Many bank clerks who stayed at work were keen to do something for colleagues who’d joined up. The staff of Parr’s Bank’s large London Bartholomew Lane office took a monthly collection, which was used to buy treats for absent friends. In the first year of operation, their scheme paid for 180 parcels, made up of 19,250 cigarettes; 39lb of tobacco; 186lbs of chocolate; 47lb of acid drops; 41lb of bullseyes; 324 handkerchiefs; 120 tins of fish or fruit; and various pairs of mittens and socks.
Other branches sent similar parcels. In March 1915, Henry McWilliams of Liverpool branch wrote to thank colleagues for gifts they had sent: ‘I was very pleased to get them, especially the sweets. They were just the sort I needed. Nobody, unless he has been in the trenches, can imagine what an absolute treasure such things are, out here. I thank you and all the friends who sent them, most heartily.’ This was the last letter Liverpool branch received from McWilliams. He was killed in action two weeks later.
For amusements we have a YMCA tent. I can't speak from experience as to the quality of the concerts given there, but I infer from the fact that about 50 or 60 men turned up one evening to hear me discourse upon 'International Banking and Foreign Exchange' that the concerts are on the verge of the Better-Than-Nothing line.
Private NC Ingram, formerly of London County & Westminster Bank, 1916
Many staff also wanted to contribute on a larger scale, and worked with colleagues on fundraising efforts. In summer 1917 the staff of London County & Westminster Bank held an event to raise money for YMCA huts. These huts provided refreshments and relaxation for soldiers at the front line, in army camps or in transit at railway stations. Numerous bank men had mentioned them in letters, ‘testifying to what a heaven-sent blessing’ they were.
The fundraising day was held in June 1917 at the bank’s staff sports ground in Norbury. There was a tennis tournament followed by a concert. The bank itself started the ball rolling by donating 25 guineas, which was enough to cover expenses so that all further money went straight to the YMCA. Staff who lived too far away to attend also sent donations. Leighton Buzzard branch, for example, had a War Relief Fund, to which each member gave a small donation every month. They sent two guineas from their fund to support the appeal.
Although the primary purpose was to raise money, the event also helped bring staff together. This was the first bank social event for many newer colleagues, and the first time they’d seen the sports ground which, before the war, had been at the heart of so many London clerks’ social lives.
The event raised enough to pay for two YMCA huts. By May 1918, however, news came that both had been lost. One had been blown up by a shell, and the other had fallen behind enemy lines. Undeterred, the staff decided to do it all over again. Another event was held in June 1918, and even more money raised. As the staff magazine noted when plans were in development, ‘Difficulties, of course, there will be…but if everybody cooperates, you will not convince us it cannot be done.’