Brothers In Arms

These two German soldiers, photographed here in the Aisne departement of France in April 1918, may not actually be related. However, like the photograph featured last week, it was common practice to immortalise the moment when family members became part of the same unit.

The older of the two, on the right, is certainly more experienced and we can see the ribbon from an iron cross second class in his button hole. His tunic seems to be a bit too big for him and may well have something to do with the limited food rations which the Germans experienced in the latter half of the war. Both men are seen clasping their belts which sport the ‘Gott Mit Uns’ (God With Us) motto on their buckle.

The younger soldier looks like he is a more recent arrival at the front. His almost comically oversized boots also hint at the supply problems which bedevilled the army by 1918. His cap features roundels of national and state colours is completely unshaped by wear and the fact that he isn’t wearing gaiters suggests that he has not had the dubious pleasure of actually serving in the trenches yet. It’s also noteworthy that his tunic has fewer buttons since metal was in terribly short supply by this point.

What both do have in common is the bayonet hanging from their belts. These were normally pushed away from the side to the back of the hip to stop them knocking into things so we can see that the new recruit has at least picked up one trick from the veterans.

A Moment’s Peace

Bought at the Market last week is this evocative photograph of two British ‘tommies’ during the Great War. Bought by a fellow dealer, Michael Burroughs of Anything Military, he was also kind enough to give us his informed view of what we can learn from this century old primary source.

The ‘Carte Postale’ on the reverse tells us it was taken in a French studio with standard props of a chair, backdrop and unlit cigarette. It’s possible that the two are related, even brothers, and the fact that their uniform pockets are bulging and that they have uncleaned boots might well mean that the pair were taking advantage of a break from the front line when this was taken. Also significant perhaps: neither of them are smiling.

The characteristic snake belt both men are wearing was part of the 1914 leather pattern equipment issued to early Territorial’s and Kitchener battalions. The standing soldier’s cap bears the badge of the Ulster Rifles along with pioneer collar badges of crossed pick and rifle. It’s therefore most likely that he was a member of the regiment’s 16th (Service) Battalion (2nd County Down) (Pioneers). They landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as pioneer battalion for the 36th (Ulster) Division in October 1915 for service on the Western Front.

His seated companion is wearing a cap badge of the Finsbury Rifles along with the typical black buttons of a rifle regiment. An educated guess would be that he quite probably belonged to the 2/11th battalion  of that unit which moved to France in February 1917 where they served on the western front for the duration of the war.

Next week, we’ll have a look at a similar photograph from the Great War, also taken in France but featuring two soldiers from the other side of No Mans’ Lead.

Cute as a Button

Not one but two famous names at the market recently.

Meet Jenson Button, a 14 week old Cockapoo who visited the market recently along with his owner, Russell Grant. Although neither of them has won the 2009 World Formula One Championship or appeared on Strictly, what we do know is that one of them was here because of his interest in collecting Boy Scout memorobilia. Russell is probably more of stamp buff.

The market has always been proud to welcome enthusiasts of all kinds, even if they have double the number of legs we might usually expect. Indeed, possibly the most prestigious position in London – after the PM – is that of Market Dog. That role is currently filled by Dougal but his predecessors (Bart, Headley, Charlie and Matty) were equally adept at wandering round looking for biscuits and a scratch behind the ears.