Group of men from London County & Westminster Bank involved in war loan work at the Bank of England, 1915 © RBS

Supporting the nation

Throughout the First World War the British government asked much of all citizens, including corporate citizens. Banks had to take a vital role in financing the war and maintaining national economic stability

War savings certificate book, 1916 © RBS

Government domestic borrowing

The British government relied on banks to help meet the enormous financial cost of war

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Bank workers involved in alloting the 1915 war loan © RBS

War loans

A series of national war loans, supported by Britain’s banks, was one of the most important sources of government finance

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  • War loans

    • Banking in wartime
    • War loans
    Banks supported and invested in all the war loan issues
  • 1914 war loan

    • Banking in wartime
    • War loans
    The first war loan was a new departure for the government, banks and investors
  • 1915 war loan

    • Banking in wartime
    • War loans
    The second war loan was aimed at individual investors as well as large institutions
  • 1917 war loan

    • Banking in wartime
    • War loans
    The third war loan was also the biggest
Treasury-issue £1 note or 'Bradbury'

Banknotes

Banknotes became a vitally important part of Britain’s wartime economy

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  • The first government banknotes

    • Banking in wartime
    • Banknotes
    The government started issuing its own notes in August 1914
  • Scottish banknotes

    • Banknotes
    • Banking in wartime
    During the war Scottish banknotes became legal tender for the first time
  • The longest bank holiday

    Telegram from Commercial Bank of Scotland's head office, 3 August 1914, instructing Mauchline branch to remain closed until Friday © RBS The threat of war threw money markets into turmoil, and led to Britain's longest-ever bank holiday
  • The role of gold

    First World War era gold sovereigns © RBS The war gave special significance to gold, and changed forever its role in the economy
  • Bankers doing their bit at home

    Cartoon by an anonymous employee of Manchester & Liverpool District Banking Co, showing an ageing banker striding across a war-torn landscape, wearing a pinstripe suit and a tommy's helmet © RBS 2014 Bankers who were too old or infirm to join up found other ways to 'do their bit' at home
  • Sharing our facilities

    Members of London County & Westminster Bank's volunteer training company on parade at the bank's Norbury sports ground, October 1914 © RBS Banks lent premises and facilities to meet wartime public need
  • Helping those in need

    A bank counter displaying a collection box for 'local hospitals for wounded soldiers: please help', December 1914 Charities strove to help the victims of war, and many banks donated time, money or equipment
  • Investing in Italy

    The first annual report of the British Italian Corporation, 1916 © RBS The government asked banks to help strengthen bonds with allies and reduce enemy influence in neutral nations
  • Tank Banks

    Julian the Tank Bank in Aberdeen, 1918 © The Tank Museum (image 7702-B4) Battle-scarred tanks toured the country to raise money for the war effort