This month’s column features a wartime poster advertising a dance to benefit Mrs. Churchill’s Red Cross Aid for Russia Fund. The dance was held in the Bilsthorpe village hall. Bilsthorpe, located in Nottinghamshire, supported a local colliery (coal mine) beginning in 1927. The colliery closed in 1997 but the village survives, with an estimated current population of 3,300.
During the Second World War, Bilsthorpe had an active coalliery, and the population was much larger. A fundraising dance for Mrs. Churchill’s fund included dance prizes, refreshments, and lively dance music performed by Martin Murray and His Boys. For those wondering, this was not the singer Martin Murray of the British group The Honeycombs, since he was only born in 1941.
After Nazi Germany invaded its territory, Russia was in dire need of nonmilitary goods to sustain its civilian population. Clementine Churchill, the wife of the Prime Minister, volunteered to chair “Mrs. Churchill’s Red Cross Aide to Russia Fund.” This organization, under the auspices of the British Red Cross, focused on raising money to supply the Russian people with food, medicine, and clothing. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth donated £1,000 shortly after the fund was announced, and many citizens donated by having a penny deducted from their weekly pay. By war’s end, Mrs. Churchill’s fund had raised more than three million pounds. For her efforts, Russia awarded her the Red Banner of Labour.
This poster measures 11″ x 18” and was printed locally in anticipation of the dance. It is a rare survivor and excellent representative of wartime British grassroots efforts to raise needed funds for the many home front causes and charities. When called upon, the citizens of Britain selflessly delivered.
Brian Krapf’s forthcoming book We Want Winston!—A Treasury of Memorabilia will be published later this fall.
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