Object Type: Folder
In Folder: WWII Showcase
The War Comforts Fund Association
The Wool Knitters Roll of Warco was reportedly growing by 50 knitters each day, with more than 12,000 people contributing comfort items. LPTB employees knitted garments whenever and wherever they could.
Staff enrolled into the scheme voluntarily. They were required to pay a subscription of 1d (pence) a week, which was automatically deducted from their wage or salary. The fund was also supplemented by donations. These were made by LPTB Board members, staff sports and social clubs, individual trolleybus depots, external organisations, and retired staff.
Even after the War ended, LPTB’s Warco continued to support staff and their dependents. Following the death of Wood Green bus driver W.C. Fowle, who died from his injuries sustained in a rocket attack nine months later, Warco campaigned on the widow's behalf to reclassify his death under the Personal Injuries (Civilian) act, increasing her pension as a result.
Dubbed ‘Warco’ by staff, its mission was to provide financial support to the dependents of enlisted men as well as to households devastated by air raids at home. It also endeavored to provide knitted garments and cigarettes to staff in war service.
Funds raised were used to provide financial support to the families of men on war service and housing air raid victims, as well as to buy medical aid supplies, wool to make knitted garments for staff, and cigarettes to send to prisoners of war. By August 1940, the fund had 54,633 contributors out of an 86,500 strong work force, with the Country Buses & Coaches section having 95% of their staff registered.
The scheme was doing a phenomenal job and yet despite having given more than £40,000 (£2.2 million equivalent) in grants by February 1944, an article in the staff magazine made it clear that there was a regret at having to refuse aid to some because they did not subscribe.
As the war ended, LPTB’s Management Committee came to the decision to cease collecting subscriptions from July 1945. The fund’s remaining balance of £210,000 was used to support the families of staff killed in active service or during air raids. The scheme had been an overwhelming success. As of July 1945, a total of £88,974 had been allocated to 14,000 cases relating to air raid damages and 2,600 claims made caused by some kind of distress. In addition to this, the fund had spent £20,000 on 211,500 woollen comforts and £5,500 on cigarettes sent to staff held captive in prisoner of war camps.
In 1939, a Christmas pudding and a pair of knitted socks were sent to staff on war service both on the home front and in the armed forces. Every comrade serving overseas also received an extra one hundred cigarettes. 7,000 Christmas puddings were sent to enlisted troops along with 7,000 knitted comforts to London Passenger Transport Board’s own Anti-Aircraft batteries and 1,240 men in other regiments. 1,024 knitted articles were also presented to the children of serving LPTB men.
Lady Ashfield, wife of LPTB Chairman Lord Albert Stanley Ashfield, was appointed President of the London Transport War Comforts Fund Association (Warco). A management committee was also created led by Mr John Cliff who was Deputy Chairman of London Transport during the war.
Warco was renowned for its “army of war knitters” - volunteers recruited from staff and the wives and relatives of LTPB men in war service.
Warco also sent care packages to prisoners of war which comprised of knitted garments and cigarettes.
In September 1939, Britain and the allies were at war with Germany. Almost immediately, the London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB) set up the War Funds Comfort Association to help its staff and their families until peace returned.
By October 1940, £7,500 had been distributed from Warco and the Benevolent Fund. Come November 1940 this had risen to £13,500 (£761,000 in today’s money) being distributed from Warco alone. By 22 January 1941, 4,145 grants had been made to sufferers from damage to property or from personal injury by air raid.
It wasn't just the women who made up the army of knitters. A "well known" male employee from the administrative staff signed up to knit during his time of recuperation in hospital, claiming it helped to aid his recovery.
Warco and the Benevolent Fund in alliance came to the aid of staff and their families who suffered due to air raids, especially where death took the bread-winner, and gave money to get food, clothes, lodging and other immediate wants.
Within its first year, 111,000 knitted comforts were sent to all enlisted men serving at home and overseas and within three years 183,239 woollen items had been sent to troops. This amounted to 23 tonnes of wool! 214,800 knitting needles had also been sent out to volunteers by October 1942.
Warco additional edit images
November 1940 saw the cost of subscriptions increase from 1d to 6d for staff who could afford it. This incurred as Warco had to find thousands of pounds for the temporary relief of staff who lost their homes due to air raids and, in some cases, suffered bereavement.