During WWI there was a call for knitters to provide for men in the trenches. There were also calls for those back home to work in munitions factories … we’ve combined these facts and are creating a knitted torpedo for the production 100: UnEarth at Heligan. Candy Smit has been busy researching this subject for us.
World War 1 introduced an entirely new style of warfare, whereby fighting men were generally neither at sea nor on horseback – needing their colonial allegiance and identity to be distinguishable – but on the ground, sometimes only yards from the enemy – and essentially needing to be camouflaged.
Standard issue clothing included shirt, trousers, belt and braces, waistcoat, jacket, cardigan, woollen drawers, puttees, worsted socks, cap and a great coat – almost all in standard issue ‘Khaki’. During the first few months it was generally hoped that the war would be over by Christmas; but as the months turned into years and more and more men were called up, clothiers and outfitters could no longer keep up with demand. Communication from the Front back home was controlled but highly efficient and likewise, increasingly, supplies of various ‘comforts’ back out to the men fulfilled a growing need. As time went by and battlefield conditions worsened, it was not simply messages of support and treats but essential items of warm clothing that were delivered from the family back home. While making these items heightened family awareness of the danger and dire conditions of their menfolk, these creative communities also in themselves helped to consolidate morale back home. To this day, craft communities are capable of galvanising action and change on a significant scale.
In the absence of their menfolk, women also worked in munitions factories, took to the land to produce food and undertook all sorts of other key functions previously in the male domain. They began to become politicised too, campaigning for the vote. Hence, this ‘knitted’ expression of support from female loved ones represented something far from genteel or mundane and helped to re-galvanise communities bereft of their young men.
When so many men thousands of men were literally lost on the battlefields, it was sometimes the identification of a personal comfort that enabled families to know where their young men had fallen.
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