We are thrilled that Message in a Sock has been shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s History Awards. Congratulations to author Kaye Baillie and illustrator Narelda Joy.
Narelda attended the awards ceremony and had a splendid time.
Leading up to the centenary of WW1, I decided to write a war story, but I wanted to write about the people at home, who had to say goodbye to a loved one leaving for a war across the other side of the world.
I thought about ‘the fog of war’, how the people at home must have spent every day uncertain about the well-being of someone they loved.
The Red Cross was crucial and relentless in their organisation of homefront efforts, and through my research I delved deeper which led me to discover the heartfelt efforts of individuals and communities across the country, united in their quest to bring the boys home, ensuring the soldiers felt connected to home and reminded that they were not forgotten, even for a minute.
Sock knitting boosted the spirits of those at home who felt desperate to help however they could, and in turn it nourished the spirits of the receiving soldiers. I found various thank you notes to sock knitters, and one was written by a grateful soldier who wrote in between coughs while his mate held a candle for him to see as he wrote.
One hundred years ago, women and children near a Sydney War Chest Depot, busily knitted socks in what was just one of many campaigns. The one I focussed on was for 150,000 pairs of socks to reach our soldiers in time for the French winter.
Knitters were encouraged to place a message of support in the toes of the socks. One knitter, Florence Crossley, wrote a note, including her address. The recipient of her socks was Lance Corporal Andrew McDougall, a stretcher bearer who wrote his reply on the reverse side of Florence’s note, which eventually found its way back to her, and then the note found its way to Museums Victoria. Thanks to our preservers of history we have a rich supply of artefacts like Florence Crossley’s and Andrew McDougall’s correspondence and in turn, these stories can be found by people like me, illustrated by people like Narelda Joy and published by publishers like Anna Solding of MidnightSun then turned into books which then find their way to our youngest readers.