Prisoners of War 1914-1918 : Download original documents

PoW Charity Flags and Flag Days            


During the Great War voluntary fund raisers employed many methods to raise money for food parcels to be sent to prisoners of war. They held jumble sales, performed concerts, made door to door collections and sold PoW related picture postcards and held Penny Flag-Days.

There flags and badges were sold in support of British prisoners of war. For example, a pin-badge on sale in Scotland on 17th July 1915, (illustrated on the extreme left) was sold to aid "SOLDIERS INTERNED IN GERMANY." and was later reproduced on a postcard by 'Hillside Printing Works, Gorgle, Edinburgh' .


The Founder of the Flag-Day Movement

Mrs Agnus Morrison, the daughter of an Edinburgh lawyer, organised the first official flag-day of the Great War. Before the conflict 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 Mrs Morrison organised numerous charity events, the first was in March 1900, in aid of the Fund for Sufferers in the South African War.

Therefore, when war broke out in August 1914, it came as no surprise to those who knew her, when Agnes Morrison established the Flag Day movement. Before the conflict was over, she would raise over £25,000,000 for worthy causes. A staggering amount of money. Today, the equivalent of about £1,750,000,000


The 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.” she said.

One lady had been energetic enough to get up at 5 a.m. to begin 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.” 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 traveled on the river steamers and did good business for the fund." At the end of the day, “the weight and bulk of the collectig 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 flag day was widely noticed, and soon “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.” One of the most worthy of causes was that of raising money through the sale of penny-flags to help British prisoners of war in Germany.


           Wounded Soldiers Selling Penny-flags

It was not only women who collected funds for the flag-day movement. This photo- graphic postcard depicts convalescent soldiers with trays of penny flags, collecting tins and postcards. Four of them 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. There are no details on the back of the card, although it was quite likely they were collecting funds for the hospital or convalescent home in which they were in.

      Flag Day Poster

Escaped German Prisoner of War

In 1917, a pin‑flag almost led to the unmasking of an escaped German PoW. When Oberleutnant Heinz Justus absconded from a prison camp, he decided to go to London where he visited a theater, 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,"


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