Friday, 25 September 2015

Soldier’s Comforts

From The People’s Journal (Dundee, Perth, Forfar and Fife), 25th September 1915.


Prepare Now for the Winter Campaign.


Now it the time to begin preparing for the supply of winter comforts for our soldiers in the trenches in France, Flanders, and Gallipoli, and the splendid efforts of our home workers last year will have to go on with redoubled enthusiasm and vigour.

The call for "woollies" was answered in no uncertain way, and the “People's Journal,” which appealed for socks, comforters, mittens, and other such goods, found that the generosity of its readers provided for it a task which, however congenial, was yet a formidable undertaking, requiring all the careful organisation at its command.

This year the number of soldiers under arms has enormously increased, and, to meet the demand for warm clothing, every woman and girl in the kingdom who can spare the time must devote their attention to the making of knitted garments.  Soldiers' families, and many who have no relatives at the front, have contributed in the past, but it must be realised that these heroes are fighting the battles of the whole country, and that there is no home in Britain but owes its safety and preservation to them. Surely it is a small return to spend an hour or so with the knitting needles.

What to Knit.
The articles which will be in the greatest demand are mufflers, mittens, and socks.  The weary ordeal in the trenches, sometimes standing in ice-cold water for hours on end, is the severest of trials on our soldiers' strength and they must be fortified against wind and weather if they are to give the best of the fighting qualities.

The mufflers and mittens must be of drab shades.  The neck wraps should be nearly five feet long, long enough to give a turn round the head to protect the ears from the bite of the frost and allow the ends to come round the chest.  They should be 10 inches wide, and made of fleeced wool, which keeps out rain and snow much better than the plain variety.

This request for fleeced wool is made by the Press Bureau, and will present some difficulty to our readers.  In the process of machine knitting a scarf is first knitted plain, and the fleecy surface is put on by a machine especially made for the purpose.  A curry-comb is the nearest approach to this machine which the ingenuity of the home worker will suggest, as its short teeth will lift the surface into a pile without damaging the strands.

Mittens should be of drab shades also, with short thumbs and no fingers.  Socks should be of 4-ply or 5-ply wool, with plenty of length in the leg.

Tobacco Wanted.
Tobacco is the great solace of the soldiers' life at the front, and the "Journal" scheme for sending "smokes" to the front has been running for nearly a year with great success.  The announcement which appears on another page shows how cheaply our troops can be supplied with tobacco and cigarettes, and the need for it is as great as ever.  Some men like "bogie roll" or thick black; others pin their faith to lighter mixtures.  There are frequent calls from the trenches for black tobacco, and it appears that some non-smokers and those of the gentler sex imagine that, by giving an increased price for tobacco, they are giving the soldiers a better treat.  This is not necessarily so, and, in sending to a regiment, where the tastes of the recipients are unknown, a judicious combination of light and heavy "smokes" should be made.

By our schemes tobacco may be sent to an individual if it is a certain weight, or for distribution in a regiment.  We organise a supply by subscriptions sent in, and those who have no particular friend or regiment would do well to send in their contribution with the simple direction that it is meant for "tobacco for the soldiers."

[This is based on the same press notice as for instance the article in the Western Daily Press, here.   But the People's Journal reporter has adapted it, adding socks to the list of requirements.  Sir Edward Ward had said that only mufflers and mittens were needed, and indeed The Times said here that millions too many socks had been made.  But I suspect that the People's Journal was correct, and that more socks were need - soldiers got through socks very quickly, and a change of socks in the trenches would help in keeping feet dry.   It's notable too that this is the only newspaper I have seen that actually explains what 'fleeced wool' meant, and how to achieve it.] 

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