"One stick alone is . . . easily broken, but a bundle tied together . . . can’t be broken." The Distaff (a publication of the Women’s Patriotic Association)
St. John’s, 1916
The fighting may take place overseas, but for many on the Home Front the war is happening right here, right now. After major battles, crowds gather outside telegraph offices to learn who is missing or wounded, who has been killed. Families scour newspaper reports and wait for letters, anxious for details. People endlessly talk war and look for ways to help it end in victory.
People band together, care for families mourning losses and tend the wounded sent home. Children, women and men gather and send what the servicemen need: comforts from home, clothing, bandages, money, even hospital beds.
"Too much praise cannot be given to the ladies of Curling for their untiring efforts." Archibald W. Piccott, Minister of Marine and Fisheries
Organized as the Women’s Patriotic Association ( WPA ) with 218 branches, Newfoundland and Labrador women were energetic in supporting the war. They raised over $500,000 and produced or collected woollen goods to keep servicemen warm: more than 62,000 pairs of socks, 8,900 pairs of trigger mittens and 22,000 mufflers (scarves).
A woman is knitting most all the day
A sock that shapes from a ball of grey,
Her fingers fly, and the needles click,
Fast grows the sock so soft and thick.
“Why do you knit at such a pace,
Dear woman, with patient face?”
. . .
“’Tis for nearer and dearer” — then a broken pause,
“For those who are fighting their country’s cause.
. . .
And that is why all the livelong day,
I sit and knit in the same old way;
And into each sock I weave a prayer,
That God keep our boys in His love and care.”
Margaret Duley, “A Pair of Grey Socks,” St. John’s, 1916
Margaret (“Maggie”) Osmond
Home Front Movement
Maggie Osmond knitted socks with her name on a note in the toe, to be sent to soldiers overseas, where her son Douglas was serving. In 1915, a Canadian soldier received a pair of her socks. The soldier located Douglas and swapped socks with him. Douglas was killed in 1916.
"How could they keep going on every day not knowing if their son was alive?" Recollections of Carol Anne Andrews, grand-niece of Private Frederick White Newfoundland Regiment, May 2014
Frederick died on July 1st, 1916
Finding out how loved ones were faring overseas was difficult: letters and postcards were slow, news was censored. Triumphs were shared throughout communities. News of injuries and losses was brought by clergy or teachers. Many community members rallied together to support one another and to do their part.
"We have already organized the Children in Newfoundland . . . [they sponsor 30] cots in the Newfoundland Ward at the Red Cross and St. John Hospital in Tréport, [France]." Governor Sir Walter Davidson in a letter to Secretary to the Executive Committee of the Children of the Empire Fund, Miss Menzies
May 19th, 1916
"[Germany is] out to destroy commerce regardless of life." Governor Sir Walter Davidson in his diary
St. John’s, February 1915
War raises many challenges on the home front. Is the enemy among us? How do we protect our coast, our people? What kind of support can we give our boys and the Empire? How will families make do when the main breadwinners leave for the war? How do we make wise decisions—at home, at work, in politics—under such pressures?
The war affects our government, our communities and our economy. As the following events occur, new opportunities arise, but so do new problems. Almost everyone is tested.