Tuesday 4 May 2010

Sister Susie Sewing Shirts For Soldiers 1916

I don't know if you, like me, are a fan of the Antiques Roadshow, and if you saw an item like this miniature soldier's shirt shown on Sunday at Greenwich Hospital? The shirt had belonged to Australian great-uncle Reggie when he was on the battle lines of the Somme in 1916. Many shirts such as this example from the Australian War Memorial were sent out to Australian soldiers from stitchers at home. With their sewn up sleeves and bottoms, they were primarily a washing bag for socks - and if we had to spend a few months or longer in a rain filled trench - then we would also come to appreciate the importance of meticulous foot hygiene! But there was more to them - they were also a sewing kit. The buttons on the shirt could replace ones lost - and there was also a press-stud. In the pocket were needles and thread. And in the shirt pocket shown on the programme there was also a home-made tape measure complete with drawings of all the allied flags. Uncle Reggie was lucky and made it home. But who was Sister Susie? I don't know - however, there is a song about her which you might like to try with friends after your pre-dinner sherry:

Sister Susie's sewing shirts for soldiers,
Such skill at sewing shirts our shy young sister Susie shows!
Some soldiers send epistles, say they'd rather sleep in thistles
Than the saucy soft short shirts for soldiers sister Susie sews.


  1. Ha, I sang that song in our school production of 'Oh What a Lovely War', interesting to read about the shirt.

  2. just been on TV here in NZ Anzac Day tomorrow. this is now 24.4.2013.. old programme, but so interesting... Sister Susie's shirt..