Wednesday 20 August 2008 by Dianne Rutherford. 3 comments
Collection, Military Heraldry and Technology, Heraldry

Most people like to bring home a souvenir from their travels and soldiers in the First World War were no exceptions. The First World War led to great movements of people across the world, but especially through Europe. Many of these people ended up in Great Britain at one time or another. Despite difficulties in wartime, British companies still managed to produce a myriad of souvenirs for the visitors as reminders of their time in Britain, or as a gift for a loved one.

One type of souvenir that was popular during the war was military themed crested china. Crested china gained popularity during the Victorian era. As the railways provided affordable and convenient travel for the middle classes, they wanted to bring home a souvenir of where they had been. Before the First World War companies (the most famous and the original being Goss crested china) made collectibles such as vases, famous houses and public buildings, cars and replicas of visitor attractions.

These collectibles were generally white, often with gilded edges or highlights. Each item was decorated with the coat of arms from a village, town or city.

The advantage for the companies was there were many ways these items could be collected and so many opportunities to sell souvenirs. A person could purchase a variety of ceramics all with the same coat of arms, or could select a subject - such as cats - and collect just those.

A collection of crested china military hats, including a pith helmet (REL23606 ); a ‘lemon squeezer’ hat (REL23607 ); Glengarry cap (REL23605); Australian slouch hat (REL23609) and peaked cap (REL23604).

The increased numbers of men and women travelling through or in Britain, for training or leave, led to the companies developing military themed crested china. Different figures were popular, such as nurses, sailors and soldiers.

REL23598 Crested China figure of a Nurse.

Examples of the latest technologies, such as tanks, and different types of armoured cars were a popular souvenir, as were ambulances and dirigibles (air ships, such as Zeppelins).

Crested china vehicles and military equipment, including an armoured car (REL23596), set of binoculars (REL23600), searchlight (REL23601) and ambulance (REL23599).

Crested china could also be used as propaganda. Figures were produced of Edith Cavell, the famous British nurse executed by the Germans after she helped Allied soldiers escape occupied Belgium. Her image was used extensively through the war as a rallying cry for men to enlist. After its sinking in 1915, crested china models of RMS Lusitania were produced. Again the Lusitania was a powerful propaganda tool, used to encourage support for the war effort in countries already at war, as well as to try and convince America to enter the war.


John Scott Palmer

We have a collection of Bruce Bairnsfather cartoons on a dinner plate and a tea pot bought back by the great uncles from the First World War. The dinner plate is the classic of the two Tommies belting a dud shell with a hammer to get off the fuse! "You can generally 'ear 'em fizzing afore they goes off!" The teapot is the classic "If you knows of a better 'ole". Very special souvenirs!

Di Rutherford (AWM)

Thanks John, there are some excellent Bairnsfather ceramics out there. The Memorial has some, but I haven't checked them out yet. Cheers Di

australian souvenirs

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