Kings of Sling – Part II

Back in April we posted details of a multi-purpose sling/bandage/tourniquet produced by the St John’s Ambulance Association in the early 1900’s. This is a slightly later version dating from the First World War. While it may at first glance seem identical, there is one key difference: our mustachioed Edwardian gent is now clean shaven.

This was a sad consequence of what one historian described as a definition of progress: with each new war they find a new way of killing you. Poison gas had proved to be one such invention. As gas masks were developed to counter this weapon, the need for an airtight seal was paramount for them to work. So the British Army – which had actually made moustaches compulsory for the previous 56 years – at last dropped the regulation in 1916.

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.

Kings of Sling

The classic cloth triangle to immobilise or elevate an injured limb has been a staple of first aid for centuries. Arguably though, no organisation better demonstrated its versatility than the Saint John’s Ambulance Association.

Michael Burroughs of Anything Military has recently obtained this model of medical efficiency from the early 1900’s. Showing two dozen practical applications from tourniquets to splint braces, the illustrations are so clear and easily understood they could have been drawn up by IKEA.

Thread Badge of Courage

As the US got more heavily involved in Vietnam, the need for unit patches had to scale rapidly. Often these were supplemented by individual units who would have them made locally based on their own drawing or design. The patch would be ready next day and the design kept as a template for future orders.

Michael Burroughs of Anything Militaria says that the key to collecting Vietnam patches is to look out for when and where they were made. Beyond that, it’s worth keeping an eye out for any unusual patches, such as might have been made for small special forces units.

GIANG DOANTUAN THAM : River Patrol Recon Force 61
A pair of locally made US patches from early in the Vietnam conflict…
…and the reverse showing the handiwork which created them.

As an example, a pair of hand made badges like these would be highly sought after. They were commissioned by the Green Beret Special Forces who made up the first boots on the ground in Vietnam. Their official designation here was the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, – Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG).

A badge with rainbow effect for the ODA-6 7th Special Forces Group

Holocaust Memorial Day

As regular readers will know, Michael Burroughs of Anything Militaria consistently sources the most marvellous historical items for us to feature. However, although this blog has featured some really quite remarkable treasures over the last few years, in my view none of them have been either as poignant or as precious as these: letters written by an inmate of Dachau concentration camp.

A very fitting post for Holocaust Memorial Day, they are a haunting reminder of one of humanity’s lowest points. There are four letters in all, dated 14-2-194, 7-6-1941, 1-9-1941 and 12-4-1942. Written by Johann Jaworski to his wife Maria at an address which appears to be No.(/Apptment?) 37, Horst-Wessel-Strasse, Litzmanstadt. Litzmanstadt was the Nazi name for the Polish city of Łódź, part of which had been turned into a ghetto following the invasion of 1939. It was the second largest ghetto in the whole of occupied Germany.

As for the street name, this was one of thousands of streets which were renamed after figures revered by the Nazis. Horst Wessel was a brownshirt leader who was assassinated by two Communists in Berlin. Goebbels subsequently used his death for propaganda purposes and the Horst Wessel Song became the party’s official anthem.

It is rare indeed to find such letters but even more unusual to have the envelopes which held them. Few people who had suffered at the hands of the Nazis wanted to keep the envelopes bearing a stamp with either his image or former President Hindenburg. Both letters and envelopes bear the camp name, the terms and conditions of use and have been stamped by the camp censor.

 

A Souvenir from Burma

What on first glance appears to be an ordinary brass bell of the sort which might be found above an old fashioned grocers door is actually a campaign souvenir given to some of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers fortunate enough to return home from the Third Burma War in 1885. While the regiment lost some of its men in battle, many more died from disease.

The choice of a bell came about because during the campaign, the First Battalion had brought three large bronze bells back to Britain: two from the Buddhist temple known as the Incomparable Pagoda in Mandalay and one found in India. One of the Temple bells ended up in Wrexham on a brick pillar outside Woolworths before finding a more decorous home in the Burma Garden of Bodhyfryd Memorial Hall.

Of course, the detail which identifies this as one of the souvenir bells in question and authenticating its age of 136 years is the RWf stamp on the inside. This particular one retains its lead clapper but the traces of glue on the inside of the bell show that it was at some point set to ‘silent’! And if you’d like to see it close up, Michael Burroughs of Anything Military has confirmed that the bell will be on display and on sale this Saturday at the market.

Shades of the Wild West

What’s twice as rare as an imperial yeomanry Stetson from the Boer War, I hear you ask? Why, two of them of course.

Photos of this marvellously preserved pair of hats were sent to us by Michael Burroughs of Anything Military and he has confirmed that they will be on sale at the Market this Saturday. Both sport the correct three inch red lined purple silk pugari with the king’s crown button and black ostrich feather. Inside the leather band is marked “3X Beaver Quality STETSON. John B. Stetson Company, USA, Made In Australia”.

The classic Stetson ‘open road’ style was developed as a refinement to the original ‘Boss of the Plains’ hat which had a broader brim and rounded dome – see image below. The creased crown and narrower brim of the open road would become classic cowboy headgear and the company boasted that the tight weave allowed it to hold water – hence the advertisements showing a cowboy using his Stetson to give his horse a drink. The ‘ten gallon’ moniker is misleading though. While it may be a corruption of the spanish term tan galán, (tr. “really handsome”), in reality a typical Stetson would hold about three litres (or six pints).

A ‘Boss of the Plains’ hat

When (Guinea) Pigs Fly

silver-guinea-pig-club-badge

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.

silver-guinea-pig-club-pin

The Guinea Pig Club

“It has been described as the most exclusive Club in the world, but the entrance fee is something most men would not care to pay and the conditions of membership are arduous in the extreme.” This is how the brilliant New Zealand surgeon, Archibald McIndoe, described the club informally set up in June 1941 by 39 of his patients. His experimental work in reconstructive plastic surgery paved the way for many modern techniques and McIndoe is rightly seen as a pioneer and a hero to those whose lives he changed.

The terrible burns suffered by WWII aircrew were on a scale few surgeons had ever dealt with before but McIndoe was determined to improve their survival rate and quality of life. You could only qualify as a Guinea Pig Club member if you were a serving airman and had undergone at least two surgical procedures. By the end of the war the Club had 649 members.

This was all achieved on Ward III at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead. Patients were encouraged to lead as normal a life as possible and local residents were encouraged to welcome them into their homes as guests and treat them as they would anyone else. East Grinstead famously became ‘The Town That Didn’t Stare’ and played an important part in the servicemen’s rehabilitation.

One of our traders, Michaeal Burroughs of Anything Military, has sent us this fine example of a Guinea Pig Club badge with a 1939 star with Battle of Britain “gold” rosette. This will be on sale this Saturday alongside lots of other fabulous collectibles.

OPEN!

Finally! We’re open again this Saturday (from 7am for the early birds!). It will be so lovely to see you all again! But please remember that we have special precautions in place for everyone’s safety: a one way system (enter by Villiers Street next to Costa Coffee), masks must be worn and we are maintaining a one metre social distancing rule. Please bear in mind that while you may have had one or even both of your vaccinations, these measures are designed to limit the spread of the virus and are there to protect everyone.

Michael Burroughs of Anything Military has sent us a couple of very unusual items which will be on sale tomorrow: a belt buckle and pendant of the beautifully named Army of the Lily. This formed part of the ceremonial uniform of the Knights of Pythias, an American secret order founded in 1864 and which, even in 2003, still had 50,000 members and over 2,000 lodges worldwide. Famous Pythians include FDR, Nelson Rockefeller and Louis Armstrong.

The UR showed that this belt clasp belonged to someone of ‘Uniformed Rank’ while the skull and cross bones symbol on the pendant was appropriate enough for an order which laid particular importance on the use of ceremonial swords. Worth noting on the reverse of the pendant is the all seeing eye so beloved of any would-be secret society.