Updated: Oct 19, 2020
Hidden away inside the Student Union building of the University of Greenwich are lots of plaques. What are these plaques for you may ask? Well, they were originally created to commemorate those organisations and individuals that made donations to fund the hospital that used be in that building (1). There is one in particular that we are concerned with, the one commemorating the Silver Thimble Fund from WW1.
Saville, John. ‘Dreadnought Library’, 2011. http://www.jrsaville.co.uk/dreadnought_liibrary.htm.
The Silver Thimble Fund was set up by Miss Hope Elizabeth Hope-Clarke in 1915 at her home in Wimbledon. She noticed an opportunity to use all the thimbles that were being broken as women were making garments to send to soldiers at the front. She began to collect them and other small trinkets made of precious metals with the aim of melting them down to give the profit to purchase medical equipment. In 1915 she wrote an appeal in The Times creating The Silver Thimble Fund. The first thing purchased with the proceeds was an ambulance, which impressed Queen Alexandra, mother of George V; she became their patron. (3)
Between 1915-1919, 30 appeals collected 60,000 Thimbles which amounted to 5 ambulances, 5 motor hospital launches, 2 dental surgery cars and a disinfector. The charity went global, with hospital launches as far as Iraq and 160 centres established throughout the commonwealth. One week’s collection at Westminster hall was enough to buy an entire radiological outfit. At the end of the war, the remaining money was used to erect shelters outside Kensington Palace to commemorate the dead. (3)
(1) Greenwich Student Union. ‘History / A New SU’. History of Dreadnought. Accessed 15 March 2020. https://www.greenwichsu.co.uk/anewsu/history/.
(2) Saville, John. ‘Dreadnought Library’, 2011. http://www.jrsaville.co.uk/dreadnought_liibrary.htm.
(3) Historic England. ‘How Did Thimbles Help Thousands of Servicemen in the First World War?’, 2015. http://historicengland.org.uk/listing/what-is-designation/heritage-highlights/how-did-thimbles-help-thousands-of-servicemen-in-the-first-world-war/