Friday, 26 April 2019


you asked about knitting?
It was ANZAC Day yesterday and I always remember the elderly man who came back from the war with a pair of socks.  He told me the story of the socks and it appears in the book KnitLit. Briefly though, the socks belonged to his friend. His friend died in the trenches but first gave the socks to this elderly man. They had been made by his sister and he wanted this elderly man to have them to keep his feet warm.
He survived the war and brought the socks back. They were still in good condition. So, instead of wearing them, he set out to walk the long distance between two state capitals carrying the socks with him. He eventually found the girl and married her. She went on knitting socks for him.
I thought of this even more than usual when someone asked whether ANZAC Day is still relevant to the young. My response was it should be - if they can't see the relevance then they are bound to repeat what is behind it. Nobody needs war.
The story of the socks is a romantic one - and yes perhaps I should write it up properly. I often look at plain, hand knitted socks and think of all the socks that were made as plain khaki socks for soldiers, the heavy navy socks made for seamen and more. During the war my paternal great aunts knitted hundreds of seamen's scarves, socks, gloves, and caps. They collected yarn wherever they could get it. They undid old garments and the knitted them again from yarn they had then dyed. My paternal grandmother, their sister-in-law, did the same.  
My great-grandmother supervised all this. We have a photograph of her wearing an apron over her long black dress (this is in the early 1940's) and her knitting is there in the big front pocket. She was never without it. 
Someone said to me the other day, "You're always knitting. You can't keep from fidgeting with it."
No, he was wrong. I don't knit as much as my great-grandmother and my great-aunts did. And no, it isn't fidgeting. There is a purpose to what I am doing.
But, however much I do, it isn't the same as those socks and scarves, gloves and caps. They mattered more than anything I will ever knit. They were made to try and keep those risking their lives warm not just in body but in mind.


Anonymous said...

What a lovely story! <3

jeanfromcornwall said...

Somewhere among the family papers, I have a small photo. There is the corner of a house in it, which looks Australian to me. It shows an old man, two women, and a child. The Women are knitting, whie they all pose outside against the picket fence. There are names on the back and good wishes, but expressed in an anonymous sort of a way, and some initials. I suspect that the picture was taken as part of a scheme to get socks to soldiers, and to make the gift seem more personal and cheering.
I had at least two Australian Great-Uncles who could have been the recipient, having fought in Europe in WWI

catdownunder said...

That's fascinating Jean - I imagine you are right...and what an interesting thing to have.