From The Times, 25th September 1917.
COMFORTS FOR 1917-18.
KNITTERS AND THEIR WORK.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.Sir,—I am very grateful for 10,999 good comforts for the troops sent me in answer to my letter on summer knitting. I am not perturbed by Hephzibah's apt yet chastening dictum, “much cry and little wool.” Every post tells me that only a proportion of the things knitted from my patterns comes my way. The housemaid’s brother-in-law and the laundryman's nephew upset my figures, but the Army is served just as well by these and other deserving warriors being supplied direct. Friends of this industry may like to know that the total amount of comforts received to date is 83,337, of which just about half are sweaters.
Now, Sir, may I save the Post Office, the public, the paper interest, and myself much wasted energy by answering here a few daily breakfast-table conundrums: —
“Why doesn’t the Government supply the things if they are really needed?” Now, old subscriber, our men form the best equipped armies ever put into the field in the course of history, but that is not to say that it is for the Government to dress them up like White Knights to meet every possible emergency. The extras (the comforts, that is) are to be supplied as wanted by you, and it is to be your pride to do this ungrudgingly as it is mine to stick on the stamps—while I think of it I might have a few more of these sent me now. When you come to think of it, the technical use of the word “comfort” is an addition to the vocabulary of the war, and it is instinctively a good one—though it sounds oddly when applied to mouth organs. The fact is the human mind is so constituted that in times of very special stress and trouble the little extra personal comforts to which one is attached bulk very large indeed. I know of one distinguished explorer who always wears light gloves in the primeval forest, and I remember that for three months on the Upper Amazon I had a clean handkerchief every day. (It was the same handkerchief though.) There is then this intimate personal side to comforts, there is further the “very grateful sense of being remembered at home even by those who never saw us” (there. Sir, I have put it in just as you wrote to me), and there is the larger issue that a good comfort has often saved a good man's life.
“Will you please let me know to whom these things go? Do you distribute them yourself?” I did once. I look back to the bad days of wet camps, blue uniforms, pneumonia, mud, and flurry, when one rushed about giving first-aid, so to speak, to the comfortless, of any old thing, and I still treasure the letters and receipts of the winter 1914. Those days seem a long way off now and, so far as comforts are concerned, the Government seems to have beaten our friends over the way at their own pet game of organization. Besides the time-honoured regimental associations, a central “pool of comforts” has been created for the vast army of “nobody’s children” —labour companies, machine-gun units, trench mortar batteries, whose numbers form the most astonishing feature of the armies of to-day. From this pool every commanding officer is authorized to draw exactly what he wants for his men from the base depots on all the fronts. The mechanism is there to perfection, but it is for us to see that it is kept working top speed, full measure, pressed down and flowing over.
“I like to knit what is most useful; what comforts are most needed?” Madam, to-day, September 25, 1917, we want every single hall-marked comfort we can get. Special needs may emerge later in the year, but what is wanted now is a vast store of gloves, helmets, mittens, mufflers, socks, and sweaters for the commanding officers to draw on according to their need. So for the present you really have your choice.
“I should be glad to help; but where can I get wool at a reasonable price?” Well, the wool is a difficulty; perhaps it may help if I say that recognized associations obtain wool at the Government price from any of the D.G.V.O.'s depots throughout the country, on the understanding that it is returned in the form of knitted comforts for the central pool. In case of difficulty I could probably give some small measure of help in the matter.
I generally have some one class of helpers to thank, but to-day I must ask in one sentence all schoolboys, maids, centenarians, nuns, and leading stokers, who have recently abetted me, to believe that the men are very grateful.
What is wanted, then, is a continuous supply of comforts to be sent throughout the winter, either to the D.G.V.O.’s depots throughout the country or to the London depot at 45, Horseferry-road, S.W.1. I will gladly acknowledge any addressed to me there. I should add that easily knitted printed patterns are on hand here at 8, King’s Bench Walk, Inner Temple, E.C.4, for any ladies who like to write for them. In particular there are some entertaining addenda to the literature of the sock.
8, King’s Bench Walk, Inner Temple, E.C.4