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March 13, 2022

Women Workers at H. M. Government Printing and Stationery Office in Harrow, England, 1932

That’s a lot of paperwork! These women in one of the counting and packing rooms in the Government Printing and Stationery Office are shown working on forms for the conversion of the £2 billion loan taken out by the UK government in 1917 to finance the country’s huge debts incurred in fighting the First World War.

(Photo by Topical Press Agency)

In order to raise funds for the war, bonds were originally sold to the public with an interest rate of five percent. In 1932, the bond was converted into a lower coupon issue of 3.5 percent, after the UK’s debt became unsustainably high. Before the age of computers, each bond hand to be individually converted, which is what these women are doing here.

Between 1917 and 2015, the U.K. Debt Management Office estimated that Britain had paid approximately £5.5 billion in total interest on the 5 percent and 3.5 percent war loans since 1917. In 2015, when the Debt Management Office finally redeemed the remaining bonds, there were still 38,000 holders of war loan bonds, each with under £100 of bonds outstanding.


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