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Letter - Thanks from Private Donald Patience to Mrs Davis, 8 May 1915 Document Reg. No: HT 30548

Hand-written letter on stationary from the Presbyterian Soldiers' Institute, written by Private Donald Patience to Mrs Davis during World War I.

The letter was written by Private (later Lance Corporal) Donald Patience. Patience was 21 years old when he enlisted in March 1915. Before he left for the front he had an unidentified, but minor, operation to enable him to leave for the front. During his recovery he received a pair of slippers from Mrs Davis. He wrote to thank Mrs Davis before leaving for France a couple of weeks later.

Patience was shipped to to France where he spent most of the war. He received the Military Medal for bravery in May 1919 for his part in the rescue of a missing scout and several other wounded servicemen. He returned home to Australia in June 1919.

Mrs Davis is known from other items in the Museum's collection (HT 30545, HT 30546 and HT 30547). One of these items (HT 30545) is a hand-written record Mrs Davis kept of the items she made for soldiers. The other two objects 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.
Single sheet of discoloured, stationary that has been folded in three places. The symbol of the Presbyterian Church appears in the top left corner of the page whilst the letterhead is that of the Presbyterian Soldiers' Institute. The document has extensive loss in the top left corner and also along the bottom of the page. Further evidence of loss occurs along the right vertical crease. There is also slight evidence of foxing.
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: 255 mm (Height), 222 mm (Width)

More information

Tagged with: handcrafts, world war i 1914-1918, war effort
Themes this item is part of: Australian Red Cross Society, Clothing & Textiles Collection, Public Life & Institutions Collection
Primary Classification: MILITARY HISTORY
Secondary Classification: Service
Tertiary Classification: comforts
Inscriptions: Gothic script printed in navy ink top of the page: 'Presbyterian Soldiers' Institute / (in plain print) THE CAMP'
Hand-written in black ink in the top right portion, below the letter head: 'Show Grounds / Ascot Vale / 8/5/1915'
Hand-written in black ink as the main body of text: 'Dear Mrs Davis / Just a few / lines to let you know that, / whilst, I was in the Hospital / in the Show Grounds at / Ascot Vale, I received your / bedside slipper with / your note enclosed in them...' The letter continues to describe his condition and to further convey his gratitude. The letter ends with the words: 'Yours sincerely / Pte. Donald Patience'
Addressed To: Mrs J Davis, Casterton, Victoria, Australia, 8 May 1915
Author: Private Donald Patience, Ascot Vale, Victoria, Australia, 8 May 1915

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