As soon as war was declared it was realised that the conflict would place unparalleled strains on the county and lead to suffering and hardship at home as well as at the front. It was originally feared that strains on the economy would lead to a rise in unemployment though in fact this proved a false alarm. Even so, pressures on families because of the enlistment of the main breadwinner or the rising price of food and fuel rose through the war.
To alleviate hardship, the County Committee for the Prevention and Relief of Distress in the War was established in 1914. It included representatives from Surrey County Council, local Boards of Guardians, District Councils, the Territorial Association, the County Branches of the Soldiers and Sailors Families Association and the British Red Cross Society, Labour Exchanges, employers, trades unions and philanthropic agencies. At parish level too 103 local emergency committees were set up in the early months. They raised money for the County Fund inaugurated by the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey, Lord Ashcombe, in August 1914, and also provided direct support for local cases of distress. One such committee was the Lingfield Area Emergency Committee, whose surviving records, 1915-1919, detail its efforts on behalf of local hospitals and convalescent homes and in support of Belgian refugees in the area.
The Lord Lieutenant’s Fund sought to raise money across Surrey for four chief causes: the National Relief Fund (Prince of Wales’ Fund); the Surrey Branch of the British Red Cross Society for support of war hospitals and homes; the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association (Surrey); and the needs of the county in connection with the County Committee for the Prevention and Relief of Distress caused by the War. Though not directly involved in the relief of individual cases of hardship, its money raising activities continued throughout the war, finally being wound up in 1920.