Her son was probably wearing a pair of socks she had knitted when he died. At The Rooms museum in St. John’s Newfoundland I was intrigued by Maggie Osmond’s story. Maggie was just one of thousands of Canadians who knit socks for the soldiers overseas during World War I. Conditions in the trenches were terrible. It was cold and wet and muddy and a lack of soap meant a fungal infection called trench foot could develop that sometimes led to gangrene. The only way to prevent this from happening was for soldiers to have extra socks with them. So civilians at home knit socks for the troops. Women, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides and school children learned to knit socks from patterns provided by the Red Cross. These knitters sometimes tucked a message into the finished socks for the soldier who would receive it. A typical note might read: “Into this sock I weave a prayer, That God keep you in His love and care.”
Maggie Osmond of Moreton’s Harbour Newfoundland was one of the faithful knitters on the homefront. She had a personal stake in her knitting since her son Douglas had enlisted in the Newfoundland regiment in 1914 and was serving in France. In 1915 socks Maggie had knitted were given to a Canadian soldier in France. She had put her name on a paper in the toe of the socks. That soldier happened to meet up with the Newfoundland regiment and asked if anyone knew the Maggie Osmond from Newfoundland who had knit his socks. Her son Douglas introduced himself and the two soldiers traded socks so Douglas was wearing the ones knit by his mom.
Unfortunately Douglas died at the Battle of the Somme where almost the entire Newfoundland regiment was killed or wounded.
Maggie’s story was a moving reminder of the tragic cost of World War I and how it impacted so many Canadian families in ways big and small.