Air Crew Brevets

Some more niche items which are a cut above what you might find elsewhere, these WWII Polish air crew brevets were specially made for them to wear alongside their national badges after qualifying through the RAF. The main image shows them alongside the usual RAF half wings – just 5.2cm long instead of the standard 8.5cm.

The ‘B’ denotes air bomber, the ‘N’ navigator – both introduced in September 1942. In December of the same year came the first ‘S’ – issued to wireless operators. Other designations were AG – air gunner, RO – observer radio, E – flight engineer and M – meteorological observer.

An interesting footnote concnerns the air gunner half wing. When this was sent to the king for approval, he noticed that it had thirteen side feathers. In His Majesty’s presence, this top feather was cut off, signed and approved by the King himself. Therreafter all other half wings had twelve feathers.

My Kingdom for a Heraldic Horse Pendant

Well not a kingdom perhaps but you could always try haggling if you want a piece of history almost a thousand years old…

A quite astonishing find by a metal detectorist, this pendant would have been worn round the neck of a horse which was part of Richard the Lionheart’s forces. The distinctive coat of arms features a lion rampant standing on one leg with a separated twin tail. In the artist’s impression of Richard in the Holy Land around 1190, you can see he’s used round pendants in place of the ones which would have actually been used.

It’s not every day that you chance upon treasures like these. Just Saturdays. At Charing Cross Market.

Saint Paul’s Watch

The sight of Saint Paul’s Cathedral dome above the smoke of the Blitz in World War II became an iconic image of Britain’s survival when it stood alone against the might of the German military machine. Incendiary bombs were a particular danger and, from the air, the Cathedral posed an easy target.

The Saint Paul’s Watch, originally formed during the Great War in 1915, was composed of Cathedral clergy and staff, retired architects and public spirited locals. Numbering some 300 people in all, they worked tirelessly to protect the fabric of the building and preventing fire taking hold.

Unsurprisingly, badges denoting membership of this gallant band are extremely rare. Less surprisingly, market stalwart Michael Burroughs of Anything Military has managed to source one!

This is the male version of the badge with lapel crescent fitting. The women’s version was the same but had a wire pin fitting on the back. A rare badge for a rare breed!

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!

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.

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.

The Ministry of Food

With the outbreak of war in 1939, the British government was (rightly) concerned about the country’s food supply.

The Ministry of Food had been established during the Great War but stood down in 1921. Renewed hostilities meant that Britain’s island status once again became both its greatest defence and a food supply issue. In 1939 only 30% of what people ate was grown domestically.

Used on all ration books and, here, on armbands like this, the MoF logo was a familiar sight during the war years. This armband would have been worn by a member of the civil defence authorities tasked with giving advice and cooking tips at large air raid shelters and refugee centres. This is a one colour print applied by silk screen with dark blue ink on a white armband. The reverse shows the classic signs of bleed through from the print.

Brown paper packages tied up with string

Still one of our favourite things and for good reason: the contents are usually quite exciting…

As was the case when Anything Militaria’s Michael Burroughs recently acquired one such package from an old nursing home. Carefully packed inside were several military issue red ties dating back to the Great War. Such ties were issued to and worn by convalescing wounded soldiers and the custom dates back to the Crimean War. Wearing a red tie like this was a visual cue that the soldier should be excused for leaning or not standing upright to attention. Several comic postcards of the era are included to show them being worn.

During the second world war, they tried a blue battledress and trousers but, as standard hospital issue was striped pyjamas, this idea was dropped. These red ties are quite the rarity. 4cm wide tapering to 2.5cm at the middle and featuring four lines of stitching reminiscent of a karate grading belt.

Yet the singularly most striking things about these antique military ties is their condition. So well preserved were they in their brown paper and string that the deep red is as bright today as it must have been then.