The Silver Thimble Fund
One of the most successful charities of the First World War, the Silver Thimble Fund was founded by Wimbledon resident, Miss. Hope Clarke in July 1915. Temporarily disabled in an accident, she contributed to the war effort by sewing comforts for the troops. Finding one of her silver thimbles worn through, plus another two lying damaged and unwanted, it occurred to her that such items could be sold to fund the purchase of a motor ambulance for use at the Front.
Miss. Hope Clarke initially planned to raise £400 over a 2 - 3 year period. A Press appeal on 8 July 1915 resulted in a hand delivered parcel of goods from a former Wimbledon resident living in Surbiton. Many similar parcels arrived and in just one month the sale of unwanted trinkets had generated sufficient money to purchase the first ambulance, which was duly named "The Silver Thimble."
News of the fund spread and Queen Alexandra, the mother of King George V became its patron, followed by her sister-in-law, Princess Louise and several notable members of Society. The Silver Thimble Fund also spread worldwide, with collection centres established everywhere from Canada and New Zealand, to the U.S.A and even China.
More than 30 successful fundraising appeals were launched, raising enough money to purchase 15 motor ambulances, 5 motorised hospital launches, 2 mobile dental surgeries and disinfectant units for use in conflict zones around the world. £1000 raised at the local Town Hall was used to purchase a motor launch named "Wimbledon," for use by disabled soldiers. The Fund also endowed hospital wards, supply depots and provided financial backing to wartime support services including the Soldiers and Sailors Help Society and St. Dunstan's charity for blind veterans.
Trustees of the Fund were also keen to provide for the future needs of wounded servicemen and those in need. £7000 was awarded to the Naval Employment Agency for grants to allow disabled men to start a new life. £10,000 was also given to support disabled Merchantmen who had no pension and £2250 endowed a room at the Star and Garter Home for totally disabled soldiers.
Asprey of London, famous purveyor of luxury goods, was given responsibility for storing and selling the vast quantity of donated jeweller and £30,000 of bullion was received at the Band of England for war work. By the end of the First World War, the Silver Thimble Fund had raised nearly £60,000 for good causes.