Sweet Scented Memories...
When soldiers had an opportunity to become tourists, they often collected souvenirs to remember their experience of service, and to provide those back home with some indication of what they had seen, as the Australian War Memorial's extensive Postcard and Souvenirs collections attest to. However, one popular method of souveniring was pressing flowers.
As many would never have had the opportunity to travel to far away places before enlisting, nor would do so after their return, flowers were a unique reminder of the geographical location they had visited, and were also a reminder of the beauty of the landscape in contrast to the destructive impact of war. It was a cheap and easy alternative to purchasing souvenir booklets and large amounts of postcards!
The Memorial has a small collection of pressed flowers spanning both World Wars. Recently, the Memorial acquired a small autograph book which holds a collection of pressed flowers from places around the world visited by Sergeant George Cadd (service no. 2134) during his service in the First World War (RC06416).
There are samples of flowers and leaves from England, Egypt and France, including the Somme, but the book also includes ticket souvenirs and currency from his travels. Fortunately for us, he was careful to annotate almost every entry with a place of origin and the date at which he obtained them.
The Memorial's Greeting Card Collection also includes cards sent home which were decorated with pressed flowers. One such example is a small greeting card from Cape Town during the First World War, which includes a leaf which has been painted to illustrate a coastal scene with ships (RC07122).
The Memorial also holds several booklets with wooden covers, commercially made, from both world wars which combine samples of flowers with postcards. The covers are made of olive-wood and come in a variety of designs. Inside, the flowers can be arranged in quite intricate designs. These were picked up by soldiers while in the Holy Land and were quite popular among tourists. A nice example is found in the Memorial's Souvenir Booklets collection (RC00091), in which there are several diverse examples of flora from Jerusalem during the Second World War. The flowers are in amazingly good condition for their age and have fortunately retained much of their colour.
Some fantastically creative designs may be found in these booklets, and their popularity is demonstrated by examples found across the internet, such as another from Jerusalem found on the site ‘Oldmapsbooks.com' http://www.oldmapsbooks.com/Book_Pages/B27xx/B2793jerusalem.htm
As Canberra celebrates the beauty of flowers with Floriade, there has never been a better time to consider the remarkable examples of pressed flowers held in the collections at the Australian War Memorial.