I’m sure a good many of you have probably not heard of the group “Bundles for Britain” that started during the war, as I haven’t heard of it myself until reading a book on New York in World War II. I figured it was a very interesting and very proactive look at America just before entering the war and our own activities with the war effort for Britain.
Bundles for Britain was started in 1940 by Natalie Wales Latham in a store front as a knitting circle in New York City that sent various knitted goods such as socks, scarves, gloves and other items over to aid the war effort and support those fighting for Britain. In sixteen months Bundles became such a success that there were over 975 branches and over a million contributors. By 1941, the group was sending over much more than just knitted wearables – ambulances, field kitchen units, surgical instruments, cots, and much more were sent during their tenure.
Ms. Latham thought that despite the Neutrality Act of 1939 and the Lend-Lease Program that America should be doing more to help Britain’s cause. She managed to borrow a Park Avenue storefront rent free and posted a picture of a British service member and sat in the window and began knitting. Before the night had ended, numerous others had come to join her. And they joined not a second too late – nationwide rationing began on 8 January 1940, and Bundles for Britain was born six
Just over a year later, the group had expanded to 975 branches and helped raise over $3 million dollars for their cause. Not only did they collect knitted clothing, but began to collect numerous other items as well. If the items could not be used then they were sold to help raise funding. Before long, Bundles traded their Park Avenue storefront for office space as well as a shipping and storage house on 89th Street. Ms. Latham began to correspond with Mrs. Winston Churchill herself in order to ensure a more efficient use of the items and help she sent. And throughout the months of the Blitzkrieg, Bundles adopted 19 London hospitals and sent money to pair for their repairs.
Bundles for Britain was a very important and oft overseen contribution to the war effort before America officially joined the war. Being able to have a small movement grow into a huge national organization like Ms. Latham did take a significant amount of gusto and also even more of an amount of dedication as well as support. America had all of that. Many think that the U.S. was completely isolationist just before the war, but that is not completely true as evidenced by the sheer power that Bundles had managed to grow in a short period of time. I believe reality was setting in on a good portion of Americans, and we saw Britain as our sister who was in dire straights with an enemy who was becoming more malevolent every day. While Ms. Latham and her Bundles comrades did not serve in uniform, they certainly did serve to help the war effort and surely helped Britain when she needed it most. America entered the war of December 1941 to provide aide in the Allies winning the war, but certainly Bundles for Britain provided as well – they provided help during a time of great sacrifice.