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Letter - Thanks From 'A Wounded Infantryman' to Mrs James Davis, 7 Dec 1916 Document Reg. No: HT 30546

Summary:
Letter on lined note paper from a wounded infantryman during World War I, addressed to a Mrs James Davis.

According to the letter the soldier was wounded by a German machine gun, resulting in a broken arm and bullets imbedded in his shoulder and neck. Due to his injuries the soldier was unable to write the letter himself and instead dictated its contents to his sergeant. The identity of the soldier remains unknown.

Mrs Davis is known from other items in the Museum's collection (HT 30545, HT 30547 and HT 30548). One of these (HT 30545) is a hand-written record Mrs Davis kept of the items she made for, or sent to, soldiers. The other two items are similar letters of thanks from servicemen.

From these letters come her address in Casterton, Victoria and also her husband's name, since one of the letters is addressed to 'Mrs James Davis'. This letter also makes reference to Mrs Davis' sons, who are also serving in the Australian Imperial Forces, as well as a daughter who has helped her to make the items.

The identity of Mrs Davis is suggested from several sources. The 1914 and 1919 census records list four women living in Casterton, Victoria with the surname 'Davis.' Of these women the most likely contender for the Mrs Davis referred to in the letters is 'Kate Davis'. A Catherine Walsted (sometimes referred to in the records as 'Kate') married a James Davis in 1873. The couple had several children including three sons who served in the AIF during World War I and a daughter. Catherine Davis (nee Walsted) died in 1950 and was buried in the Castlemaine Cemetery.
Description:
Single sheet of discoloured, lined notepaper containing a hand-written letter in black ink. The page shows signs of being folded into six but there are no deep creases. The letter has been marked by a pencil.
Statement Of Significance:
The International Committee of the Red Cross was initially established to improve the medical facilities of the army in order to provide better care for wounded soldiers. The Australian Red Cross Society (ARCS) was established in 1914 as a branch of the British Red Cross Society and was active throughout World War I in providing 'comforts' to the troops.

For the most part 'comforts' took the form of homemade articles of clothing donated by thousands of women volunteers; however other items such as food, magazines and other provisions were also distributed by the ARCS. An estimated 395,695 food parcels and 36,339 clothing parcels were sent by the ARCS during World War I.

The items in this small collection relate to the efforts of one woman, Mrs. James Davis, to support the Australian Red Cross and three letters that she received from soldiers who received her items. These letters are significant as they show the gratitude of the soldiers for the 'comforts' that they received from home and their importance. One letter in particular expresses the profound impact such gifts could have upon soldiers since they showed the support and care, not only of their own families, but of the wider Australian community.

The record of Mrs. Davis? creations is impressive in terms of the quantity of items produced by an individual in only a few months. Whilst the list is significant as an example of the dedication of the volunteers who supported the ARCS and how this support became an industry in its own right.

All together this collection of objects provides a rare surviving example of home front activity during World War I.
Acquisition Information:
Transfer from Museum Victoria Collections, Research & Exhibitions, 2012
Discipline: History
Dimensions: 259 mm (Height), 223 mm (Width)

More information

Tagged with: handcrafts, world war i 1914-1918, war effort, soldiers comforts
Themes this item is part of: Australian Red Cross Society, Clothing & Textiles Collection, Public Life & Institutions Collection
Primary Classification: MILITARY HISTORY
Secondary Classification: Civilian Life
Tertiary Classification: comforts
Inscriptions: Hand-written in black ink in the top right corner: 'Somewhere in France / 7.12.1916.'
Hand-written in black ink along to top two lines: 'To Mrs James Davis. Casterton / Victoria'
Hand-written in black ink as the main body of text: 'Dear Mum / Whilst in hospital I was given a pair / of slippers, one of which has your note in it...' The letter continues to detail the soldier's condition and his gratitude for her gift, the letter ends with the words: 'May God bless you / for your kindness, is the prayer of a wounded infantryman'
Addressed To: Mrs J Davis, Casterton, Victoria, Australia, 7 Dec 1916
Date Inscribed: France, 7 Dec 1916

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