Category Archives: Home Front

1941 Diary-Calendar

Tonight’s object is a small diary-calendar from 1941. This little book is just 1”x 1.5” in size and features a photograph and quote from Antony Eden on the front about Dunkirk:imageThe back cover reveals that it was sold to raise money for a charity, the St John’s Guild for the Blind:imageThis charity had been formed in 1919 to help blind people in a Christian context and like most charities would have found itself being called upon to help more and more during wartime. Charities always struggled for cash, however in wartime with resources tighter and demands higher, this problem would have become more acute. Various fund raising schemes were popular in the 1940s including selling small tokens such as badges, flags or in this case a little diary. The cover is filled with a suitably stirring quote for the period and the flags of the services and the price of 2d made it easy for people of all walks of life to afford to purchase one.

The front page of the book indicates its purpose as a Diary Calendar for 1941:imageEach month has a double page spread, with a line for each day:imageThe centre of the book has excerpts from speeches from the King, Prime Minister:imageAnd other politicians of the day such as Hore-Belisha:imageThe back page includes a handy reminder of the holidays and saints’ days for the year ahead:imageThe small size of the book would have allowed it to be easily slipped into a wallet or purse, and with a small pencil stub gave the owner access to somewhere to jot down appointments whilst out and about without taking up much room. These little items of ephemera are not worth much today, but are actually quite scarce as most would have been thrown away after the year was up. This little book is a nice survivor and has been in my collection for many years now, I cannot recall where I got it or how much I paid but I suspect it won’t have cost me more than 50p.


Anzac Day Lapel Pin

On 25th April every year the people of Australia and New Zealand, together with the Cooke Islands, Pitcairn Islands and Tonga commemorate their fallen on Anzac Day. The 25th April 1915 was the day Anzac troops first landed on the Gallipoli peninsular in World War One and a year later it was officially inaugurated as a half day holiday to remember the sacrifices of Anzac troops. From the very start it was designed to be a non-denominational day of remembrance with a two minutes silence in honour of those who would not be returning. This was chosen in preference to prayer as it was open to all of any faith and none.

The Northern Territory Times and Gazette of 30th March 1920 reported:

April 25 is Anzac Day, and is a public holiday by Act of Parliament. It is really a national Australian holiday. A-N-Z-A.C-Australia New .Zealand Army Corp-a name, protected, honored and revered by the English speaking race because of its connection with the greatest military enterprise in the history of the world. Although Australia had previously participated in small wars in Africa, against the Soudanese and the Boers, Gallipoli was really our baptismal under fire. It was here that the wonderful Australian troops astounded the world and earned the respect and admiration of even the Turk. The world dearly loves a fighter and the Anzac stands on a pedestal right out on his own. So far, there has not been any official announcement that Anzac Day is to be honored by any public function in Darwin. It is inconceivable that the day will be allowed to pass without public notice or tribute locally. However, there is still plenty of time, and it is hoped that the patriotic residents of the town (and they are legion, thank God) will be given an opportunity to participate in some suitable function on Anzac Day.

During the 1920s it became established as a day of remembrance on 25th April to be observed across both Australia and New Zealand and money was raised by service chairites by selling commemorative lapel pins. It is one of these we are considering tonight:imageThe pin is simply made and has a design of a large ‘A’ in front of a flaming torch with the words ‘ANZAC DAY’ around the edges:imageLooking at the rear we can see the pin is made of thin stamped metal, with the pin soldered to the rear allowing it to be attached to a jacket lapel or a dress:imageI have been unable to find an exact match to this design of pin, but numerous other variations exist. I suspect it dates from before 1950 and there was perhaps a new design each year to encourage people to buy one annually rather than reusing the same pin every year. It would have been sold in the same way poppies were in the United Kingdom, to show solidarity with those who have lost their lives and to raise money for injured servicemen and their families.

Empire Day Certificate

Tonight we have a rather magnificent Empire Day Certificate from 1940:SKM_C284e18013015240 - Copy (4)Empire day was 25th May, Queen Victoria’s birthday, and was celebrated across the Empire as a way of bringing the different countries together and to remind children that they formed part of the British Empire, and that they might think with others in lands across the sea, what it meant to be sons and daughters of such a glorious Empire.”, and that “The strength of the Empire depended upon them, and they must never forget it.”

This theme is reflected in the certificate with small shields to represent each of the major commonwealths and dominions: SKM_C284e18013015240 - Copy (2)

SKM_C284e18013015240 - CopyNote that each shield depicts the flag of the era and is surmounted by an animal associated with that country.

The certificate was given to children who helped provide comforts to servicemen during the Second World War by the Overseas League: SKM_C284e18013015240 - Copy (3)Similar certificates had been produced in the Great War. Empire Day took on special significance in wartime and the King addressed his people across the globe:

It is not mere territorial conquest the enemy is seeking. It is the overthrow, complete and final, of the Empire and of everything for which it stands, and after that the conquest of the world

Empire Day was very much focussed around the young and was celebrated in schools as far away as Canada and New Zealand. George McFarlane recalls in his book ‘Behind the Rehetoric’:

Another highlight of the school year was Empire Day, 24th May, improbable as it may seem today. The tradition was for a couple of students to speak on a patriotic topic as a lead up to addresses by the Headmaster and the President of the Parents and Citizens Association. Empire Day 1939 is fixed in my mind as is my short speech, “Patriotic Literature of the British Empire”. Not only did I benefit from the experience of speaking from the stage but also from the discipline of doing some library research about such works as Spencer’s “The Fairie Queen”.

Another child of the war remembers:

On the last day at school before Empire day we had a parade, children dressed in the national costumes of the empire, well as close to them as it could be got, and proudly marched around the school hall in front of our parents, lots of flag waving and the national anthem sung with great gusto. 1440408759768Empire Day was renamed Commonwealth Day in the 1950s and the date has moved around a few times over the last seventy years. In 2018 Commonwealth Day is 12th March, sadly it is largely forgotten by most and it seems unlikely that many schools will celebrate it with the gusto of their forebears.

ARP Lapel Badge

One of the most common wartime badges to find today is the humble silver Air Raid Precaution (ARP) badge:imageThis badge was produced in huge quantities, by February 1938 801,000 had been delivered to local authorities! The badge was designed to allow the public to quickly see who had been trained as an ARP Warden, even whilst in civilian clothes. Sir John Anderson explained the purpose of the badge in a parliamentary answer in 1939:

The air-raid precautions badge is intended as a recognition of the obligations undertaken by persons who volunteer for local authorities’ and other air-raid precautions services and persons who take special courses of training in order to enable them to carry out their normal duties under war time conditions are not, merely by reason of their having undergone such training, eligible for the badge.

The design of the badge itself was devised by the sculptor Eric Gill and was produced by the Royal Mint. The badge came in two versions, one with a pin back for women and one with a lapel back for men, this is an example of the latter:imageNote the hallmarks at the bottom of the badge, this indicates it was produced in 1938. The badges were issued in coloured boxes- red for the lapel fitting and blue for the pin back version. Once they were issued many complained the badges were too big and commercial companies started producing smaller versions for private purchase. This again caused some debate in the house, Sir John Anderson:

I am aware that miniatures of the A.R.P. badge are on sale in various quarters. No official permission has been given for such reproductions of the badge, but I am advised that their manufacture or sale does not contravene the law as it at present stands. In those instances which have come to notice, steps have been taken to enlist the co-operation of the vendors with a view to ensuring as far as practicable that miniatures are supplied only to persons who can furnish evidence that they are entitled to wear the official badge. I am considering whether any further action is desirable.

In 1940 the badge switched from silver to base metal and in 1941 the badge was authorised for wear as a cap badge. Production finally ceased in 1943.

The government made a point of explaining in one of its ARP manuals that the badge alone was not a symbol of authority, and ARP wardens needed to be issued with a card from the local council to show their position to allow them to enter abandoned buildings etc. legally, the badge alone was not considered suitable proof. It is unclear if there was much misuse of these badges, but some local authorities did number the rear of the badges and keep a register of who had which badge.

In this early recruitment poster, the badge can clearly be seen:Air_Raid_Wardens_Wanted_-_Arp_Art_IWMPST13880

Goss Crested China Royal Artillery Vase

In the first couple of decades of the twentieth century there was a collecting craze for small pottery souvenirs produced by ‘Goss China’. Goss had been founded in 1858 by William Goss to produce vases and scent bottles out of porcelain. In the early 1880’s Williams son, Adolphus, joined the firm. Adolphus had been brought up surrounded by antiquities in his father’s home and had developed an interest in heraldry. He suggested to his father that by combining the two interests they could corner the growing souvenir market. The company started by producing miniature copies of Roman and Greek vases in white porcelain, with a town’s crest on the front which could then be sold in seaside towns as souvenirs. The designs were hugely popular and were soon being sold all over the country, not just by the seaside. The company produced thousands of designs and crests, including those with a military design, such as the miniature vase we have tonight:imageThis little pot is based on a vase found near Swindon, as indicated by the writing on the base, that also includes the Goss trademark:imageThe style of the writing on the base indicates this vase dates from between 1887 and 1916. The badge on the front is that of the Royal Artillery and it is marked up as being from Salisbury Plain:imageIt seems likely that the vase was sold to troops training here as a souvenir they could send back to their loved ones. Looking on line it seems that the designs with the regimental crests are far rarer than those with crests from towns and cities. The style of Goss china was widely copied and many WW1 related pieces exist from other manufacturers, only those marked ‘Goss’ are genuine however. The craze for Goss China lasted until the end of the 1920s before falling away. Interest revived in the 1960s and 1970s and today it is still very popular. The common pieces only fetch a few pounds, rare designs though can easily make £100 each.

There’ll Always be an England Sheet Music

It has been a while since we looked at a piece of sheet music on the blog, and tonight we have one of the biggest hits of the Second World War, ‘There’ll Always be an England’:SKM_C284e18012211440This song was written in April 1939 by lyricist Ross Parker. Apparently his publisher rang him up and said that as the song ‘God bless America’ was doing very well in the states, perhaps he could write something similar for the UK? Parker sat down with his composing partner Hughie Charles and came up with ‘There’ll always be an England’. The song went down well and was chosen to be used as the finale of a film called ‘Discoveries’, a film based on a BBC talent-spotting show. The film needed a big patriotic finale and ‘There’ll always be an England’ was chosen as the piece of music to end the film with, sung by a ten-year old boy Glyn Davies with chorus, military band and hundreds of uniformed extras- as seen on the cover of the sheet music.

The film was released as war broke out and although the movie itself has largely been forgotten, the song was to become a hugely popular anthem of the war years. 200,000 copies of the sheet music were sold in the first two months of them war alone.

Its lasting popularity though was to come through one young female singer, Vera Lynn, who made it one of her two signature tunes and it is her version that will be forever associated with the Second World War. Ironically modern sensibilities have seen this track removed from a modern album of her greatest songs as it is no longer deemed politically correct to express pride in England as an entity!

The inside of the sheet music has the tune and words printed on it:SKM_C284e18012211450

SKM_C284e18012211451The words of the song read:

I give you a toast Ladies and gentlemen

I give you a toast Ladies and gentlemen

May this fair land we love so well

In Dignity and freedom dwell

While worlds may change and go awry

There’ll always be an England

While there’s a country lane

Wherever there’s a cottage small

Beside a field of grain

There’ll always be an England

While there’s a busy street

Wherever there’s a turning wheel

A million marching feet

Red, white and blue

What does it mean to you?

Surely you’re proud

Shout it loud

Britons awake!

The Empire too

We can depend on you

Freedom remains

These are the chains

Nothing can break

There’ll always be an England

And England shall be free

If England means as much to you

As England means to me

The song became a proud anthem of the war years, sung by men and women throughout the conflict. When HMS Barham was sunk, the survivors kept their spirits up singing the song whilst waiting rescue and despite modern sensibilities it will be forever associated with the war years.

Royal Artillery Compact

One group of items that women always struggled to find during the Second World War were cosmetics, with production of what were often seen as frivolous vanity items severely curtailed. In 1940 the British government introduced the Limitation of Supplies Order that reduced production to just 25% of its pre-war capacity. Companies that had previously made cosmetics were put over to war production, making foot powders for the military. With such shortages, it is unsurprising that makeup, or lack of it, became a common problem for many women. It was recognised that beauty products did help boost morale, and could help disguise how tired and drab a female workforce was feeling working long hours. Despite this, there was never enough supply to meet demand. In 1942 to save metal it became illegal to make powder compacts from metal (plastic had to be substituted). Before this date however most manufacturers enjoyed some success with compacts that featured regimental badges on the front, either as a transfer or as a separately attached badge. Tonight we have an example of one of these compacts:imageThis features the badge of the Royal Artillery:imageThese compacts were popular keepsakes to be bought by servicemen for their wives and girlfriends, the appropriate badge for their branch of service being chosen. The largest regiments such as the Royal Artillery and RASC are the most common of these compacts to find today due to the larger volume of production in the 1940s. Opening up the compact we can see a mirror and a small hinged lid:imageThis opens up to reveal the powder compartment:imageEngraved on the outside of the lid is the trade name ‘Vogue Vanitie’ and that it was made in England:imageDaphne Crisp recalls some of the details of wartime makeup and hairdressing:

I was a young woman working as a hairdresser in the shop, “Dancers” in Braintree. Dancers was a large store with both a barbers and a hairdressers selling expensive cosmetics by Elizabeth Arden and Yardley. There was always great excitement when some make up came in and everyone would be desperate to get it.

There were just young apprentices like myself and older women working as hairdressers there, as all the women aged eighteen and over were doing essential war work. We had only basic soft soap to wash the hair and gum tragent, a really harsh setting lotion which we mixed ourselves. My customers ranged from local ladies, nurses working at Black Notley and prostitutes coming down from London. These were really good tippers and liked to have their hair swept up and clipped at the sides, showing a bare shaved neck.