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.

DIY War Crimes Tribunal

Another fascinating find by Michael Burroughs this week. Hidden away in an old shoe box for seventy years was this macabre piece of propaganda allowing you to ‘hang’ prominent Nazis on a piece of string. Originally made in the US in 1942, at some point they were brought to England and have barely seen the light of day since.

There are four uniformed figures easily identified as Hitler, a corpulent Herman Goring (with military baton), Joachim von Ribbentrop and Josef Goebbels. In the end all but one of them escaped the rope. Hitler and Goebbels committed suicide before they were captured. At the Nuremberg trials after the war, Goring and von Ribbentrop were sentenced to death but Goring took a potassium cyanide capsule just hours before his execution.

The champagne toting Joachim von Ribbentrop alongside Nazi Minister for Propaganda, Josef Goebbels

On a lighter note, we were delighted to be able to send a donation of £700 to the British Red Cross who are doing such sterling work with their Humanitarian Appeal for the war in Ukraine.

Slava Ukraini!

Like the rest of the civilised world, we have watched recent events unfolding in Eastern Europe with horror. The scenes of death and destruction caused by the Russian government’s invasion of Ukraine are an unwelcome reminder that rampant nationalism is as big a threat to peace as it was a century ago.

We will be donating all the takings from this week’s market in aid of the British Red Cross Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

Collectopedia: Notaphily

While coin collecting, or numismatics, is the more common specialism of anyone with a penchant for currency, banknotes have their own equally dedicated, if not quite so wide, following.

The first banknotes made their appearance in China as far back as the seventh century. Although Marco Polo returned from his travels with some examples in the thirteenth century, the concept would not be widely adopted in Europe for a further four hundred years.

Just as with stamps, the variety is so great that the budding collector is best advised to find a theme in which they have a natural interest. Perhaps you have a penchant for animals, portraits or the banknotes of a particular country. More specialised still are the notaphiles on the lookout for certain serial numbers or notes featuring signatures.

As might be imagined, factors affecting the value of a note include its overall condition and, above all of course, its rarity. A case in point is the world’s most valuable banknote: the US 1890 Grand Watermelon $1,000 Bill. Only seven are known to exist in the world – and only three of them will ever be held in private hands. It is known as the Grand Watermelon because of the plump zeros on the reverse. Forget face value though. The last time one came up for auction in 2014, it went for a cool $3.3 million.

One Red Flag Not to be Missed

A slice of TV history will be at the Market this Saturday as Michael Burroughs of Anything Militaria flies the red flag above his stall. It is no less than the film prop as seen in the iconic BBC series Peaky Blinders. Bearing the name of the Birmingham Bordesley Communist Party, it was used at a graveside scene towards the beginning of Season 2 Episode 1. An official script from the same episode will also be available and this is a great opportunity to own, or just be photographed with, a fantastic collectors item.

The First Christmas Card

Although the discovery of a Rosicrucian greeting sent to James I in 1611 can technically be regarded as the first Christmas greeting message, Christmas cards in a form we would easily recognise have a more credible origin in 1843. Clearly not someone who liked to leave it to the last minute, Sir Henry Cole commissioned the printing of 2,050 in May of that year. They all sold for a shilling each and a festive tradition (and a new industry!) was born.

In fact, Cole’s new idea was rooted much more firmly in commerce than sentiment – he had played a significant part in the introduction of the Penny Post just three years earlier. The design by John Horsley was a typical Victorian trope: three generations of a family joyfully toasting the health of the recipient. While subsequent years would build on the idyll of large, happy – and often very wealthy – families celebrating together in front of an extravagantly fuelled fire, there were a number of very unusual, even dark, offshoots which would surprise us today.

The Enduring Charm of Antique Advertising

As modern advertisers come up with increasingly creative ways of driving ‘brand awareness’ among a savvy 21st century audience, there is something undeniably quaint about their early forays into the medium. Print ads had long been used to wax lyrical about a product’s virtues but signs you might see in the street were often much more to the point. Often the ad was nothing more than a high contrast rendering of the company name.

These enamelled metal signs were ubiquitous in towns and villages around the country but many were melted down during World War II. They are now highly sought after and often sell for hundreds of pounds because of their ability to add charm and character to homes and businesses. A battered vintage whisky sign on the bare white brick wall of a minimalist loft apartment might be just the thing while a Shell one behind a garage desk suggests that this has been a family business for generations.

The Largest Wreck in the Caribbean

This unfortunate distinction belongs to the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique’s SS Antilles. Built in 1952, the Antilles was painted white to distinguish her from her sister ship, the SS Flandres. Both were built to address the post-war shortage of dedicated cruise ships so their construction was a great source of pride to the CGT – hence the beautifully illustrated commemorative medal seen here. While the Flandres would see wide use under several different owners until 1994, the Antilles had a much shorter life.

On 8 January 1971, she struck a reef near the island of Mustique in the Caribbean while attempting to navigate a shallow and reef-filled bay on the northern side of the island. On hitting the rocks the impact ruptured a fuel tank and she caught fire. All of her passengers and crew evacuated the ship safely to the island of Mustique where they were later rescued by Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth II.

The wreck is submerged but is – supposedly – barely visible on Google Earth (although I couldn’t find it!) and the mast is said to protrude above the water during low tide.

In Memory of Alan Haylock (1943-2020) and Pearl McNamara (1949-2020)

Our delight at being able to reopen last week was tempered by the sad news that two of the Market’s best loved characters had passed away over the Christmas period. This photo, taken last September, was passed to us by his son, also called Alan.

Although neither Alan nor his wife, Pearl, were stallholders, they were among the longest standing attendees at the market. Alan in particular was almost always waiting for Bridget to open up at 6:30am every Saturday! There cannot be any Market regulars who weren’t saddened by the news of their passing and we, in common with their sons, Paul and Alan, will miss them greatly. Rest in Peace.