Sweetheart brooches

Although it was technically an offence to wear a military badge unless it had been issued to you officially, these poignant pieces of dress jewellery were tolerated for reasons of morale.

The practice of wearing a miniature badge of your loved one’s regiment began in the late 1880s and reached its peak during the Great War. Some regarded them as a symbol of good luck for the safe return of their sweetheart (or family member) while they were also no doubt worn with a degree of pride that your nearest and dearest was ‘doing their bit’ at the front. For some, they would be treasured for altogether sadder reasons as the war took its toll.

If there is a ‘holy grail’ of sweetheart brooches, then it is surely this LAMB (Light Armoured Motor Batteries) badge. Made lcally of silver, it was made for someone in the Machine Gun Corps serving in the Middle East.

The Colonies Rally Round

Beyond the 2.6 million Indian troops who helped Britain stay in the fight during World War II, a significant number helped out on the home front. In this rare series of cards, ‘On War Work In Britain’, we see sheet metal workers in critical production positions, Indian women with roles in London’s Civil Defence service and as nurses as well as a Hindu technician from Bengal making a piece of the intricate mechanism of a reconoissance camera.

Also on sale this Saturday will be a well preserved pair of British Forces Day pins. The sale of these raised funds for Lord Roberts workshops, a charitable body set up to train and equip the many thousands of people disabled through war.

Home Front Fundraising Abroad

Last week, we featured pins which showcased the success of Britain’s ‘Spitfire Fund’. This was far from the first way to raise popular financial support for the war effort – as we can see with these stamps issued by some members of the First World War’s Triple Alliance.

This complete book of stamps from Imperial Germany is superbly preserved and features a back page illustrating how the monies raised up to that point had helped provide the troops with cigarettes, tobacco and knitwear.

Their neighbour and ally, the Austro-Hungarian Empire had their own version as we see here with a well equipped soldier presumably thinking of the public’s generosity with great affection!

The Spitfire Fund

One of the most extraordinary financial efforts made on the Home Front was the Spitfire Fund. This came about mainly thanks to Lord Beaverbrook who pushed the idea of public appeals to support the aircraft’s manufacture at a time when raw materials – and money – were both in short supply.

The Fund took off in May 1940 with the idea being that small badges or pins were sold with the proceeds going towards building Spitfires, the nominal cost of which was set at a (purely theoretical) £5,000. The response from the British public, councils and businesses was magnificent. In total, some £13m pounds was raised – somewhere in the region of £650m in today’s terms. By the war’s end, almost every big British town had their name on a Spitfire.

In fact, it’s the badges with the names of smaller towns which often fetch the best prices today. However, some of the most popular with collectors are the hand made brooches of copper, brass or even Perspex (from which the cockpit windows were made).

Some Things Never Go Out of Fashion…

…And in this case, we mean the desire to show off – not just what we own – but the fact that we can afford it!

‘Conspicuous consumption’ has long been a popular way to assert one’s success in life, if only by the rather tawdry yardstick of money. The child with the new phone, the youth with their flash trainers, yuppies with designer dogs and the middle aged man with the sports car, these cliches have equivalents from every previous era.

While still expensive, wrist watches became were quite common by the time of the Great War. Many were repurposed from old pocket watches so tend to be quite prominent – although that’s no bad thing when you want to show off! These photographic portraits from the time show the sitters in poses which allow them to do just that.

Poignant Photos from Both Sides of the War

While it’s quite common to find posed portrait photographs of soldiers (from both wars), all too often the identity and fate of the subject is unknown.

Not so with these examples. In the first a member of the Parachute Regiment, Private Sadler, poses for a photo taken in Italy. The note on the back of the photo reveals that he was killed during the ill fated Arnhem expedition of September 1944.

On the other side of the lines was a young German airman who gave this photo of himself to a friend in October 1941. The recipient noted that he was killed in a bombing raid in Tobruk on 15th November 1942. A British serviceman later obtained the photograph and made the note ‘Killed in Italy. Rest in Peace’. However, it seems quite likely that he wrote this about the person carrying the photograph rather than the person it features.

Autographs: the original ‘selfie’

In a world dominated by visuals and the technology to capture photos anywhere at anytime, the humble autograph has largely been superceded by the ‘selfie’. Why ‘settle’ for a signature when a photograph is easier to share and authenticate – especially when it looks better on your time?

That’s all very well for modern day evidence that you’ve been in the presence of greatness. But the stars of yesteryear won’t be providing any more photo opportunities. The only way to establish a link with them is to track down what they left behind. Original, authenticated autographs can change hands for considerable sums. A Buster Keaton autograph might be had for £380 while good examples of Charlie Chaplin’s fetch over £4,800. Bring the likes of Marilyn Monroe into the discussion and the bar is raised much higher.

These studio promotion photo postcards are normally auto-printed but every now and again you may encounter a hand signed one. The late Sir John Mills personally signed quite a few and they regularly make £150 or more. They’re an inexpensive way to start a collection and you never know when an original might turn up…

Whole Lotta Love for Bone Records

Certainly one of the most unusual items we’ve ever featured, this is a very rare bootleg recording of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’.

Dating from a time in the seventies when Western music was banned behind in the Soviet Union, Russian fans would cut records into old X-ray plates. Hence they became known as ‘bone records’. Held up to the light, this one shows the image of a broken shoulder! The rough circular shape is because they were cut by hand and the hole in the middle was often made by a lit cigarette.

Usually, the value is determined by the condition of the record and whether it’s retained its original sleeve with Russian title.

Karl Henning Covers

A market regular and wonderfully informative contributor to this blog, Michael Burroughs, has again turned up trumps with this collection of covers and postcards all addressed to the somewhat controversial German collector, Karl Henning.

An active member of the NSDAP (Nazi) party, he officially began making the covers during the Third Reich. This included the General Government covers. By war’s end, he was Post Master General on the Channel Islands and later produced official post-war commemorative covers including the Berlin airlift – an example of which is pictured here.

Taking all his, admittedly considerable, stock to the Dominican republic, it is believed that he continued trading through another company name, Casa Filatelica Antillana. Even today, members of his family are said to still trade but eyebrows have been raised in stamp collecting forums at the seemingly inexhaustible amount of stock still for sale.

This has not seriously tarnished the allure of the ‘Karl Hennig cover’ per se though. They are still much sought after – although it’s wise to consult an experienced dealer before purchasing.

The ‘Wound Stripe’

Instituted in 1916 by King George V, the ‘Wound Stripe’ denoted anyone who’d sustained an injury in wartime. It was worn (as here) on the left forearm of the tunic, fastened through the uniform cloth. Soldiers unlucky enough to sustain another injury would be granted an additional stripe. This particular soldier is a private in the Royal Berkshire Regiment.