Posts Tagged ‘WWII’

A hidden Irish contribution to WWII? Artist seeks former parachute factory workers

29 July 2010

Contributed by Carolyn Shadid Lewis

I have a small flare parachute dated 1944.  It first appears to be a delicate object made of silk fabric with flowing tendrils.  Yet, if it had lived out its purpose, it would have lit up the sky of a WWII battlefield.  My friend gave me the flare a few years ago after discovering my fascination with military parachutes, paratroopers, and WWII.  He explained to me that his Irish grandmother, Lucille McNulty, made the flare while she worked as a seamstress in a military parachute factory during WWII.  As we talked, I realized that the experience of Irish women workers like Lucille was an extremely compelling subject matter, one rich in poetic imagery, history, Irish culture, and female identity.

I have since lost touch with my friend, and although I cannot find any information on his grandmother, I have not forgotten her.  I have decided to explore her experience through the shared stories of others in a new documentary project.  I am an American artist, and I will be the artist-in-residence at the Sirius Arts Centre in Cobh, Co. Cork for August and September.  While at Cobh, I hope to travel throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland recording interviews with women who worked as seamstresses in military parachute factories during WWII.

My proposed task has proven to be difficult, and I cannot seem to find women who have this experience. I am contributing to Pue’s Occurrences in the hopes that the history community here might be able to provide some insight. Read more

Unravelling the past: A very brief history of knitting

18 February 2010

By Lisa Marie Griffith

I am not very good at sitting still so when I came down with a bad cold before Christmas I was very grateful to discover a ball of wool and some needles in my house. I had something I could do to escape bad daytime tv. Since then I have made a scarf for almost everyone I know and I am trying to graduate to something more difficult- socks. Trust me- they are difficult! In an attempt to fix some of the hourly problems my pattern has presented I turned to my knitting books and went online. While the problems with my socks still remain, I discovered some interesting things about the history of knitting that I thought I would share with Pue’s readers.

The earliest known knitted socks were discovered in the middle east, archeologists date them to about the thirteenth. While there are undoubtedly male knitters, there has always been a strong association of women and knitting. In the fourteenth century several Italian painters painted the Virgin Mary knitting with four or five needles, possibly knitting socks! By the late sixteenth century it was an established craft throughout Europe .

An extensive cottage industry grew around the practice of knitting and it became an important source of income. But knitting was not just confined to the domestic sphere and it was one way women could become involved in international events. Read more

Kanchanaburi and the World War 2 Thai-Burma railway

2 December 2009

Contributed by John Griffith

Between December 1942 and October 1943, 60,000 Allied Prisoners of war and 177,000 Tamil, Malay and Burmese worked for the Japanese to build a strategically (for the Japanese) important railway through the jungles of Burma and Thailand. For nearly two hundred kilometres of its journey the railway ran alongside a river called the Khwae Noi or ‘little river’. Around 12,500 Allied soldiers and more than 85,000 Asian labourers died during its construction and it became known as the ‘Death Railway’.

In Sept. 2009, while holidaying in Thailand I visited Kanchanaburi. Today the town is a pleasant, easy going city with a population of about 52,000 located about 150 km to the north-west of Bangkok. During WW2 however, it was the location of the Japanese construction headquarters for the railway’s construction on the Thailand side. Today it carries no visible evidence of the horrors which took place there, and in the dozens of other camps scattered along the length of the railway, during those terrible years. However a visit to the Commonwealth war cemeteries in the area quickly reveals the stark reality of the deaths which took place as the railway was built. The cemetery at Kanchanaburi holds the graves of approx 5,000 Commonwealth and 1,800 Dutch soldiers and it is located very close to the site of the actual base camp where many of them died. Read more