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Do you remember that episode of “Dad’s army” when Private Pike dresses up as a squanderbug to raise money for a Spitfire? “Patriotic pence” (classmark 1917.7.1005) is a play for children, written for similar fundraising activities during the first world war. The play centres around Mrs Smith and her children who are wasting money. The Home Fairy visits (Costume suggestion – silver tinselled gauze. “That’s a smart outfit for a district visitor” says Mrs Smith) and points out that the pennies are being wasted on peppermints and going to the pictures, while they could be used to help soldiers at the front.

“When shells thick in air they are hoverin’,

I want so to help them, don’t you?

But the tip of a shell costs a sovereign,

So what can a poor penny do?”

 Enter Serjeant Shilling, who explains that pennies do matter: “every fourpence saved pays for three cartridges for the boys out in the trenches.”  The play ends in a wild dance featuring the children dressed as pennies, chanting:

“A saving we will go!

A saving we will go!

Put our money in a box and mend our socks,

A saving we will go!”

As you can tell, I enjoyed this play very much, and was excited to see that it was actually performed in at least two junior schools during the first world war (see David Parker’s “Hertfordshire children in war and peace”)

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