History Parkes

stories, photos, anecdotes….. sharing the past

A Community Effort: Fighting the War from Home

While soldiers and nurses were a crucial part of fighting the war, they could not have done their part without the support back home from the communities they had left. Individuals wrote letters to loved ones and sent over the occasional parcel that helped relieve the dreary existence that many soldiers had to endure. However when these individuals joined forces, their collective efforts made a huge difference to the morale and physical welfare of the soldiers.  The Parkes branch of the Red Cross Society, one of the first formed in Australia, began its work in August 1914. The groundwork was carried out by the Rev. W. Finlay-Brown and a public meeting elected the Mayoress, Mrs A. Stewart, as the foundation president, with Mrs A. McIntosh secretary and Mrs H. Daiton treasurer. During World War I, the movement was active in providing clothes for servicemen, including knitted pullovers, socks, balaclavas, gloves and scarves. At the end of its first year of operation, the Parkes branch had raised £608* The younger people of Parkes to played their part in this united war effort, with the Girls Patriotic League and the Junior Red Cross Society both being formed during the war. (Tindall, R. (ed) Parkes: One Hundred Years of Local Government. Netley, SA: Griffin Press Limited, 1982. Print) [*£608 in 1914 would be the equivalent of approximately $67,245 in 2014 – source Reserve Bank of Australia Pre-decimal Inflation Calculator  http://www.rba.gov.au/calculator/annualPreDecimal.html]  On 9th September, 1914 a meeting was held in the Trundle School with the object of forming a branch of the Red Cross. Present on that occasion were Mesdames Todd, Bertram, Less, Medlyn, Walton, West, Simmons, McLeod, Berry and Allez and Miss Glover. These ladies were joined by many others over the next few years and they devoted their efforts to aiding the country’s fighting men in as many ways as they could. They knitted such comforts as socks, kneecaps, balaclavas and stump covers and sewed pyjamas for the soldiers. Many cakes were also baked, sealed into tins, then sewn in calico before being despatched to the front lines. Money was raised by various methods, all going to help relieve the suffering of the sick and wounded. (Watts, Janice P. & Wright, Chas F. The Story of Trundle: A Country Town and Its People. Trundle: Ian Berry & Judith Curr, 1987. Print) The following have handed in their names as being willing to donate 1 per cent of their wheat yield of next harvest to go towards one or more of the War Funds as may be decided by a meeting of farmers to be held at the end of harvest:– Frank Dent, Harvey Park George Marshall, Peak Hill J.J. McIntyre, Trewilga Mulligan, Mungery West James Jelbart, Trewilga Mrs Strahorn, Tomingley E.E. Bridle, Peak Hill H.C. Meigle, Peak Hill Bock, Peak Hill Harper & Sons, The Gundongs, Tomingley Alf Watts, Mungery H.W. Bayliss, Mungery West Bayley Bros, Harvey Park Schaefer, Trewilga K.T. Meigle, Mungery James Hull, Peak Hill J.M. Jones, Mungery G.H. Crowhurst, Tomingley Barr, Harvey Park (Chappel, Charles B. (ed) A History of Peak Hill and District Parramatta: Macarthur Press, 1989. Print) Poster on home page is “RedCrossNursen” by Souter, David Henry, A WWI poster showing a nurse, with her arms outstretched, standing before a large red cross; in background a Red Cross hospital ship, ambulance and field hospital. Printed by William Brooks & Co. Ltd, Litho., Sydney. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:RedCrossNursen.jpg#/media/File:RedCrossNursen.jpg Historical advertising for interested parties to form Parkes Red Cross Society http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/133129038 (fourth column, tenth paragraph) http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article133129042 http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/printArticleJpg/133129164/3?print=n

Members of the Bogan Gate Red Cross taken outside of the Commercial Bank building during the 1914-1918 War. Back Row: Maude Pett, Mrs Schofield, Elsie Rowson, Mrs Stack, Mrs R Hodges, Joe Haylock, Mrs Coster, Pearl Coombs, Mrs Ferguson, unknown. Front Row: Mrs Solling, Mrs Black, Mac Magill, Mrs Mrs Magill, Kitty Hood, Mrs Herbert and Mrs Coombs

Bogan Gate Red Cross Members WW1. Source: Judson, C.R. (ed) (1973) Gateway to the Bogan Bogan Gate: n.p. Print

There is a fascinating chapter in Jennifer Isaacs’ book The Gentle Arts: 200 Years of Australian Women’s Domestic & Decorative Arts (1987) Willoughby: Lansdowne Press. Print. In the chapter ‘Our Bit’: Women’s Arts in Wartime it details the incredible skill used to make items with patriotic motifs and emblems. Some of these items were antimacassars, runners, tablecloths and d’oyleys. Filet crochet (a technique similar to counted thread work) allowed any pattern or design to be reproduced. The chapter also explains how crafting became an all-consuming obsession with those unable to go off and fight the war.

During the 1914-1918 War, some knitting was done in Australian schools and girls were taught to knit balaclavas and knee warmers…All ablebodied women were expected to undertake paid employment; however, these women would also knit at home in the evening, in their offices, in factories and in the lunch breaks. Some schoolgirls also knitted in the playgrounds. Craft circles were formed and women knitted at the movies. The needles clacked in every public place. Isaacs, J. (1987) p158

Cover of The Gentle Arts: 200 Years of Australian Women's Domestic & Decorative Arts by Jennifer Isaacs

Cover of The Gentle Arts: 200 Years of Australian Women’s Domestic & Decorative Arts by Jennifer Isaacs – a fascinating book especially the chapter on Women’s Arts in Wartime!

Commemorative cotton bedspread that was filet crocheted by Mrs M. Griffiths. It has dimensions of 261 x 200cm as has been donated to the Australian War Memorial, ACT. Photo is found in The Gentle Arts: 200 Years of Australian Women's Domestic & Decorative Arts by Jennifer Isaacs (1987) Willoughby: Lansdowne Press page 155

Commemorative cotton bedspread. Filet crochet by Mrs M. Griffiths. Source The Gentle Arts:200 Years of Australian Women’s Domestic & Decorative Arts by Jennifer Isaacs (1987) p155

Photograph of a tablecloth with commemorative motifs of World War I in montmellick embroidery from The Gentle Arts: 200 Years of Australian Women's Domestic & Decorative Arts by Jennifer Isaacs (1987) Willoughby: Lansdowne Press p159. Print

Tablecloth with commemorative motifs of World War I in montmellick embroidery. Source The Gentle Arts: 200 Years of Australian Women’s Domestic & Decorative Arts by Jennifer Isaacs (1987) p159

One comment on “A Community Effort: Fighting the War from Home

  1. parkeslibrary
    April 29, 2015

    Did you or one of your family members who lived in the Parkes Shire do some decorative art during World War 1? If yes, we would love to hear from you and possibly display it (or even take a photograph and publish it on this website, with your permission)

    Please contact Dan Fredericks, Library Officer (Local & Family History; Technology) by ringing 6861 2309 or emailing dan.fredericks@parkes.nsw.gov.au


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