During World War One, in the trenches, luxuries were almost non-existent. These were things that many would have taken for granted before the war, such as food, letters, and reading materials, tobacco, and even things as simple as socks. A group called the Australian Comforts Fund, or ACF aimed to get these luxuries to the men in the trenches.

The ACF consisted mostly of women. They provided ‘comfort parcels’ to the men on the front line, which consisted of the things mentioned above, and more. They tried to keep a constant stream of these comfort parcels to the men fighting on the front line. Their motto was ‘Keep the man fit’.

These care parcels helped to keep the men’s morale, efficiency, and just overall happiness up. No soldiers were expected to pay a thing for these luxuries, not during, nor after the war. The ACF raised money through various activities, and they didn’t hoard up all their money, they spent it as soon as they needed to.

One of the main items that were included in the ACF’s comfort parcels were hand knit socks. These tremendously helped soldiers from getting trench foot. Trench foot was a horrible condition, caused by the feet being exposed to moist, unsanitary, and cold (up to 16oC) conditions. It takes as little as 13 hours for someone to get trench foot.

A soldier in WW1 with the condition Trench Foot.

People affected by trench foot could have their feet turn numb, as a result of erythema (turning red), or cyanosis (turning blue). This is because of a poor blood supply to the foot. This is often followed by tissue death, which causes a horrendous odour. Sometimes, people with trench foot may contract a fungal infection, usually as a result of having blisters or open sores with trench foot. If not treated properly, trench foot usually results in gangrene, which is a severe form of tissue death.

Trench foot can easily be prevented, simply by keeping the feet warm, clean, and dry. The socks supplied by the ACF greatly help with all these things. The ACF provided over 80 000 pairs of socks, just over the winter of 1916.

The ACF also provided food and beverages to the men on the battlefield. They would set up stalls on the battlefield where the soldiers could go to get themselves a cup of tea or coffee. These stalls also served many other types of luxury foods.  Throughout the course of the First World War, the ACF served over 12 million cups of tea or coffee.

An ACF tea stall set up in Somme, France.

The ACF dissolved at the end of the war; however, due to its immense help to troops in WW1, the ACF was revived at the beginning of WW2.

Sources:

Love in a box - comfort parcels from home to the front | Anzac Centenary. 2018. Love in a box - comfort parcels from home to the front | Anzac Centenary. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.anzaccentenary.gov.au/news/love-box-comfort-parcels-home-front. [Accessed 1 December 2018].
Museums Victoria Collections. 2018. Australian Comforts Fund, World War I. [ONLINE] Available at: https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/articles/1848. [Accessed 1 December 2018].
Australian Comforts Fund - Organisation - The Australian Women's Register. 2018. Australian Comforts Fund - Organisation - The Australian Women's Register. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/AWE0988b.htm. [Accessed 1 December 2018].
Trove. 2018. Australian Comforts Fund. (1916-1920) - People and organisations - Trove. [ONLINE] Available at: https://trove.nla.gov.au/people/563480?c=people. [Accessed 6 December 2018].
Museums Victoria Collections. 2018. Australian Comforts Fund, World War II, 1939-1946. [ONLINE] Available at: https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/articles/10608. [Accessed 6 December 2018].
Guide to the Australian Comforts Fund Souvenir Collection | The Australian War Memorial. 2018. Guide to the Australian Comforts Fund Souvenir Collection | The Australian War Memorial. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/accessing-records-at-the-memorial/findingaids/special/souvenirs/comfortsfund. [Accessed 6 December 2018].
Trench foot - Wikipedia. 2018. Trench foot - Wikipedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trench_foot. [Accessed 6 December 2018].