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John Oxley Library

Kit bags wanted

By Marg Powell, Specialist Library Technician, Metadata Services | 18 December 2014

On this day in 1914, in the Brisbane Courier -

In September 1914, the Defence Minister revealed that extra kit bags were required for the troops, for use during the voyage overseas. The regulation bag, with which they were issued, containing the items required for service in the field, would be stored in the hold for the duration of the voyage. Extra kit bags were required for storage of their personal effects and to be hung beside their hammocks.

"Piles of kit bags at the AIF kit store in Egypt. Each kit bag, marked with the soldier's service number and surname, contains a soldier's spare uniform, boots and personal effects. A soldier's bag is sent to the Base when he proceeds on service overseas."

Every state was issued with a quota of bags and instructions were supplied for their construction and supply to the Army barracks in each capital city, directly or via volunteer aid societies.

During the First World War, Red Cross societies across Australia knitted and sewed garments for soldiers, sent parcels to prisoners of war, met trains to welcome them home with gifts and were also part of the international Red Cross network, which tried to trace missing soldiers, sadly an aspect of their work which continues today.

The volunteer members of one Red Cross Society in the Northern District of Tasmania, produced by hand more than 40,000 items in one year, including, shirts, pyjamas, belts, socks, helmets, scarves, mitts, towels, sheets, bandages, hospital swabs and cloth kit bags.

When soldiers went to fight in the front lines, their kits were left behind, hopefully to be collected on their return. The painted kitbag depicted below was obviously the property of Corporal, later Sergeant Maher. It has been skilfully personalised and fortunately has found its way into the collections at the Australian War Memorial.

Many “Soldiers’ Bags” were sent to hospitals containing necessities and comforts for wounded and convalescent men. When the men arrived, they usually had only what they stood up in - often clean sheets and pyjamas were worth more than any medical intervention could achieve.

This year, 2014 the Australia Red Cross commemorates its enduring legacy as it continues to assist those in need, in times of disaster and personal crisis.

Marg Powell | QANZAC 100 Content Technician


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