“Re-open Sesame!”

At long last, we can open our doors again to the collecting public. We’ve had to put new steps in place for everybody’s safety (see last week’s post) but the main thing is that trading will resume from tomorrow Saturday 11 July. The usual cosmopolitan mix of stamps, coins, postcards, militaria and ephemera will be on sale so why not come down and see what our traders have rooted out during lockdown. Regular or first-timer, young or old, expert or amateur….we look forward to seeing you!

Open from July 11

It seems like it’s been forever but we’re really pleased to announce that the Market will reopen next Saturday July 11. Of course, some changes are necessary to make sure that we’re keeping everybody safe and your cooperation with these measures is appreciated. In summary, these are:

  • all dealers and visitors will be subject to a temperature test with a non-contact infra-red sensor. Anyone failing this test will be asked to return home and self-isolate
  • a one way system will be in place requiring visitors to enter by the Villiers Street entrance (by Costa Coffee) and follow the marked circular route around the stalls. Floor stickers and a wall map will be used to clarify this
  • the number of visitors inside the market must be controlled so members of staff communicating via walkie talkie will be stationed at both the entrance and exit to manage this
  • visitors may not arrive before 7am and must leave at 3pm
  • a one metre social distancing protocol will apply in all areas
  • all visitors must wear a suitable face covering

Although these measures are clearly inconvenient, this is the only way that the market can reopen as things stand at the moment. When restrictions ease, we will review them immediately.

To assist with enforcement, Dougal, the market dog, has been appraised of the new regulations and promoted to Head of Security (extra biscuits).

Market Update

Although market operations remain suspended for now, we are keen to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so. A comprehensive risk assessment has been submitted to our landlord showing how we propose to manage this. If this is accepted, we hope to reopen at some point between mid July and early August.

We’re really looking forward to seeing everyone again after what has been a very trying time so thank you all for your patience. Keep safe and we hope to see you soon.

Big Cat Formation Patches

The ferocity and power of big cats have an obvious appeal as a choice for formation signs and the first lot of three tiger heads was worn by members of the South Eastern UK Aldershot Command. Its HQ was in Reigate and its principal job was to oversee regional domestic defence in the event of invasion. It was disbanded in 1944 when the operational areas were changed and the prospect of invasion was remote.

The two other sets are (locally made) Singapore district patches showing a lion under a palm tree. Also used by British forces in Sierra Leone, they remained part of the Singapore district outfit until 1947.

Wearing your heart on your sleeve

An original British Army recruitment sergeants patch from the early 1900’s, this would have been worn on the lower arm. The crossed union flags are nicely detailed with wire and silk. At the outbreak of war in August 1914, the regular army was 700,000 strong (today it stands at 117,000 including 30,000 reservists). The government appealed for 100,000 volunteers but by the end of September they had 750,000.

Young men had to be 18 to sign up and 19 to be sent overseas to fight. The stories of young lads lying about their age in case they missed out before it was “all over by Christmas” are true. It’s estimated that over 250,000 underage boys signed up. This was facilitated by recruiting sergeants who turned a blind eye to their obvious youth and adopted a more avuncular approach quite different from their approach on the parade ground!

The Black Cat Division

Originally formed in WWI but gaining fame in the Burma Campaign 1942-45 when it was continually in action, the 17th Indian Division also enjoyed the distinction of being known as the Black Cats. Their original formation sign had been a lightning bolt but changed to this design in mid-1942. The British Indian Army already numbered some 200,000 men at the outbreak of the war. By the end of the war it had grown to 2.5 million, still the largest volunteer army in history.

Unit formation sign patches are a very affordable way of becoming a militaria collector as they start at about £10. Most come in forward facing pairs but contemporary photographs show that soldiers sometimes wore mismatched pairs or a single one on a bush hat. Generally, it is best to focus on a particular theatre or campaign such as Normandy or the Far East. Interest in patches continues to grow and they often crop up on programmes like Antiques Roadshow.

Designated Drivers

These three original British Army patches signify that the wearer is a qualified driver. All bear a steering wheel design but the earliest (top) bears the letters IC (“Internal Combustion”) since some vehicles were still ox/horse drawn at this period. By the 1940’s a star had replaced the letters with a king’s crown signifying that the wearer was in fact a drving instructor.

Like all specialist trades in the Army, such patches were worn on the lower left arm. To save officers the trouble of having to ask though, qualified drivers would usually wear their chin strap tucked up behind the cap’s badge.

During the temporary closure of the market, we have decided to continue posting every fortnight on our blog – beginning with a series on patch collecting.

Operation Temporarily Suspended

Regrettably, Charing Cross Collectors Market is temporarily suspending operations in line with government advice on managing the Covid-19 pandemic. We must prioritise the health and safety of our dealers, our customers and, indeed, the general public. We will of course monitor the situation closely and only open again when we feel it is safe to do so. This will be announced on our blog and all our social media channels. In the meantime, please look after yourselves everyone, follow all the relevant NHS guidance and we’ll see you again soon.

Mystery Solved

A few days ago we asked if anyone could help to interpret this photograph of two postcards which we know refer to the 1905 Russo-Japanese War. What we didn’t yet understand was how it refers to it. Who is the bell boy on the right? The uniformed horse? Why is he laughing? What does the pump refer to? Russian Reddit users u/sUpport84 and u/agrostis came to the rescue. The explanation below is thanks to him.

First off, these two postcards are part of a set of three as it is taken from a (presumably French) triptych from the period. The whole thing is a mocking take on Japanese ambitions in the Far East.

So far as we know, Julian doesn’t have the middle postcard. This was Photoshopped in.

The bull is Russia, Japan is the frog and the bell boy / servant is Britain. As an ally of Japan, Britain was keen to use her power to curb Russian influence in the region. France, meanwhile was allied to Russia. The artist is poking fun at the pretensions of Japan by referencing the fable of the Frog and the Ox, in which the former tries to inflate itself to the size of the latter and bursts in the attempt. In the postcard the frog asks “Look, aren’t I big enough yet?”. Britain’s reply is “not yet”.

Case closed!

Rare Civil War Medallion

A real rarity this week as we feature a 350 year old silver gilt medallion made in honour of Robert Devereux. He was the third Earl of Wessex and, on the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, Parliament’s choice as the leader of their armed forces. His desire to reach an agreement with the king did not endear him to some of the more radical anti-Royalists among the MP’s though and by 1646 he had been replaced by Sir Thomas Fairfax.

Devereux was a key figure in the movement though and accorded a grand funeral at Westminster Abbey. Dying before the trial and execution of the king in 1649 had the added bonus that he was not a signatory to his death warrant. Thus he was spared the indignity of posthumous execution meted out to some of the regicides. The corpses of Cromwell, Ireton and Bradshaw were dug up, hanged, beheaded, their bodies thrown into a pit and their heads placed on a spike from a point in front of the spot where Charles I met his fate.

Yet what makes this medallion so unusual is the fact that, previously, only silver ones have been recorded. So far as we know, this silver gilt example is one of a kind but please contact us if you have any further information.