‘Save your way to Victory’, and the National Savings Movement

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Figure 1 Used during the 1944 'Salute the Soldier' national campaign, this fundraising meter illustrates the savings target for one of Sale's local savings groups. With a goal to raise £100 from 25 March—1 April, this group exceeded their target: reaching £144 6s 0d within the week. That year, the town of Sale's fundraising goal was £266,000. Trafford Local Studies Collection. cat. ref. SAL/10/2/10/1.

The strength and efficiency of the nation during the Second World War was not only guaranteed through the manufacture of weapons and machinery: wartime savings also played a critical role in the success of the British military campaign. Known as the National Savings Movement, this personal savings programme was responsible for funding the production of ships, weapons and aircraft. It also played a critical role in inspiring patriotism and boosting the morale of the British public during a time of crisis.

Organised nationally and deployed locally, the savings scheme involved nearly every member of the civilian population. What initially began as a personal savings programme quickly evolved into a system which allowed individuals to organise on a local-level and demonstrate their civic pride and community spirit. In an era when public roles were limited for women, it also allowed female members to take on leadership responsibilities within her own community.

Origins of the Movement

First introduced during the First World War (1914–1918) as a way to mitigate the risk of spiralling inflation and balance the nation’s wartime budget, the National Savings programme did not ask civilians to fund the activities of war; rather, it encouraged the public to lend their savings to the government at a fair rate of interest, through the purchase of war bonds or savings certificates.

The movement again gained importance in the 1930s as war once more became imminent. As with the First World War, the Second World War saw high levels of employment of both men and women, combined with a shortage of goods – two conditions which greatly increased the likelihood for economic inflation. The government’s response was to introduce a new savings scheme which asked civilians to resist the urge to save their money and, instead, serve their nation by investing in the war effort.

In defence of Britain!

Every man and woman is in the line of battle. Not a particle of our resources must be wasted. Not a working moment can be spared from war production…

Buy nothing for your personal pleasure or comfort, use no transport, call on no labour, —unless urgent necessity compels…

This money is needed to defend.

- Manchester Evening News, Monday 8 July 1940

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Figure 2  Fundraising leaflet issued to residents of the town of Sale. In 1944, the national savings campaign theme was 'Salute the Soldier'. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. SAL/10/2/10/1.

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Figure 3

Detail of a fundraising leaflet, issued to residents of Sale in 1944. While created by local savings groups, and likely with the assistance of town authorities, this leaflet is similar to those being issued by the National Savings Committee and War Office. By purchasing war bonds or savings certificates, citizens are doing their bit, and providing critical support to the young men on the front lines. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. SAL/10/2/10/1.

‘All in it Together’

The wartime savings scheme was intended to appeal to the conscience of the British public. Phrases such as ‘Save your way to Victory’, ‘Lend to defend the right to be Free’, and ‘Everyone has someone worth fighting for’, were everywhere: from newspapers, posters, the cinema and radio, and proved incredibly effective at strengthening personal resolve. By emphasising that the war was a shared fight that impacted every member of society, the savings campaign was also successful in forging links across the community and boosting national morale.

‘Your Week to Salute the Soldier’

What began as a campaign aimed at ‘the humble man’ and those less-likely to save, rapidly evolved into a vibrant community savings programme: where citizens – assisted by local authorities - organised into local savings groups, and competed against each other to meet ambitious community savings targets, often directed towards the purchase of a weapon of war worth the equivalent amount. Successful groups would not only win certificates, armorial badges, admiralty shields, and cups, but they would also be mentioned in their local and regional newspapers.

While part of the fundraising efforts involved door-to-door collections and weekly contributions made by workers at their places of employment, local savings groups also fundraised through drives, raffles, dances, and community programmes. In Stretford – where, in 1942, their goal was to raise £400,000 to fund a Destroyer of the “Hunt” class – their weekly fundraising programme included a ladies’ fair at the Stretford Public Hall, a women’s day, a themed ‘Manhattan Concert Party’, Warship Week Dance at the Stretford Technical College, and a mobile selling centre (Figure 6). If the town was able to reach their target, they would have the opportunity to adopt the HMS Escapade – a larger, and therefore more noteworthy ship. 

Throughout the Trafford area, communities received awards from the War Office for their outstanding achievements. In 1943, and again in 1944, Sale received Certificates of Honour which recognised their contributions to the war effort (Figures 4–5). In 1943, after surpassing their target of £175,000 by over £25,000, the village of Hale received an Aircraft Log Book as a tribute (Figure 8). During that year’s Wings of Victory fundraising week, their contributions would fund 4 Lancaster bombers and 2 Spitfires – aircraft likely manufactured in nearby Trafford Park.

Not only did these awards cultivate a sense of community pride, they also forged a direct link to the servicemen who needed them. When the HMS Escapade Commemorative Shield was presented by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty of Stretford to commemorate the adoption of the ship in March 1942, a symbolic connection was made between the town and the naval servicemen aboard the ship.

‘Help them help our boys’

The national savings campaign provided women with critical opportunities to take leadership roles within their community: organising warship week events, coordinating house-to-house fundraising, or managing group finances. Both of Sale’s Certificates of Honour from 1943 and 1944 are addressed to Mrs. Moss of the Hanley Road savings group, while Stretford’s 1942 War Weapons Week programme highlights the organisation of an entire day’s events by the female members of their savings committee. In Altrincham, the Mayoress served as Chair of a Comforts Fund Committee, together with the Deputy Mayoress and other female members. From November to April 1941, their committee was responsible for coordinating the assembly of 1,708 comforts to frontline soldiers — containing woollen goods, cigarettes, soap, and writing paper. 

‘Don’t be blinded by the squander bug!’

The national savings movement also provided citizens with an opportunity to display their respectability, social status, and financial security. Participation in the campaign not only demonstrated one’s ability to budget, but it also showed a person’s patriotism. Thoughtless spending and conspicuous consumption, on the other hand, were quickly equated to unpatriotic and immoral behaviour. These views are best exemplified by the appearance of ‘the squander bug’ in public posters and newspapers. Created by an employee of the National Savings Committee, this insect was often illustrated sitting on the shoulder of young, fashionably dressed women, encouraging her to spend her money, rather than buying savings certificates and helping the nation shorten the war.


Figure 7 Photograph depicting events which took place in Altrincham, during national savings week in 1945. Trafford Local Studies, cat. ref. TL2963. 


Carol Harris, Women at War 1939–1945 (London: Pavilion Books, 2013)

Imperial War Museum, Meet the Squander Bug (2018) <https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/meet-the-squander-bug> [Accessed 01/05/2020]

Vicki Masterson and Karen Cliff, Stretford: An Illustrated History (Breedon Books Publishing Co., 2002)

Peter Schofield, National Savings and Warship Weeks < http://vandwdestroyerassociation.org.uk/PDF/National%20Savings%20and%20Warship%20Weeks.pdf> [Accessed 01/05/2020]

Singleton R.W. (2014) ‘Doing Your Bit’: Women and the National Savings Movement in the Second World War. In: Andrews M., Lomas J. (eds) The Home Front in Britain. Palgrave Macmillan, London

Manchester Evening News, Thursday 14 March 1940

Manchester Evening News, Monday 8 July 1940

Manchester Evening News, Wednesday 31 March 1943

Manchester Evening News, Wednesday 16 June 1943

Manchester Evening News, Saturday 12 March 1949

‘Save your way to Victory’, and the National Savings Movement