Over the next few months, interns and volunteers on the Reflections project will write a few blog posts to discuss their experience working on the project and some of the research materials they have uncovered. This time volunteer Jane Roberts-Morpeth looks at the visit to Newcastle of Julian the Tank Bank in January 1918.
By 1917 fund raising for the war effort from the general public from the sale of war bonds was flagging. As a response to this, ‘Tank Banks’ were introduced to encourage ordinary folks to buy bonds in the presence of a number of decommissioned tanks. A short silent film of a Tank Bank can be seen on British Pathe website here.
Tank Bank 113 Julian arrived at the Forth Goods Station railway yard in Newcastle upon Tyne on New Year’s Eve 1917, having previously been in Manchester. On New Year’s Day it left the yard at 8.30am to travel via Neville Street, Grainger Street, Blackett Street and Northumberland Street to the Haymarket under its own steam. It was accompanied by a military guard and a police escort.
At 11am it was declared officially open by the Lord Mayor G. Lunn and began to sell war bonds and war savings certificates. Rather quirky to modern eyes, carrier pigeons were used to send regular updates of how much had been raised.
Local retailers quickly realized the advertising potential of the tank bank, and the Newcastle Daily Journal on the 31st December 1917 held several adverts for stores highlighting their wares alongside promoting visits to the tank bank. These include Stells of Northumberland Street (a clothing retailer) and ‘The House of Sopwiths’ exhorting people to ‘Look in on your way to the Tank Bank!’
Fenwicks Department Store supported the visit by giving every twelfth buyer in store on the 2nd January 1918 between 12 and 2pm a war bond paid for by the store; an offer repeated again between 6 and 8pm. On Friday 4th staff were given a ‘free hour’ when the store closed and they were encouraged to go and buy bonds.
The New Pavilion Theatre on Westgate Road offered free admission for the whole of January 2018 to purchasers of war bonds over the value of £10 from Julian to their show. At the time they were showing a play called ‘Intolerance’, followed in the second week of January by ‘a charming five act romance Like Wildfire’.
The Illustrated Chronicle carried pictures of Julian’s visit throughout the week, mainly of the visiting dignitaries, the pigeons being released and crowds of visitors. The weather held fair for four days, then broke into snow towards the end of the week.
The Sunderland Daily Echo (7th January 1918) reports that Julian raised £3,032,324 during its stay in Newcastle. At this stage of the Tank Bank campaign this was the most per capita of any city the Tank Banks had visited – £19 10s compared with Manchester’s £6 11s. Julian closed for business in Newcastle at 8pm on Saturday 5th January 1918, and left with a band and military escort to the station en route to Edinburgh. According to the Illustrated Chronicle a crowd of near 50,000 people turned out in the snow to see him off. The people of Newcastle had responded resoundingly to the call of the war tanks.