When (Guinea) Pigs Fly


A quick follow up to our post a couple of weeks ago covering the celebrated Guinea Pig Club, set up in 1941 to support badly injured British and allied airmen who had undergone extensive reconstructive plastic surgery. Our photo showed one of the later chrome badges which, while still quite uncommon, can be bought for anywhere between 40 to 65 pounds.

Pictured today though is one of the highly sought after original (silver) badges. The Imperial War Museum has one. And so does one of our traders, Michael Burroughs. He has confirmed that it will be on sale this Saturday. This particular example was given by its original recipient, a WWII airman, to a recovering modern day pilot, badly injured in a Puma helicopter.

Another classic case of an item with a fascinating story to tell, one of thousands available this Saturday and every Saturday at Charing Cross Market, the Home of Collecting.


The Allure of Old Advertisements

Ah, Pheasant Margarine! Had we but been alive in 1917, who amongst us could have resisted the shilling a pound delights of its “dainty” packets bearing the red white and blue riband of the ‘Pheasant’ seal? Why buy butter when there is Pheasant to be had? Originally developed in 1869, the first plant-based spread was created by Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès for Napoleon III due to butter shortages. Pheasant margarine later went on to merge with the Lever Brothers to become Unilever.

Or how about Wingarnis health tonic, ‘The Wine of Life’? How could its “four-fold power as a Tonic, a Restorative, a Blood-maker and a Nerve Food” fail to invigorate you in every fibre of your being? Prepared by another household name, Colemans of Norwich, Wingarnis is especially formulated for the weak, the nervy, the anaemic or the run-down. The fact that this cure-all is “recommended by over 10,000 doctors” reminds us that it the Advertising Standards Agency would not be established for another 45 years….

Die Fliegerasse

Other than the Great War’s Baron von Richthofen, German ‘Flying Aces’ of the Second World War are much less well known. Yet a number of them had extremely distinguished careers, flying with a degree of skill and bravery which earned them Germany’s highest military medal: the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross (more commonly known just as the ‘Iron Cross’).

History buffs may know that Hitler himself was a recipient during WWI when he was just a corporal but these signatures are from WWII pilots who flew a range of planes that wouldn’t look out of place in an Airfix catalogue. All the classics are here from the plane which claimed more kills than any other in the whole of the war on either side, the Messerschmitt Me-109, to the most frequent shadow over London during the Blitz, the Heinkel He-111 heavy bomber.

In all, there are nine autographs from these pilots, none of whom are still alive today, making these eminently collectable. Indeed, the first signatory, Major Erwin Fischer, is one of only 882 recipients of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves.