Supply depots were officially registered with the British Government. The largest of these seems to have been the Kensington War Hospital Supply Depot. It was established on 4th January 1915. Located on the east and south side of Kensington Square in London, the deport sent medical requisites to any hospital that required them. 

On 28th August 1915, a letter from May Sinclair appeared in The Spectator. She said, "These six houses are filled all day long with an army of skilled volunteer workers, from the carpenters' annex in the garden at Kensington Square to the slipper workers rooms on the top floors in Kensington Court. There is an average daily attendance of one thousand workers from a list of three thousand. They turn out every kind of surgical and hospital appliance that can be made by hand.” Included were “splints, crutches, leg-rests, trays, bed-tables; swabs and dressings (thoroughly sterilized), bandages, sheets, shirts, bed-jackets and pyjamas, slippers, hospital sandbags (a new idea) for keeping wounded limbs at rest. Every article is finished to perfection, from the last word in splints - so shaped that they fit the limb - to the little muslin covers, weighted with beads, for keeping flies off food and drink.”

And of course the Kensington Depot used flag-days and penny-flags to raise funds and advertise the good work it did.
supply dep nurses
hospital flag day
A blue background on yet another flag carried the letters K.W.H.S.D. framing a head and shoulders picture of a wounded soldier. A notice on the back of it said "We make and dispatch 45,000 hospital requisites per week, helping 950 hospitals". The initials K.W.H.S.D. stand for Kensington War Hospital Supply Depot. 
The Kensington Depot used flag-days and penny-flags and postcards to raise funds and advertise the good work it did.
supply flag 1
Illustrated here are the two sides from a penny flag supporting the Sheffield War Hospital Supply Depot.
supply flag 2

A typical week's output at the Kensington Deport "was 9,250 surgical bandages; 7,500 surgical swabs; 1,000 handkerchiefs; 100 dressing-gowns; 350 ward-room slippers; 1,000 various items, including 800 splints, hospital furniture, garments, and bed-linen", said May Sinclair. "And still the Depot cannot keep pace with the appeals it receives from France and Belgium, from the Dardanelles, from Serbia, from British East Africa, and from all parts of the United Kingdom—among them a special appeal for khaki shirts and socks, thin "pants" and vests, from the General Hospital for officers, and from British East Africa for pillow-slips and sheets". Funds, materials and volunteers poured in to the depot. 

The Sinclair letter in The Spectator soon turned into an appeal for more funds. "Working expenses are covered by weekly donations from the workers; but more money and more materials and more volunteers are urgently needed. There are thousands of people who could help—who would help if they realised the importance of the work. If manufacturers and drapers would send as many yards as they could spare of linen, flannel, and cotton fabrics, of towelling, and of canvas (for the hospital sandbags); if timber merchants would supply so many feet of suitable wood for our carpenters; if everybody who can give money would give it - regularly by the month or the quarter, for choice, but give it anyhow; if others would send old linen, sheets, white counterpanes, towels (clean and free from infection), and remnants of new linens, cretonnes, and unglazed chintzes (for our workers can make something out of almost nothing), they would be taking part in a great national service."

More Flag Days

In 1916, a National Egg Collection appeal was launched. Its aim was to "ensure that each sick and wounded soldier and sailor shall have the needful supply of new laid eggs to assist him to recovery. A printed circular sent to householders said, "We must have eggs, more eggs, and yet more eggs...it is pathetic to think that so many eggs are going on to the market for ordinary consumption, and that our wounded lads are short".
egg coll postcard
Donald MaGill gave his support to the egg collection campaign with this postcard offering. The card was number 1993 in the Inter-Art "COMIQUE" series.
 If a householder could not donate eggs to the fund, then cash was acceptable. The circular ended "The wounded must not be short of eggs". The need for eggs was apparently so urgent, that flag-sellers were recruited to sell a special badge, both to fund and to advertise the appeal. Naturally, the badge was egg-shaped and speckled-brown in colour.
egg flag
Rene Dale indicated that this National Egg Collection pin-badge was on sale in Leeds in July 1918.
elp flag
kitchener flag
roberts flag
A flag with a white background and a Union Jack in the top left hand quarter, and a pink elephant walking from right to left, poses a question. For which appeal was it sold?

The mystery has been solved by Sethapong Povatong

Sir, I do enjoy your articles so much, as my granddad was a WW1 veteran (one of the ninety four Siamese pilots who went to France in 1918. Siam (former name of Thailand) also had another 1100 volunteers in other units / duties…what does the flag with the full figure of an elephant represent? …I think it might be a Siamese Flag Day thing. If you check out the old version of Siam national flag, you will see a white elephant, head towards the mast, the proportion of that little elephant flag and one on Siamese national flag is identical. And Siam, which our Kings and many nobles were Anglophile through their educations, supported the Brits and joined the Allied side on 22nd July 1917. The national flag at that time was a white elephant on a red background. 2 months later, the King gave the new version of national flag which is still in use today. It’s a kind of tricolour. But not many westerners knew that Siam had a new national flag already, even when Siamese expeditionary force arrived Europe in August 1918, many westerners still put the old Siam flag on ephemeras, cards, booklets etc.

 High regards, Sethapong Povatong

Kings and military leaders and heroes and heroines were sometimes - but not often -  featured on fund raising flags and badges. King George and King Albert and Admirals Jellicoe and Beatty, have been mentioned as being featured. 
 Lord Kitchener was honoured too. On 7th November 1916, a flag appeared in London for the 'Kitchener Memorial Fund'. It carried a pair of crossed swords, Kitchener's head and the initials 'K.K.' encompassed within a wreath. On the back of the flag, set against a seascape and rising sun, were the words, "KITCHENER, Do Not Forget My Boys." Kitchener had been a popular leader, and everywhere in the City and West End, said a report, "the saleswomen found willing victims in spite of the number of recent flag day"'.
Lord Roberts (and Volonel his war charger) was also portrayed on a penny-flag sold to help fund the "Lord Roberts Memorial Workshop". Another famous person featured on a pin flag was nurse Edith Cavell. Her portrait was placed in the centre panel of the Belgian tricolour and sold for the benefit of Belgian refugees.

Titled Ladies Lend a Hand

Titled ladies frequently worked as flag-sellers. For instance, during Christmas week 1916, "Lady Diana Manners, accompanied by the Hon. Irene Lawley...visited Smithfield Market shortly after 5 [a.m.] and sold Belgian flags" on behalf of the Christmas appeal for destitute Belgian children. At one stall Lady Diana bought "a sucking pig for 10s., the salesman immediately placing the note in her collection box"
lady flag sellers
This studio postcard depicts a group of well-dressed women - with flags and trays and collecting tins - probably just before they take to the streets.
A report of people selling flags on 18th April 1917, for the benefit of the Church Army, reads like an extract from Burkes Landed Gentry. The day was wet and miserable as 7,000 flag sellers took to the streets of London. At their head was Lady French who set up her pitch outside Claridges Hotel, Lady Jellicoe and Lady Garvagh, who took up positions in front of the Piccadilly Hotel, while Ladies Ciancarty and Alexandra stood outside the Carlton. Lady Cowdray opted for the Berkeley Hotel, and Lady Perry the Trocadero, while Lady Milson Rose rattled her tin at guests and visitors to the Savoy. Lady Gort provided "hospitality for the flag day workers" working in Belgravia, while the Duchess of Marlborough, Lady St Germans and Lady Whitley Thomson, opened their homes to "accommodate the Mayfair, Victoria and Sloane Street Depots" respectively. Between them, the 7,000 other ladies offered the public, three million penny flags, half a million silks and a "huge supply of picture postcards" and although it rained for most of the day "they stuck to their task with enthusiasm". The flags were in aid of the Church Army and the illustration on them depicted an infantryman recently out of the line, saying 'I'M FEELING FINE! THANKS TO THE CHURCH ARMY HUT'.
ca flag day poster
london flag day poster
ca 3
ca 2
ca 1
Was this proliferation of titled ladies a desperate attempt by the Flag Movement to regain public sympathy for flag-days, which in recent months had seemed to be on the wane? Or was it just that they were considered the most suitable people to sell flags in the areas in which they did?  Whatever the reason, as the war progressed into its final year the appearance of flag days became less. This is understandable. By then, war weariness had set in, food and clothes and other necessities were more expensive and many people were now "counting the pennies" themselves.
Rene Dale, wrote that this penny-flag was "sold at Berwick in Elmet, day armistice was signed by Germany 11 November. 1918."
armistice day penny flag

In April 1915, The Bailie, a Glasgow newspaper, had praised Mrs Morrison and her work for those in distress and said she was a woman of strong character who preferred to "manage her schemes and enterprises single handed [and] thinks a committee should consist of not more than two, and one of these two should always be asleep!" At the same time, the paper said, she always gave credit where it was due, and "gratefully acknowledged the whole-hearted support she has received from the ladies and gentlemen who have assisted her" .The Bailie concluded, "Mrs Morrison is a civic and national asset". No one could have doubted that and in 1920 she was awarded the CBE.


My thanks to The Trustees of the Imperial War Museum for permission to quote from Mrs Morrison's correspondence. Thanks also to Carol Gallagher, The Mitchell Library, Glasgow, for providing additional information regarding Mrs Morrison.


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