Wartime Woollens

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.