Monday, 27 October 2014

Rabbit skin jackets for nurses and and the troops

Australian Motor Transport Supply Column in England:  One of the men wearing one of the rabbit-skin waistcoats presented by the Lady Mayoress of Melbourne. From Page 22 of the Queenslander Pictorial, supplement to The Queenslander, 1 May, 1915 retrieved from

On 17 October 1914 an item appeared in the Avoca Free Press announcing that 8,000 rabbit skins were being sought to supply to nurses who would sew them into jackets for use when working in the open.  This request also appeared in many other newspapers

No title. (1914, October 17). Avoca Free Press and Farmers' and Miners' Journal (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved October 27, 2014, from
While it seems that the nurses would sew their own jackets, Melbourne's Lady Mayoress organised for jackets to be sewn for soldiers. The Echuca and Moama Advertiser and Farmers' Gazette provided details of the design of rabbit skin jackets for the troops. At least 18 rabbit skins would be needed to make a jacket.

RABBIT-SKIN JACKETS. (1914, October 22). Echuca and Moama Advertiser and Farmers' Gazette (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 4. Retrieved October 27, 2014, from

The Argus of 27 October provided advice to boys about gathering rabbit skins

 In 1917 the Commonwealth Government gazetted a regulation concerning rabbit skins under the War Precautions Act. Regulation 4 provided that:
All rabbit skins shall, unless the Prime Minister otherwise directs, be forwarded to a Government Agent who shall, subject to these Regulations, be authorized to purchase such skins on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.
CONTROL OF TRADE. (1917, May 4). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 9. Retrieved October 27, 2014, from
In 1918 the Hatters and Furriers Company Inc. of Connecticut, U.S.A. made a claim against the Australian Government for losses suffered as a result of having to pay more than initially contracted for rabbit skins supplied by Wilcox and Sons, an Australian firm. The Australian Government Solicitor, George Shaw Knowles, was of the opinion that there was no liability of the Australian Government to pay compensation.

Australia was not alone in its use of rabbit skins. This German poster from 1917 is in the collection of Colombia University in the City of New York.

One of the posters from an exhibition at Columbia University in the City of New York: The European Home Front in WWI: Posters from the Frankenhuis Collection retrieved from