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Category: Army History/WW2

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Australian Comforts Fund

While many young Australian women yearned to take an active role in the war, their opportunities were much more limited than those of their British counterparts. 

Australian nurses served overseas, but Australian women were not mobilised for war work. 

Numerous women's volunteer organisations sprang up to offer more traditional assistance to the troops.

The Australian Comforts Fund provided extra clothing, food, tobacco and other 'comforts' for the troops. 

Socks were urgently needed, as the soldiers could not wash or dry their socks in the mud and cold of the trenches. Women knitted tens of thousands of socks: in the winter of 1916 alone, the Australian Comforts Fund provided 80 000 hand-knitted pairs of socks in response to an appeal from General Birdwood! The Soldiers' Sock Fund in Sydney sent away almost 21 000 pairs of socks per year.

In Adelaide, women from different levels of society set up the Cheer-Up society to provide welcoming concerts, gifts and food to troops in camp.

A distribution of gifts of the Australian Comforts Fund to the 13th Battalion at Ribemont. These were red-letter days for the troops, and not the least welcome of the home gifts was the bundle of Australian newspapers and periodicals. Identified, right to left: 2797 Sergeant (Sgt) T Piddington; 599 Company Quartermaster Sergeant (CQMS) H J Clay (handing out a parcel); unidentified (partially obscured); 3849 Private (Pte) Frank McArthur; 5170 Sgt Edward Winston Robertson (killed in action 28 March 1918); 2484 Pte Theo Maurice Chiplin, all other men unidentified.
The ACF provided on a regular basis, writing materials so the troops could write home. This is a pencil that was hidden in it's own case until needed.
Rectangular tin with hinged lid and covered with cream paper. The lid is decorated inside and out with a red border and an Australian flag. 

Printed in black cursive script above and below the flag are the words 'WISHING YOU A HAPPY XMAS/ From the Australian Comforts Funds'. 

Inside the tin, the contents are intact and include a circular tin of 'Full Strength "Capstan" Navy Cut' tobacco; a packet of ten 'Medium Strength "Capstan" Navy Cut' cigarettes; and a packet of French-Egyptian 'Encore' cigarettes. 

Also included are a box of Swedish made 'The Ship' safety matches and a red cardboard box with two cigars. 

This parcel was given to 2284 Private Sidney Thomas Elliott of 21 Battalion by the Australian Comforts Fund at Christmas 1915.

Elliott was born in Portsmouth, England and educated in Wales. He became a merchant seaman, serving his apprenticeship at sea and becoming a quartermaster in the P&O Company by the time of his enlistment in the AIF in Melbourne on 9 July 1915. Serving in 21 Battalion, AIF, including time as batman to Captain Holmes, he was killed in action near Longette on 20 March 1917 and buried at Villers-Bretonneux. His sister, who remained in Wales with the rest of Elliot's family, forwarded the intact box to Australia House in London in the 1960s, from where it was donated to the Australian War Memorial. AWM image & text

Christmas in Cairo - distribution of gifts at Meadi (Australian Gift Book, Cairo, Australian Comforts Fund, 1916, p. 21)

Christmas in Cairo - distribution of gifts at Meadi

Christmas morning saw the distribution of 34,299 billies and 31,196 Christmas boxes specially provided by the local committee of the A.C.F. [Australian Comforts Fund) to our men in the camps around Cairo.

Everyone is talking about the splendid generosity of Australia in supplying her soldiers with such splendid Christmas gifts. Mr William Beit had arranged for the gifts to be distributed at the different camps by the ladies of the local committee assisted by other well known ladies from Australia who are such splendid work over here, and they vied with one another in making the occasion as gay as possible.

Teacup In A Storm

For the Australian troops in the front line, the Australian Comforts Fund coffee stall became a treasured refuge from the misery of the trenches. Chaplain W.E. Dexter established the first stall behind the lines at Pozieres in August 1916 and under the auspices of the ACF many more were set up and staffed by soldiers and clergy. Throughout the bitterly cold nights, in tents, dugouts and hastily assembled huts at the corner of every Australian battlefield, the stalls dispensed mugs of tea, coffee and cocoa to the exhausted troops trudging in and out of the line. According to the ACF’s meticulously recorded statistics, more than 12 million such mugs of coffee and tea were served during the First World War.

ACF fund raising pin-back badges from 1941.

The ACF did not just brew up coffee for the troops. Local women’s groups in Australia sprang up early in the war to provide tobacco, cakes, puddings, condensed milk, sugar,, biscuits newspapers and other ‘luxury’ items to supplement the Australian soldier’s army rations and personal kit. These fund-raising bodies were amalgamated in 1916 to form a national body which undertook to provide ‘comforts’ to all Australians abroad. The ACF grew into an enormous fundraising, collecting, sorting and distribution machine which rivalled the scope of the Red Cross. Although men took some executive positions on national and state committees, the bulk of the administrative and manual work fell on a huge ‘army’ of unpaid women.

A phenomenal 1,354,328 pairs of woollen socks, knitted by volunteers and shipped to Europe by the ACF, represented an estimated 10 million hour’s work. Nearly two million Christmas boxes containing writing wallets, chewing gum, handkerchiefs, tobacco, and sausages were sent to England and France during the war as well as thousands of shirts, vests, pyjamas and kangaroo-skin fleece-lined jackets.

The ACF was a source of solace and encouragement for the troops abroad; it was also a means for the women at home to contribute to the war effort and identify with their young men in the trenches. The vast amount of organisational work involved in running the ACF developed new managerial skills among the women themselves. They raised thousands of pounds, through door-knock appeals, fetes and button days to cover the costs of materials and shipping.

The ACF was dissolved at the end of the war, but had proved such a success as a vital link between home and the battlefield that it was revived in 1940 to supply ‘comforts’ for a new generation of Australian soldiers.

© Time-Life Australia Pty Ltd 1998
(from the series Australians at War)


A selection of ACF posters from WW2 to raise funds or supplies.

as on sale at the

Safe Journey thanks to him. Express your thanks by giving to the Australian Comforts Fund, c.1940.  
He won't be lonely with a radio! Donate to the Australian Comforts Fund. They supply them!, c.1940.


We're putting all our begs in one ask-it! A donation today sends a hamper away! Australian Comforts Fund, c.1940.  
And the girls too - all services are serviced by Australian Comforts Fund. Back them up with a donation!, c.1940.  


Combine forces with the Australian Comforts Fund. Give to them through the ACF…, c.1939-45.  
Showing the heads of five servicemen and women with the insignia of YMCA, YWCA, The Salvation Army

Books. 1,000,000 Books wanted. ACF Camp Library Service, c.1939-45.  


Give him a Book - 1,000,000 books wanted. ACF Book Week Appeal, March 5-11. Camp Library, c.1939-45.  

ACF Honor Medal 1916


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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces