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15 October 2014
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If You Can Knit - You Can Do Your Bit

by CSV Action Desk/BBC Radio Lincolnshire

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Contributed by 
CSV Action Desk/BBC Radio Lincolnshire
People in story: 
Eileen Davison nee Parsons
Location of story: 
East Sussex and London
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
06 October 2005

“If You Can Knit — You Can Do Your Bit”

During the War the Women’s Institutes and other patriotic ladies held knitting circles, influenced by the slogans on the hoardings, etc, with the reminder that “If you can knit — you can do your bit”. So they knitted for the Army, Navy, Air Force and ARP workers. Knitting patterns were printed called “War Knitting” and Sidar Wool Company produced wool specially dyed in service colours, i.e. kharki, navy blue, Air Force blue and grey. They knitted pullovers with long sleeves, sleeveless pullovers, gloves, balaclavas and other garments which were lovely, cosy and warm.

One day word went round our camp that the Padre had issued knitted pullovers to some of the Airmen but although in many instances we women did the same work as the men, there were no garments for us. It was agreed by my friends and me that this was unfair and I drew the short straw to approach the Padre. This needed careful handling, he being a senior officer and me a mere ACW1 at that time. Discipline was strict — stand to attention when addressing him, no sitting until told to, then do so, of course be sure to call him “Sir” the correct number of times and salute when appropriate.

The Padre held a Morning Surgery, had his Bible and prayer book ready and was not very pleased to see me about knitted garments instead of a religious problem. I stated my case and he was cross, his reply being that the women were quite capable of knitting their own. My answer to that was “Yes, but with what, Sir, we do not have any coupons to purchase wool” This was true because we did not need “clothing coupons”; every bit of clothing we possessed was issued to us, underwear, pyjamas, stockings, shoes, you name it we were issued with it — no fancy “frillies” however.

Padre “hummed” and “hahed” a bit but finally agreed he would try to get us some wool. I reached the door, turned and said “Oh and knitting needles, Sir, sizes 9 and 11” I shut the door and then poked my head back in and said “A pattern also please, Sir”. I shut the door quickly and hurried away because I knew he was not pleased!.

Did I get my wool? Yes but no pattern nor knitting needles though. However, my sister was in the WAAF also — based at Horsham St. Faith. (Today this is now much enlarged and called Norwich Airport.) She was a good knitter whereas I was not and when I eventually got my wool from the Padre, I sent it to her. She had enough wool to knit my pullover and herself a pair of gloves.

The Padre had been most specific with his orders regarding the wool and said that I was not to spread the news around the camp as he did not want WAAF attending his “bible surgery” asking for wool, which he had great difficulty in obtaining anyway. I therefore decided to follow the slogans posted on many public hoardings, which said “Be like Dad, keep Mum” and “Careless talk costs lives”!!!

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