Poetry from the Home Front
The term ‘War Poetry’ is now associated with the Soldier Poets of the Great War. People often don’t realise that women and children also wrote poetry. ‘Total War’ impacts upon everyone’s life and whether knitting socks, making munitions, seeing the Army requisitioning horses, or mourning loved ones, women and children were fully aware every hour of every day that their nation was at war.
Yorkshire-born nine-year-old Amy Tyreman, helped by family members including her three-year-old sister who knitted face-cloths, produced 194 articles, (mainly socks) for the troops. In Australia, Nora Pennington won the district record for the number of socks, mufflers, mittens, and balaclavas knitted by anybody under the age of thirteen.
At school, children used every possible moment to knit as this poem shows:
Mary had a Little Lamb – Anonymous Child
Mary had a little lamb
Its fleece was quite expensive,
It followed her to school one day,
And came home feeling pensive.
The little maids at school that day
Forgot their sums and letters.
They pulled the wool all off its back
And knit it into sweaters.
To my Mother – Anne Page
On flash her fingers busily, and swift the pattern grows,
And fall the stitches evenly in neatly rounded rows.
And softer eyes are smiling, but they never see at all
The clumsy thread unwinding from the dull, grey worsted ball.
Her shining needles glitter with a thousand mystic gleams -
It isn’t wool she’s weaving there, it’s a gossamer of dreams.
A rosy dream of fights forgot and clouded skies serene,
A white, white dream of honour and a spirit brave and clean.
A thrill of pride, half-fearful, for the strength to do and dare,
A tender little blessing and a quiet little prayer.
And in and out she weaves them from a heart with hope a brim -
It’s not a sock she’s making, it’s a web of love for him.
from Munitions – Helen Dricks
We have forgotten the guelder roses,
You and I,
And the lilac too;
The sweet scents of Spring
Pass by unnoticed.
Lies in the turning of a lathe
In the skill to fight -
Two poor cogs in the machinery of war.
By the middle of 1915, with more and more men in the Army, women were needed in the factories. Short though they were of money, many women enthusiastically donated some of their pay to the charities and benevolent funds which sent ‘comforts’ to men at the Front. They also invested in War Savings Certificates despite many of them being unable to afford to eat in the subsidised factory canteens.
DID YOU KNOW...?
Like the men at the Front, munitions workers were soon caught up in the war machine. Regulations made it hard to leave a factory or move to an alternate one; life before the war seemed a distant dream.
We're working on munitions to help to win the war,
Now England needs more money, so has called on us once more;
Right gladly would we aid her by giving of our own,
That's why we are so busy putting money in War Loan:
So that our gallant fighting men can with conviction say,
‘Our women tried to aid us in every possible way.’