First World War Charities

Teachers' notes, activities and linked resources

Voluntary work was a major feature of the First World War. On the Home Front there was a huge amount of activity in aid of good causes. Charities were set up to do everything from supporting Belgian refugees to buying ambulances for the army medical service. People knitted socks for soldiers, collected eggs for convalescents, organised entertainments and volunteered as nurses or special constables.


A lot of this charitable activity took place at local level. The Hull and East Riding Prisoners of War Fund, for example, raised £100,000 and sent 131,341 parcels to prisoners of war. The Prisoners of War Fund was chaired by Lady Nunburnholme, but ordinary people also did their bit. At the opposite end of the social scale, the Freehold Bread Fund, set up by Mrs Cohen and Miss Adams of Freehold Street, sent 50 loaves of bread each week to five different prisoner of war camps in Germany.


The Soldiers' and Sailors' Wives Club:
Other charities aimed to support those left at home. The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Wives Club, based at Mason Street in Hull, had over 1,000 members and aimed 'to cheer, strengthen and sustain the lives of those whose husbands were on active service'. The ladies who ran the club provided a crèche for children and gave women a space where they could read, play games or write letters. Its weekly concert programmes regularly attracted 250 women each week.


The Soldiers' Club:
Concerts were also a feature of the Soldiers’ Club based at Beverley Road Baths, which was the largest soldiers’ club in the UK. The baths were covered over and the hall transformed with recreation rooms, a buffet, reading rooms, a library and a post office. Over 1.5 million men passed through the Club during the four years of the war. It hosted weekly concerts with artists from the music halls and theatres, band performances every Sunday afternoon, and was supported by public subscriptions totalling £2,115.


Some historians have argued that the voluntary and charitable work on the Home Front contributed to the Allied victory, both through the practical difference it made and its impact on morale.

Curriculum links:

KS3/4 History – World War One

KS3/4 Citizenship – dealing with conflict, types of conflict


Learning objectives:

Knowledge about the role charitable work played during the First World War

Understanding of the war’s impact on the civilian population

Skills in analysing and interpreting historical evidence

Discussion ideas: 

  • Read the article about the Freehold Bread Fund from the Hull Daily Mail, 15 September 1915 ( see download links below). What problems would the organisers have to overcome in sending bread to Germany?
  • Look at the image above from an article in the Hull Daily Mail on 4 February 1915 (see also download links below). Why do you think charities like the Soldiers’ Club and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Wives Club spent so much time organising entertainments?
  • How important do you think charities were to the war effort?


Activity ideas: 

  • Create a fundraising poster for the Freehold Bread Fund. How will you try to encourage people to donate?
  • Plan your own First World War charity. Who will you aim to benefit? What will you do? How will you get other people to support your charity?


Convalescents - people recovering after illness or medical treatment

Home Front - activities at home supporting a war fought overseas

Public subscriptions - money raised by a large group of people

View other relevant resources on My Learning or scroll down to the bottom of the page for a list of related links and resources on this topic.

See also our sections on Children Raising Funds During Wartime and Hospitals and Nursing in WW1.

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