July 9, 1918
During the First World War women in kitchens and parlors in homes throughout Newfoundland and Labrador were feverishly knitting goods, especially socks for the men who had signed up to fight for King and Country. Many of these women were members of the Woman’s Patriotic Association (W.P.A.) an organization of more than 15,000 women from throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.
The W.P.A. raised enormous sums of money; made and shipped clothing, medical supplies and other goods to troops overseas; they visited families who had sons, brothers, fathers, or husbands on the front lines; and they volunteered in local hospitals.
In Twillingate, Newfoundland, the tradition gradually evolved that saw women write short notes that they stuffed into the toes of the socks. Typically the sentiment of the note was “Into this sock I weave a prayer, That God keep you in His love and care.”
The socks were delivered in by the barrell full to the trenches in Turkey, France and Belgium or wherever the young men of Newfoundland stood in the trenches, fighting for King and Country.
Mrs. Peter Jenkins of Twillingate on finishing a pair of socks, like many of the other knitters, stuffed a note into the toe and signed her name and address. Months later she received a note of thanks from a young soldier from Greenspond, Bonavista Bay, a young man looking forward to getting home to his beloved Newfoundland.
Somewhere in France
May 17th, 1918
Mrs. Peter JENKINS (Twillingate)
Dear Friend: –
Just a word to let you know I received your socks and was very glad to get them. I got them when I was in the front line and it was very muddy at the time, up over my boots, so your socks came in great.
You will have to excuse me for not writing before. I received your socks in March and I was wounded on the 12th of April, but glad to say it was slightly in the head and shoulder. I am well again now and back with my Battalion again.
I haven’t much strange news to tell you. We are getting some fine weather over here almost too warm for us Nflders.
Well, Mrs. JENKINS, I hope the war will soon be over and we will be able to get back to old Newfoundland again. We will have something to be proud of our island home and the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. We have a good reputation and we are going to keep it up.
No doubt some of our brave boys have fell but fought and fell for a good cause, and I believe you, as a W.P.A. are doing your bit at home.
Now you will have to excuse my bad scribbling and writing, as I am not much of a scholar, my home is at Greenspond, Bonavista Bay. I think I have said all at present.
I remain your sincere friend,
My address: 3720 Pte. J.W. HARDING, A. Co. Royal Nfld. Rgt., B.E.F., France.
Please write and let me know if you got my letter or not and thanks for the socks.
Joseph William Harding of Greenspond returned to his beloved Newfoundland on February 7, 1919. It is not known if he ever did meet Mrs. Jenkins but his letter survives (it was printed in the Twillingate Sun, July 9, 1918) as a testimonial to how grateful the young soldiers were for the support of the women at home.
Recommended Reading: “A Pair of Grey Socks. Facts and Fancies. Lovingly dedicated to the boys of the Newfoundland Regiment. And to every woman who has knitted a pair of grey socks. By Tryphena Duley. Verses by Margaret Duley.”
Recommended Archival Collection: Distinguished Service: the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War, this on line exhibition documents the lives and experiences of the province’s soldiers and aims to encourage interest in research on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. This on line exhibit focuses on the World War I service records of the Regiment, available at the ARCHIVES on microfilm. Some of the service records are on line at: http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp
Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium Pleasantville before the First World War was the site of the St. John’s cricket grounds. With the declaration of war, Pleasantville quickly emerged as a tent city, the home of the storied “First 500”. It was here that the First Newfoundland Regiment recruits began preliminary military training during the months of September and October of 1914. This exhibition highlights some of the activities and training of the Blue Puttees up to their embarkation on the SS Florizel for overseas service.