It is estimated that over one million pairs of socks were knitted by Australian women and children during World War One. The Australian Comforts Fund co-ordinated knitting circles and distributed free ‘comforts’ to the Australian troops which included tobacco, chocolate, newspapers, cakes and knitted items. Knitting socks and other items of clothing was one way that Australians could feel they were contributing to the war effort.
Many soldiers were evacuated from the front line suffering with trench foot. Prolonged exposure to damp, unsanitary, and cold conditions caused boils and sores, which could lead to fungal infections, gangrene, and even amputation. Keeping one’s feet dry and regularly changing one’s socks were two ways to help stop the spread of trench foot.Our exhibition Wartime Woollens remembers the silent contribution of these knitters one hundred years ago. It also gives a glimpse into how the knitted comforts were received by the men at the front.The idea for the exhibition came from members of a local knitters’ group which meets regularly at the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame. A call out to an online knitting group generated a lot more interest.And so, to show their support, the knitting began. Just like one hundred years ago.