Women and young girls set to work knitting hundreds of useful items for the soldiers and sailors such as khaki socks, balaclava helmets, gloves, and mufflers or scarves. At Hereson School, they started collecting money for a Wool Fund to enable the girls to knit socks, belts and helmets for the soldiers, and arranged concerts to raise money. The girls worked very hard and in December 1914 they sent off 105 knitted garments. The next year the girls also made sandbags.
The socks were invaluable on both a psychological and practical level: gifts of socks from home both raised morale and helped keep the men in the trenches warm and dry.
Groups of women gathered to knit or sew small items which would provide comfort for soldiers in the trenches. This handwork provided the women with a therapeutic distraction and a practical way to help at a time when few women played a role outside the home.
Socks were the chief item in demand. The trenches of France and Belgium were muddy and constantly filled with water. As a result, soldiers were prone to a painful condition called Trench Foot. The only cure was for them to keep their feet dry and change their socks regularly. Soldiers in the trenches were supposed to have at least three pairs of socks and change them at least twice a day. In reality they were lucky to have one pair of clean socks if any and it was not always possible to keep them dry.
Ramsgate Knitting Association received many grateful letters from the men whose real need for the warm well-made socks, helmets and mufflers can be read between the lines of their messages. Women saw it as a way of letting the men know that those at home were thinking of them as they sat in a freezing cold damp trench far from home.
Letter from “Somewhere in France” April 1915:-
Your mittens came at just the right time as I was just off to live in the trenches after a rest and it was bitterly cold there. I put them on on Easter Day and have not taken them off yet like my boots and the rest of my kit. We have had a dreadful time in the mud as the trenches I went into are very low and flooded at once, but now the sun is out we are drying and feeling better. The Germans are about as far off as the bottom of your drive from the front door and though we are shooting day and night there is a lark singing and playing about all the time between us. There is a nice orchard just behind me though the farmhouse has been smashed by shells and is just a heap of broken bricks, but still there is a thrush getting ready to build a nest and a blackbird that sings beautifully.