In 1914, almost the whole population of the Somerset town of Wellington, was involved with the War effort. They mostly worked for Fox Brothers, a company that had before the war, woven cloth for the rich and famous. With the outbreak of World War One they switched their production to making uniforms for the soldiers and grew to be the biggest woollen mill in the world.
Five thousand people worked on four hundred looms, twenty four hours a day to keep the British army clothed. Puttees rapidly became their biggest product, which were one of the major contributors to the war effort. Puttees were made of two coarse bandages which were wrapped around the top of the soldiers’ boots to keep them dry and clean inside and also prevented their boots from being sucked off when they got stuck in the mud. During the War Fox produced 82,000 miles of Puttees as well as heavy, warm Great Coats.
After the War there was a dramatic reduction in the demand for Puttees and so Fox Brothers diversified to making suits for the rich and famous again, which included Winston Churchill.
Today modern army uniforms have made Puttees redundant, and the factory only has twenty eight staff members working on eight looms. But there are still men and women working at the factory today who have been a part of this company for generations and had family members working there during the War years.
Incredibly, every soldier in the Great War was a part of the history of Fox Brothers and Fox Brothers was a part of the history of every soldier in the Great War.