Knitting to commemorate the First World War

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Wearing the Poppy

AW Callander

Arthur William Callander  Killed in action 9th May 1915

The Orkney to Omaha knitting project for the WW1 film has touched a chord with so many in our newly assembled army of knitters.  My grandfather Harry Callander (1876-1941) was a costumier who would be greatly interested this project if he were alive today.  He was too old to fight in WW1 but his tailoring firm Callander, Davies and Ricks probably made greatcoats for the soldiers.  When researching our family history, I discovered that the Callanders lived in Richmond on Thames from the 1890s, less than a mile from where I now live.  As children in the 1950s we had no idea that we had seven great aunts/uncles let alone one called Arthur Callander.  The Great War was never spoken about in our childhood, it was as if the collective shock to the nation was too great and the memories were too harrowing to raise with young children especially as our parents had recently emerged battered from another world war.


This newly discovered great uncle Private Arthur Callander: London Regiment (London Scottish), b 1887, orphaned at 7, a south London tailor with no experience of the military, was killed at the Battle of Aubers on 9th May 1915 aged 28 after barely two months of service.   He was buried at Cabaret-Rouge, Souchez Cemetery in northern France.  The inscription on his grave was organised by our grandfather Harry Callander, his elder brother who loved the theatre.  He had chosen a quote from Julius Caesar where Mark Antony praises the murdered Caesar; the noblest Roman of them all:.. Nature might stand up/And say to all the world, ‘This was a man!’


Whilst knitting for the project I’ll think of him and of those Lincolnshire men.  My own father (1892-1988) was invalided out of the Great War but he’ll raise a smile in my memory as he was never fond of knitting.  Whenever mum and I picked up our needles he would sigh wearily and say, “Why is it that whenever anyone knits, they always start talking about armpits?”  It’s so true, we were always asking the other about how far to knit to the armpits, are you decreasing at the armpits, and so on….


Not a syllable will be spoken on that topic while I’m knitting puttees…



Callander, Davies and Ricks – photo taken just after WW1. My grandma Callander (back left) was an early pioneer of layered grunge it seems.  Mrs. Davies (front row left) is wearing rather a sporty jumper.  Grandpa Callander (front end right) is guardian of the champagne and keeper of the croquet mallets.  I don’t know what they were celebrating.