Category Archives: Souvenir

Jersey Liberation Penny

The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by Germany during the Second World War. As such the fall of Nazi Germany in 1945 had perhaps even more significance in these islands than it did in the rest of the U.K. as it also meant liberation. In 1949 the island of Jersey commemorated its liberation by minting a special coin. This was based on the standard copper 1d coin in use at the time, known in Jersey as ‘one twelfth of a shilling’, but with an additional legend of ‘ISLAND OF JERSEY LIBERATED 1945’:imageThe reverse of the coon has the crowned head of King George VI and as it was struck after 1948, the words IND IMP (India Imperator- Emperor of India) have been deleted:imageDespite the date of 1945, the coins were actually struck in 1949, 1950 and 1952 with a total production of 1.2 million coins. The commemorative coin owes its existence to Mr. J. Wilfrid du Pre of the Societe Jersiaise who lobbied for its production.

Reg Langlois was only a child during the war, living on Jersey, but he remembers the excitement of liberation:

I will never forget the day the adults started acting strangely, dancing and calling out to each other. I was playing in the back yard when my father called me indoors to listen to the wireless. “What’s a wireless?” I asked. He was indoors by then so I hurried in to join the family. In all the excitement I remember there was a lot of laughing and crying and everyone was hugging each other. My father stood over by the fire place with a strange piece of equipment in his hand that I had 

never seen before. It was attached to a dark coloured box-shaped thing on the floor and had wires attached to something I recognized as a battery. Sounds and voices came from it and my father told everyone to be quiet because 

Winston Churchill was going to speak. You could have heard a pin drop as Dad said softly “we have waited a long time for this moment “. We heard the British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, say ” our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed today.” There was silence in the room. It was hard to 

believe that the long war and the occupation of our islands were over. When I asked my father where the wireless had come from he explained that it 

had been in the sitting room all the time, in a cupboard under the floor next to the fireplace. He went on to tell me that, when the Germans arrived in Jersey at the beginning of the occupation, they requisitioned his brand new Studebaker car but, before they took it away, he had very carefully removed the radio so 

that it did not look as if there had ever been one. If they had caught him with a radio he would have been punished or, worse still, sent to Germany. Many detainees were sent to Germany from Jersey and never returned. They died

over there. My father’s car was never returned to him but I have a memento – that radio is in my loft.

Army Service Corps Cigarette Case

Today when we think of the Great War we tend to think almost exclusively of the fighting on the Western Front. This was certainly the main focus of fighting, but troops were deployed across the globe and tonight we have a delightful souvenir from those troops stationed in the Middle East. This cigarette case is exactly what you look for as a collector- it’s attractive, named, dated and even has the location engraved into it!imageThe case is made of brass that has been silver plated and in the bottom right hand corner there is an engraving of the cap badge of the Army Service Corps:imageThe lettering indicates that this case was owned by M/348444 George Armstrong of 1019 Company who were based in Mesopotamia and Persia and there is even a date of 1918. As a collector it doesn’t get much better than this! Sadly I have so far drawn a blank on the man himself, although I have discovered that 1019 Company were a mechanised transport company that was based in Basra in what is today Iraq in 1918, they were issued with Ford vans.

The case itself is quite small and is gently curved on the rear to fit snugly into a pocket, following the curves of the owner’s body so it is comfortable to use:imageInside a pair of elastic straps are fitted to hold the cigarettes in, surprisingly they are still supple and a little stretchy even after a century:imageThis is a delightful little object and hopefully the research will come together to help me tell George Armstrong’s story.

China Model of the Cenotaph

During the First World War there was a huge variety of commemorative china trinkets produced that reflected the war, some such as a tank and an artillery piece have been featured on the blog before. This obsession with collecting crested souvenir china trailed off slightly in the early 1920s but was still popular enough to warrant companies producing new designs that reflected peacetime. War memorials were an obvious choice of model and the Arcadian Company was quick to release a model of the Cenotaph in London:imageThis model is a fairly accurate depiction of Lutyens monument in the centre of London and is rendered in white glazed porcelain. The front of the model features a transfer print of the arms of the City of London:imageThe rear has an explanatory message describing what the model represents:imageWreaths that are carved in stone on the original, are picked out in green on this piece:imageThe design itself is hollow, and there is a large circular hole on the base, along with the Arcadian trade mark:imageThis design was one of the most popular in the Arcadian catalogue in the early 1920s and can be found with a large variety of town crests on the front, many with no connection to London and the Cenotaph at all. Some of these fit nicely onto the front of the model, others are clearly too large for the design and are wrapped awkwardly onto the sides of the monument. One of the most unusual uses for this design was as a souvenir of the British Empire Exhibition in 1924 when the design was offered with a special exhibition logo displayed on the front.

This reproduction of the cenotaph is made up of straight lines, the original however is designed so that the edges are ever so slightly curved, as the architect explains:

Sir Edward Lutyens, the designer of the Cenotaph, in an interview said, “The one thing I really like about the Cenotaph is that none of the architectural papers has realised how it was done. They have tried to bring out reproductions of it, and all of them have used straight lines instead of curves.”

With swift strokes he sketched the outline of the monument, and showed, by a cunning sweep in lines, how the curve preserved and even accumulated the majesty which the straight line destroyed.

Bruce Bairnsfather Plate

Perhaps the greatest cartoonist of the First World War was Bruce Bairnsfather, who created the iconic character of ‘Old Bill’, a curmudgeonly old soldier with a walrus moustache. Bairnsfather had been in the military during peacetime, but resigned in 1907 to become an artist. In 1914 he re-joined and was posted as a second lieutenant to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He started drawing humorous cartoons for the Bystander magazine featuring doleful British Tommys and these quickly became iconic characters. His cartoons were rapidly gathered together in a series of books called ‘Fragments from France’ and a range of merchandise based on his characters ensued. Tonight we have a plate that was produced in World War One depicting one of his cartoons:imageThe cartoon itself is in the centre of the plate and is a reproduction of one of Bairnsfather’s more popular designs:imageThis plate was produced by Grimswade and their mark is on the rear:imageOther Bairnsfather collectables include car mascots, metal ashtrays and model busses as well as jigsaws and film posters. Whilst in the past I have picked up the odd postcard and I have been given a few of the ‘Fragments from France’ booklets, this is my first piece of Bairnsfather china and I am very pleased with it. There is some slight damage in the form of a small chip on one edge, but as it is 100 years old, I think we can forgive it a little damage!

Feed the Guns Postcard

In October 1918 an innovative fund raising campaign took place in London that saw Trafalgar Square transformed into the battlefields of the Western Front. The ‘Feed the Guns’ Campaign took over the whole square and created a ruined farmhouse and windmill as well as trenches and original pieces of captured German equipment. Like many of these exhibitions, postcards were sold as souvenirs and to raise money:SKM_C284e18102512120The London Illustrated News reported that the square was:

Being “camouflaged as ruined churches, windmills, and cottages. The lamp-posts, even, will figure as shell shattered trees. Investors will be given application forms for War Bonds in a camouflaged military hut, and will be conducted through sandbagged trenches to the great guns in their emplacements.

The Daily Mail reported on the setting up of the exhibition:

The work of transforming Trafalgar Square into a ruined village on the western front in readiness for next week’s “Feed the Guns with War bonds” campaign was begun yesterday. Men of the “Camouflage Corps”, or Army Special Works School were busy making sandbag trenches and erecting a ruined farmhouse.

Seven big guns are to arrive tomorrow, and during next week investors will be able to take their bonds to a gun and “feed” them into the barrel, where they will be stamped with a special device.

One item that could not be disguised was Nelson’s Column, however advertising hoardings were fitted around its base encouraging the purchase of War bonds:SKM_C284e18102512120 - CopyThe fountain has become a French farm and a windmill covers one of the famous lions:SKM_C284e18102512120 - Copy (2)The lion himself can just be seen beneath the fake windmill! The destroyed village can be seen ranged out in the square:SKM_C284e18102512120 - Copy (3)The campaign was nationwide, with London as its focus, and lasted a week. £31 million was raised and this event was clearly popular as can be seen by the crowds queuing up for admission:SKM_C284e18102512120 - Copy (4)London alone raised over £23 million pounds and much of this money came for the visitors to the ‘Feed the Guns’ exhibition in Trafalgar Square.

YMCA Hut Day Silk

Tonight’s object is a rare survivor from a fundraising campaign in the Great War. The YMCA, or Young men’s Christian Association, ran recreation huts for soldiers of all nations serving with the allies. Many of these huts were located near the front, whilst others were in towns up and down the country. They offered somewhere a man could get a hot drink and meal and relax for a few hours. Pen and paper were available to write to loved ones, beds at some huts for servicemen to snatch sleep and books to read. These huts obviously cost money to provide so various fund raising activities were set up. Tonight we have a small piece of printed silk bearing the logo of the YMCA and the description ‘Hut Day’:imageNow very fragile, this little piece of silk would have been sold to the general public as a fund raising gimmick, a penny or sixpence being donated in exchange for this little memento. These sort of ‘flag days’ were common ways for charities to raise money during the Great War.

The role of the YMCA hut was rarely in question, and this report comes form the Times newspaper on 21st December 1915 describing the scene in a London hut:

The hut was at its busiest on the evening when I saw it first, for a fog had come down outside and slime squelched away from the omnibus wheels and splashed my skirt as I groped my way to it out of the untempting street. Moreover, the day boat train was in, and the night one had not yet drawn out from the railway station opposite, so there were men with Flanders mud still on their clothes and others with the reflection of farewells still upon their faces, as well as the crowd of those who were on their way to or from some camp at home.

The air smelt of wet cloth and leather and food. The tap of billiard cues came from the far end, and the blows of a finger striking “Tipperary” out of a piano. The smoke of Woodbines was so thick that this made a background of sound rather than sight for the groups round the stoves half way up the room. The centre of one of these was a man wrapped up to the ears in his trench coat of goat-skin, which was steaming from the heat. He looked in it like a being from another age and country. By the opposite fire only one man sat, so still that you would have thought he was asleep if his eyes had not been open, staring on the ground. When he had been there perhaps an hour without stirring someone went down to him from behind the canteen counter (there are a good many jobs for a woman to do in a YMCA hut besides ladling out “sausage and mashed”). She asked him if there was anything he wanted. “no,” he said, and then, since she did not go away, “I only got home tonight. I got a chap to write that I was comin’, but there weren’t nobody at the station.”

“And you’ve had nothing to eat?”

“Don’t fancy anythin’ thank you Miss.”

“Oh, nonsense. I expect they never got your letter. I’ll fetch you some coffee.”

It was something to get him to shift his eyes off his boots anyhow, and when the coffee had gone down he tugged a post-card out of his pocket.

“She must’a’ got my letter, miss. It went to the address all right.”

Hurried reading of post-card, though with very faint hope that it could turn this tragedy into comedy. It did, however.

“But she says here she is moving-going down to the country, look- to this address.”

“Lor’ bless yer, Miss. Yer don’t tell me! I never was much of a reader and I didn’t get that bit spelt out.”midnightsceneYM[1600x1200]_jpg_opt610x396o0,0s610x396The same level of care was administered nearer the front, the Chaplain of the 21st Division recalls the coming of the YMCA in 1915:

the Division of which I am in charge marched into camp about 17,000 strong, and with the exception of the canteens there was not a single place for a man to spend his leisure. The nearest town […] kindly offered all it had – a parish room and two Sunday schools. Things looked very ugly until about five days later, when Mr Johnson arrived with his big tents and corps of assistants. There was an immediate rush, and the first Sunday saw nearly 5,000 postcards, letters, and parcels dispatched, and from that day forward the huge tents […] were filled to overflowing with Kitchener’s men in their thousands. The little band of YMCA helpers wrestled with the multifarious needs of the British soldiers. Tobacco – piles of it – hundredweights of cake, buckets of coffee, lemon-squash and all sorts of popular eatable and drinkables at the counter; then the post office counter with its money order department, savings bank, library, postcard and general arrangements. At the other end of the tent a sing-song would be in progress; every square inch of space was alive with humanity’.large_000000

Boots’ WW1 Commemorative Jug

Boots the Chemists remains a familiar high street brand in the UK to this very day. A hundred years ago it was equally as popular and alongside the traditional range of medicines, potions and lotions, the shop also stocked what were referred to as ‘fancy goods’. Fancy goods was a term in common use in the early part of the twentieth century for small decorative gifts or knick-knacks. Tonight we are looking at an example of one of these sold by Boots in 1914, a small china jug:imageThe design on the jug is typical of the china items brought out to celebrate the outbreak of war, with six different flags:imageLeft to right these are Belgium, Japan, Great Britain, France, Imperial Russia and Serbia. The base of the jug has the mark of the chemists and that it was purchased from the Fancy Goods Department:imageIt is interesting to note that the mark clearly indicates that the item was made in Britain. This was common in the early days of the Great War as people boycotted German goods, of which Britain had been a major importer. Boots went so far as to take out an advertisement indicating that they had replaced their German Eau de Cologne lines with local alternatives:FetchEven in 1914 Boots was one of the largest retail companies in Great Britain but during World War One their retail business was supplanted to some extent by contracts with the government. They were the main government supplier for vermin powder, anti-gas cream, water steriliser, anti-fly cream (flies were a big problem on the front), iodine tubes, matchless tinder lighters, peppermint, compressed medicines and quinine. The company was also instrumental in producing aspirin and saccharine in the UK which up until that point had been imported from Germany.