Stitchers, Knitters and Shirt-makers

While the role of VAD nurses has been well spotlighted there was a cohort of other Red Cross volunteers, often forgotten about, working quietly behind the scenes, engaged in handiwork and domestic duties.

Hundreds of volunteers across the country, stitched, sewed and knitted items for hospital wards and prisoners of war. These volunteers worked from home, fashioning materials into standard patterns issued by the Red Cross. They used flannel, sheep’s wool and even dog’s wool made from long haired breeds such as Pekinese and Pomeranians.

Local women lent their craft skills and knitting needles clicked and scissors snipped all over Dacorum. Winifred Lilian Stone of the Old Dairy in Aldbury contributed four years’ worth of knitting to the cause while Alice Adams of Potten End partook in three years of needlework. In 1918 it was reported that the Leverstock Green Working Party had made over 505 pairs of pyjamas and 585 knitted articles since the outbreak of the war.

Some encouraged others to join in the work. Miss Caff, of Berkhamsted, had the pupils at her school engaged in knitting, while Mary Douglas Wood of Hemel Hempstead, volunteered over 750 hours instructing the patients at Ashridge House in needlework.

The contribution of such volunteers was marked and 75,530 garments ranging from hot water bottle covers, to pyjamas and dressing gowns, kitbags, surgeons gowns, socks and pillow cases were made by Red Cross volunteers throughout the war. Unremarkable necessities by today’s standards, they were treasures to those who received them.

The Dacorum Heritage Trust Ltd.

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