Royal British Legion's Paper PoppyRoyal British Legion's Paper PoppySedbergh and its district was at the time a small but vibrant and self-sufficient market town surrounded by a farming community. The total population was in the region of 4,000 people. The farms were small and little above subsistence level. It had no real industries and the only differing feature was the presence of a public school. That may have contributed to employment in the town, but was not a source of great wealth.

When one trolls through the newspaper reports of the time a feature that stands out is the amount of small sums raised from week to week. To the modern eye they sound very small – £3 here and £5 there. But if inflation tables are applied to these sums they look very different. At the beginning of the war the appropriate multiplier to gain a modern equivalent was 60 so £3 at that time would be equivalent to £180 in today’s terms (2018). By the end of the war inflation had rocketed due to the country’s desperate financial state and the appropriate multiplier had fallen to 40 making £3 equivalent to £120 today, the corresponding figures for £5 would be £300 and £200. In addition the tables warn that the actual purchasing power was often considerably greater.

These relatively small sums, raised by jumble sales, dances, entertainments, whist drives etc , were mostly, but not exclusively, raised for war charities. However, they were not always small sums – a sale at Sedbergh Auction Mart in September 1940 raised £325 – almost £19,000 in modern terms – for the Spitfire Fund.

However, the truly surprising funds raised were those achieved each year for the National fund raising weeks. In 1941 for War Weapons week the Town decided to attempt to raise £25,000 – a huge sum which might be thought ambitious even in modern money. The Town threw itself into effort and this sum had been surpassed by £10,000 by the end of the first day. The Post Office stayed open until 7.30 pm each night, and the banks opened for an hour in the evening. Entertainments, football matches, parades, open gardens, displays, concerts, dances, whist drives, film shows and exhibitions took place. And the final sum raised was £96,626 – said to be enough to buy 19 spitfires. The inflation table makes this over £4,000,000, but estimates that its “economic power”, or purchasing power, was anything up to £17,000,000 in modern terms.

But that was by no means the end of the story. For Warships Week in 1942 the Town again decided to try to raise a further £25,000 to finance an MTB (motor torpedo boat). Again this had been achieved by the end of the first day, and the final sum raised was more than twice that. The Town supported their MTB with gifts and money until it was sunk. A plaque given by the Admiralty in thanks for the money raised is displayed in the Tourist Information Centre.

In 1943 the week was Wing for Victory which took place during a bitterly cold week. This time they were more ambitious and set a target of £40,000 for a Lancaster bomber, and raised £82,750 – said to be enough to purchase eight Spitfires as well as the bomber. The Town had already raised £9,000 for a Tanks for Attack campaign, enough to finance a Churchill tank.

The last such campaign was Salute the Soldier week in June 1944. This time the Town decided to aim for £45,000 for three Churchill tanks. The final total was just under the sum raised in 1941 at £96,546, although with the country’s economic situation and inflation it did not have the same purchasing power. The contributions of the surrounding parishes to these sums should not be ignored. Dent had a target of £1,500 n 1944 and raised investments of £16,825. The ecclesiastical parishes of Dent and Garsdale received certificates for their fine work in raising weekly savings. Cautley apparently deserved one but not being an ecclesiastical parish did not qualify.

Although a great deal of these sums was raised in cash in sixpences, shillings and pounds the bulk was in war savings certificates. By 1943 Sedbergh had done particularly well with wartime savings. The National Average was £12 12s 9d (£530) per head, and Sedbergh’s average was £20 16s. 7d. (£875). For small savings the National average was £5 3s 7d (£217) whereas Sedbergh’s was £14 (£590). The group savings were also well above the average. In 1944 Sedbergh was presented with the Yorkshire Championship Savings Flag for the highest total of small savings in the county.

Click on any of the photos below for a larger image.

Motor torpedo boat 93

In Warships Week in 1942 the Town raised enough money to finance this motor torpedo boat

Plaque from the Admiralty to Sedbergh

Plaque with inscription ‘Presented by the Lords Commissioners of The Admiralty to Sedbergh Rural District to commemorate the adoption of HMMTB 93 during Warship Week, March 14th 1942’

Plaque from Sedbergh to MTB 93

Plaque with inscription ‘Presented by the people of Sedbergh Rural District to H.M.M.T.B. 93 to commemorate its adoption during Warship Week, March 14th 1942’

Fundraising poster

Fundraising poster in Main Street with slogan ‘Buy stamps to blot him out’

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