Monday 11 February 2008 by Amanda Rebbeck. 17 comments
Aircraft 1914 - 1918, Collection, Heraldry

It is not unusual for servicemen and women to carry with them good luck charms while on overseas service. However one particularly superstitious serviceman was Aircraft Mechanic 2nd Class Henry James Marston, of No. 3 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps (AFC). Marston wore a wrist chain with an identity tag and three lucky charms – a boomerang, a black cat and a doll.

2AM Henry J Marston’s aluminium identity disc and three good luck charms affixed to a brass wrist chain. REL33983

The boomerang entitled 'I Go To Return' is an obvious choice, and may have been bought by or given to Marston before leaving Australia. The choice of the “lucky” black cat is similarly obvious. The silver FUMSUP charm (a play on “thumb’s up”), was a popular motif in Britain during the First World War and also appeared on souvenir china and postcards. The head appears to be made of wood "touch wood" and has a four leaf clover impressed into it. The tiny glass eyes often seen in other examples are missing.  Marston’s mother’s details and address are engraved on the reverse of the identity disc.

Close up of FUMSUP charm. REL33983

 

These lucky charms proved their worth as Marston narrowly escaped a serious accident one day in 1918. He was standing near the landing strip on No. 3 Squadron's aerodrome, when an Armstrong-Whitworth F.K.8 started to make its descent. Unfortunately the aircraft’s landing gear broke off before it could touch down. The resulting crash ignited the bombs on board in a bright red flash followed by a huge explosion. Finding himself unscathed Marston immediately went to the aid of the aircraft’s observer who had been blown out of the cockpit by the blast.

Marston remained with No. 3 Squadron until the end of the war. He returned to Australia in May 1919 aboard the transport ship Kaiser-i-Hind and was discharged on 16 July.

The wrist chain will be on display in the Memorial’s new permanent exhibition Over the Front: the Great War in the Air, opening in November 2008. It will be one of a number of good luck items displayed in this exhibition, which will also include a small black toy cat belonging to Captain P G ‘Gordon’ Taylor, RFC and a pair of miniature crocheted woollen booties carried by Captain Herbert G Watson, No. 4 Squadron AFC

Captain P G Taylor’s black toy cat. REL/00058W

REL27064 Good luck miniature crocheted woollen baby’s booties belonging to CAptain Herbert G Watson, No. 4 Squadron AFC.

Comments

dawn

Hi i am so excited that i have finally traced another Fumsup. my grandmother gave hers to me when i was a little girl and told me that it was for the flyers in the WWI but this is the first time i have actually seen another one.

Amanda Rebbeck says:

Hi Dawn I am delighted to hear that there are other Fumsup charms still in circulation that have a connection to the First World War Flying Corps. I had never come across one myself before starting work on the Over the Front exhibition. They're unusual little things, this one is the only one in the AWM's collection.

Timothy Weyland

Nice to hear of another "I go to return" Boomerang existing in the world. The one I have is made of Sterling Silver with the writing up the other way to the one in your picture and the link at the top centre of the boomerang. Stamped on the back is - Stewart Dawson & Co STG SIL who I believe was an English company that expanded into Australia in the 1880's and still have a chain of stores in New Zealand. Could you possibly send me any historical information you may have about these boomerangs? Thanks Tim

Amanda Rebbeck says:

Hi Tim Thank you for your comment. I was very interested to learn that your boomerang was stamped on the back with the makers details. Our boomerang does not have that information, just the "I GO TO RETURN' on the front. We had no additional details given to us when the boomerang arrived at the Memorial so I cannot confirm that ours was made by Stewart Dawson & Co as well. We also do not have any other examples in our collection that we can compare it to. I would like to be able to provide you with further historical information on these boomerangs but as we know so little about ours I feel that anything i pass on to you would be already known. Regards Amanda

dawn

Hi Amanda Thanks for your reply. Just came on site now. I wonder how many of these were from England, do you have any other sites that i could go on to that may have more information or contacts. many thanks Dawn

Amanda Rebbeck says:

Hi Dawn When the charms came into the collection one of the websites that proved to be of good use to us was http://ukvintagecharms.co.uk/antique.htm. However, just trying to access it now, it no longer appears to be available. I suggest trying http://www.vintage-charm-jewelry.com/ which is a site that has been setup specifically to share knowledge about vintage charms. good luck Amanda

michelle

I am the assistant curator of the Yeppoon RSL Military Museum and you have cleared up a mystery for us - we wondered what the little silver doll was with the odd wording on it. Then a friend showed us your newsletter article a few days ago and we were delighted to find it is a significant artefact. Also we later found some paperwork relating to it and we found that the donor had brought it back from Gallipoli (years ago) along with some sand and bullets/shrapnel and pebbles. There was no label on the actual items in the case. We only became the curators 12 months ago and are trying to bring some order to 60 years worth of militaria that has been collected but not catalogued or preserved in any way. So this was a help to us. Great reading!!!

Martina

How much are these little 'fumsup' dolls worth?

Amanda Rebbeck says:

Hi Martina We really can't advise on the current market value of an item such as the fumsup charm but it is worth noting that they appear to be quite rare. Even though (presumably) hundreds if not thousands were made and distributed during the First World War, working on the Over the Front exhibition has only yielded an additional two to the one held in the Memorial's collection. This includes the one found at Gallipoli and brought back in recent years as a souvenir.

Jon

Hi Amanda My grandfather was given a Fumsup in the second world war by a stretcher bearer from the first world war to protect him through the Salford blitz. My grandfather sent Fumsup to my father before he went to the Vietnam war in 1967 the little silver charm has worked well. Fumsup still has he's glass eye's but has lost his silver head ring. Fumsup has seen our family though exams driving tests and job interviews sometimes successfully, He is living in Suffolk.

Amanda Rebbeck says:

Hi Jon I'm glad your Fumsup has worked well for you and your family over the years. I've often wondered how succussful they were in providing good luck to those who carried them so it's nice to hear of a successful story. They're such unique little items it's always good to hear of another one out there. Many thanks.

brass bullet

beautiful ! nicely engraved , great exhibition of engraving art.

Simone Rogers

Hi all, I am a British MA History student researching superstition and alternative beliefs and the use of the occult during the First World War. I am especially interested in collecting accounts of people on the Home Front who held seances to contact loved ones who had died in the First World War, either through visiting fortune tellers, gypsies, or spiritualist mediums. Also I am interested to find any diaries, letters or photographs which may be useful to my research. Any lucky charms or talismans, lucky pennies or mascots or stories relating to them much appreciated. Please write to: Simone Rogers 13 Severn Street Lincoln LN1 1SJ email: randomgizzards@hotmail.com

nettie

I have just discovered amongst my late mothers jewellery a Fumsup charm, sadly I have no idea how she aquired it only that she lived during the second world war.

diana may

hi my mum has a fumsup charm, it was possible dug up in my late fathers garden some fifty plus years ok ,mum can not remember herself but knows dad had it for a long time, i love it it takes me back to my childhood and all the times i pestered my dad to let me have a look. regards diana

Laila

Jeg har også en FUMSUP som jeg har arvet efter min mor, men har desværre ingen oplysninger om hvor den stammer fra. Jeg ved min bedstefar har rejst og mulighvis i UK. Det er tilbage i ca. 1920 til 1925. Min FUMSUM er lavet af sølv og hovedet er af træ. Kan nogle hjælpe mig om hvordan den er kommet til DK med oplysninger om den?

Rosemary Watson

I've been intrigued to read all your comments on good luck charms - the reason I looked into this is that twice recently I've come across what appears to be silk handkerchiefs being carried as what can only have been good luck - the first are large man-size hanks - cream silk and beautifully embroidered with, in one case horse shoes and four-leaf clovers; another with flowers, both embroideries in the same cream silk thread.

The other four are very small ladies' hanks, silk again, with beautiful fine crotchetted lace edging and insert on the corner. These have with them a pencilled note which reads"These have been on an operation with me ( a completely uneventful one) - together with a case of sherry for myself and the other Aussies, and seven bags of spuds and apples, a clothes basket of plums, a crate of eggs and case of gin for the mess, a few bombs etc. and one passenger." They were sent to my godmother by her brother - obviously this must have been a "refuelling run" for the Mess.

Absolutely intrigueing - I have no idea where the "operation" would have been or the date of writing, only that the writer (Jack Bonfield Faviell,a family member) was stationed in the Borneo area towards the end of WW2 and was lost somewhere in the vicinity of the Celebes Is. when seeking to rescue his cousin (my uncle) and his crew who had been shot down the day before. Jack's plane was never found.