During the Second World War, India was one of the world’s biggest producers of textiles. Every month it was producing millions of yards of webbing, woollen fabric and items made from jute or flax. It was cotton however where the majority of its production lay and the country produced cloth for uniform production and for other items of military use including that needed for the medical services. Caring for injured soldiers required a huge supply of linens, with sheets, pillow cases, swabs, surgical clothing and towels. Today we are looking at an example of a hospital towel produced in India. It is made of the same style of fabric as the small towels issued to soldiers, but is nearly twice the size:
The towel is marked in purple ink, and is marked with a date of 1942 and a clear instruction that this is for hospital use:
The trade mark in the form of a six pointed star, but the words and details across the middle are not clear. Above this is an Indian Army inspector’s code of C/|\525 which helps confirm that this was produced for the Indian Army’s hospital provision. India’s textile industry was a curious one. There were large factories producing cloth on conventional powered looms, however there was still an enormous number of hand loom weavers producing small quantities of cloth for domestic use in rural and poor urban areas. One of the great achievements of the Indian supply system was to utilise these hand loom weavers in the war effort and a complex system of feeding this cottage industry output into the larger war machine allowed the country to produce huge quantities of material in a way that it could not have done if it had only relied on traditional factories.