Fundraising went on throughout the Great War, with jumble sales, fetes and concerts all being used to raise money for charities that helped soldiers, prisoners of war and refugees. One of the most popular sources of income was to sell small paper flags on little metal pins. These charity flags were hugely popular and it is believed the idea originated in 1914 with a Scottish lady called Mrs Morrison who started the movement in 1914. The following is taken from a website on World War 1 PoWs that can be found here:
On Saturday 5th September 1914, Mrs Morrison launched her first collection of the Great War. Three thousand six hundred collecting tins were issued and each collector carried a tray laden with flags. It soon became evident that the sellers ‑ with their red, white and blue scarves, and members of the Boys’ Brigade and Boy Scouts who assisted them, “had entirely captured the sympathy of the public.” she said.
One lady had been energetic enough to get up at 5 a.m. to begin selling to “workmen on the night‑shift returning home, and collected five half‑crowns in one tramway car.” By midday the entire stock of Union Jacks had almost gone, and “another half a million could have been sold with ease.” Not to be outdone, several resourceful ladies “cut up and sold their own ribbons and [official] badges” and willing hands at the main depot, set to work cutting ribbon rolls of the national colours into tiny pieces and making flags of them. “It was a most unexceptional thing”, said Mrs Morrison, “to meet anybody who did not sport a flag or fragment of ribbon.”
The agreeable manner in which the public, “from the errand boy, to the Weary Willie on the park seat, to the City Magnate, responded to the appeal showed how deeply they were affected”, she said. “Forty four sellers traveled on the river steamers and did good business for the fund.” At the end of the day, “the weight and bulk of the collecting boxes returned to the Central Office, was far in excess of what had been anticipated”, so that, “the handling of them presented a serious problem.”
When the boxes were emptied it was found that the total weight of coins amounted to about five tons and it took 60 people two days to count the pile. On Tuesday morning the press was informed that the remarkable sum of £3,800 had been raised.
The extraordinary success of Mrs Morrison’s flag day was widely noticed, and soon “received letters from all parts of the country”, she said, “asking for information and assistance, as others were anxious to take up the idea, when it was seen how easily large sums could be obtained, by such a simple method.The holding of flag days as a rewarding means of raising money for worthy causes was proved for all to see.” One of the most worthy of causes was that of raising money through the sale of penny-flags to help British prisoners of war in Germany.
Although the phenomenon spread across the country, today we are looking at a Scottish charity flag for a charity called ‘Jock’s Box’:
Unfortunately I can find no information about this charity, but an educated guess would suggest that it might have been raising money to send parcels of comforts to Scottish troops at the front. The design features the Royal Scottish flag on one side, and a mounted Royal Scots Grey on the other:
These little flags have survived in large numbers, often in the leaves of scrap books, and so are still an easily accessible area of collecting with many examples costing only a few pounds.