Embroidered supper cloth : Sister P E Corkhill, Australian Army Nursing Service

Unit Australian Army Nursing Service
Accession Number REL/17126
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Embroidery cotton thread, Linen
Maker Corkhill, Pearl Elizabeth
Place made France
Date made c 1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Cutwork linen supper cloth embroidered in white cotton, with a central fourteen sided motif secured to the main body of the cloth with evenly spaced buttonhole stitched bars. A smaller octagonal shape is contained within the larger motif. Each point of the octagon bears a decorative triangular shape with a variety of cutwork and bar patterns. Each of these triangular shapes has a similar opposing shape across the octagon. Around the edge are a series of geometric and floral shapes in cutwork and buttonhole stitched bars. These shapes are repeated on a larger scale around the fourteen sided figure and on the outer edge of the cloth. Interspersed with them around the edge of the cloth are large floral figures composed of four white satin stitch 'petals' and four cutwork 'petals'. The entire cloth is bordered with ten-petalled cutwork flowers with rosettes in each centre. The petals are outlined in buttonhole stitch. The flowers are attached to the body of the cloth by buttonhole stitch bars and rosettes. The hem of the main cloth is finely edged with buttonhole stitch.

History / Summary

This supper cloth was made by Staff Nurse (later Sister) Pearl Elizabeth Corkhill during her service in various medical units in France between 1916 and 1918. Pearl Corkhill, from Tilba Tilba on the New South Wales south coast, was born in 1887 and trained in Sydney as a nurse. She enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service on 12 June 1915 and was sent initially to Egypt. In 1916 she transferred to France where she worked in both British and Australian General Hospitals, especially 3 Australian General Hospital at Abbeville. At the beginning of June 1918 she was posted to the British No 38 Casualty Clearing Station where she remained for two months. The station was subjected to enemy bombing raids and Pearl Corkhill was awarded the Military Medal 'For courage and devotion in the face if an enemy air raid. She continued to attend the wounded without any regard for her own safety, though enemy aircraft were overhead. Her example was of the greatest value in allaying the alarm of the patients.' Staff Nurse Corkhill was subsequently posted to England where she served at 1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Harefield. She was promoted to Sister on 1 October 1918 and returned to Australia on 25 January 1919. Sister Corkhill later explained that she had made the supper cloth as a means of occupying and steadying her mind during the times when she was awaiting the arrival of large convoys of wounded men. She is also known to have made embroidered tray cloths using inserts of French lace, which she purchased on days off duty, which she then sent home to her mother and other relatives as gifts.