With Love From The Front Lines

The exquisite little brooch above was donated to the library recently as part of a World War I collection relating to Private Robert Salisbury of the 25th Australian Battalion (Accession 30015).  Robert, who was from South Brisbane, enlisted in October 1916 and served in France and Belgium.  His father had died before the war and his mother and sister were dependent on him.  The small silver brooch features a scroll inscribed with the word "Somme" which is entwined with a wreath of flowers.  It may have been a memorial brooch owned by Robert's mother, Harriet Amy Salisbury, or perhaps his sister, Evelyn.  Sadly Robert was killed in Belgium on the 4th October 1917 with severe shrapnel wounds to both legs.  He was aged 29.

Private Robert Salisbury

Private Robert Salisbury

This type of jewellery was known as "sweetheart" jewellery.  It was often worn by girlfriends, wives and mothers of men serving during the war as a symbol of pride and affection.  Such jewellery was also worn as a poignant memorial to a loved one who had died during the conflict.  Some of the jewellery was mass produced and other items were specifically commissioned from jewellers.  Brooches, necklaces, rings and lockets were popular items during both world wars.

Jewellery was also made by the men in the front lines out of pieces of metal found in the trenches, such as shell casings, shrapnel, and bullets.  This debris, which was fashioned into keepsakes and jewellery, was known as trench art and provided a creative outlet for those caught in the horrors of the war.  Examples of trench art include scrap metal which was made into rings, bracelets, pendants and brooches, as well as bullet shells made into embossed vases.  The Australian War Memorial holds some remarkable pieces, including this intricately beautiful napkin ring created by Sapper S.K. Pearl of the 5th Field Company Engineers.

Sapper S.K. Pearl table napkin ring created at Armentieres, January 1918. Australian War Memorial, RELAWM14153.

Sapper S.K. Pearl table napkin ring created at Armentieres, January 1918. Australian War Memorial, RELAWM14153.

Other mementos which were sent home to loved ones included postcards, photographs, and objects such as cigarette cases.  This beautiful silver coloured cigarette tin, which includes an inset photograph of an attractive young lady, was part of the Staunton Family Papers, OM72-90.  The case was owned by Private Francis Henry Staunton who enlisted in Richmond, Queensland, in late December 1914.  He served with the 25th Infantry Battalion at Gallipoli, and was killed in action in France on the 29th July 1916.  The case was returned to the Staunton family after Frank was killed.

The collection also includes an embroidered postcard which was sent by Frank to his sister, as well as an artistic photograph of frank lovingly looking at an inserted image of his mother.

Embroidered postcard sent by Private Frank Staunton to his sister.

Embroidered postcard sent by Private Frank Staunton to his sister.

Photograph of Private Frank Staunton and his mother.

Photograph of Private Frank Staunton and his mother.

One can only imagine the love and reverence attached to these objects by the families of the men who never returned home, and the care with which they were preserved as a lasting memento of the lost son, husband or sweetheart.

Lynn Meyers, QANZAC 100 Content Curator

 

 

 

 

 

 

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