First World War idea of comfort packs for troops from home revived in Doncaster

Lady Isabella Battie-Wrightson - owner of Cusworth Hall and fundraiser
Lady Isabella Battie-Wrightson - owner of Cusworth Hall and fundraiser

Over the past few months, volunteers from the Doncaster 1914-18 project, have been busily researching life on the Home Front during 1918.

They’ve been discovering how important community fundraising was to the First World War, and also Doncaster’s extraordinary contribution to the war effort. Their contribution is being commemorated in a 2018 project, ‘Comforts for Christmas’ that has revived a 100 year-old comfort pack campaign, to support soldiers working overseas this Christmas.

Product examples in box - July (Large)

Product examples in box - July (Large)

The campaign deadline is tomorrow, September 14, and the Doncaster 1914-18 project is urging local people and businesses to make one final push.

Here are three of the stories they’ve discovered: The remarkable Julia Walde-Aldnam was the founder of local War Working Parties, groups of local women working tirelessly to fundraise and organise comfort packs for the war effort. She also transformed her home, Hooton Pagnell Hall, into a hospital during the First World War, treating wounded soldiers. She was awarded an MBE and a Royal Red Cross, Second Class, in recognition of her service. Background here: www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk/subjects/home-front/the-war-working-party website.

Lady Isabella of Cusworth Hall dedicated herself to fundraising for the war effort, as well as opening up a hospital for wounded soldiers (and managing the country estate with its farms and properties while her son was away at war. Background here: www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk/story/lady-isabella-battie-wrightson website.

Home front fundraising was critical to the success of the First World War, with over 18,000 charities established during 1914-18, many of them to send ‘comforts’ to beloved family and friends on the front line. This enthusiasm led to the development of the War Charities Act, in 1916, and includes examples of Doncaster charities supporting the war effort: www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk/story/doncaster-and-the-war-charities-act-of-1916 website.

Freda Hooper and her co-star performed to raise money for the troops

Freda Hooper and her co-star performed to raise money for the troops

There’s more information about Comfort Packs overall at: www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk/comfortpacks (including a list of local businesses who have contributed).

During the First World War, ‘comfort’ packages were a lifeline for front line soldiers spending Christmas away from home. The 100 year-old appeal was revived earlier this year to support today’s troops, in ‘From Donny with Love: Comforts for Christmas’.

“‘From Donny with Love’ pays tribute to Doncaster’s extraordinary contribution to the First World War, when local communities rallied together to raise over £1 million – that’s £59 million today – in support of the British Armed Forces. We’ve been raising money over the summer through crowd-funding for the comfort packs, and have a great response from local people and businesses. So we’re hoping to appeal once again to Doncaster’s community spirit to make that last great effort to support today’s troops serving overseas during Christmas!” says Samantha Armstrong from Doncaster 1914-18, who is organising the appeal with the support of National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), to mark the centenary of the First World War.

The soldiers who will be receiving the Christmas comfort packs are all from the Rifles Regiment, the successors to the local King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, which played a key role during the First World War. The campaign is backed by Care for Casualties, the Rifles’ official charity, which was set up in 2009 to support Riflemen and their families. Three hundred Christmas comfort packs will be needed overall, and there are many ways that local people can donate or get inspired by Doncaster’s wartime fundraising.

Another Doncaster 1914-18 initiative  - Rifles Troops with local children at Tank Bank day 2

Another Doncaster 1914-18 initiative - Rifles Troops with local children at Tank Bank day 2

Donate items on the ‘comfort pack’ Christmas wish list, during dedicated Drop off Days at Doncaster Museum

Recreate a summer fete or bake sale – as popular in 1918 as in 2018, where guests might be tempted to try wartime recipes like Trench Cake, with inspiration at www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk/resources/recipes

Take part in a Great War on Tour roadshow, taking place at various venues across the borough

Local schools, Doncaster College and local businesses have also pledged their support the campaign!

Project researcher at Doncaster 1914-18, Lynsey Slater, has said that during the First World War fundraising became part of everyday life on the Home Front and Doncaster became one of the UK’s top towns for troop support. For more on ‘From Donny with Love: Comforts at Christmas’, visit www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk/comfortpacks, or to make a donation visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/comfortpacks website.