Regimental bar sweetheart brooch: Section Officer Rosemary im Thurn, Women's Auxiliary Air Force

Accession Number REL38495
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Emerald, Gold, Leather, Satin, Velvet
Maker Mappin & Webb Ltd
Place made United Kingdom: England, Greater London, London
Date made c 1939
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Fine gold bar, pin-backed brooch, with a gold edged numeral '37' set with emerald chips attached to the centre. The brooch is contained in a small hinged box with domed lid, covered in blue leather with a gold tooled edge. Inside, the brooch slots into a cream velvet covered bed, while the inner lid is lined with cream satin printed in black 'BY APPOINTMENT (King's crown) MAPPIN & WEBB LTD REGENT STREET, LONDON. W.'. The letter 'R', in blue biro, has been written inside the lid at a much later date.

History / Summary

Born at Winchester, Hampshire, England in 1917, Rosemary Belle im Thurn was one of three sisters who enlisted for service at the beginning of the Second World War. Each woman chose a different arm of service and Rosemary joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and became a section officer specialising in cipher work. Her mother, Maud, presented the sisters with sweetheart brooches relating to their choices (see REL38496).

Their father, Lieutenant Colonel Basil im Thurn had served with distinction in the First World War and was recalled to duty in the Second. He gave each of his daughters a brooch featuring the numeral '37' to reflect his lengthy service with the Hampshire Regiment, created in 1881 from the amalgamation of the 37th (North Hampshire) and 67th (South Hampshire) regiments.

Rosemary's first known romantic interest was Lieutenant John Rory Carden, a pilot in the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm. He also gave her a sweetheart brooch (see REL38494). Carden died on 22 December 1941 when his ship, the aircraft escort HMS Audacity, was sunk by the German submarine U-751.

Later in the war Rosemary met RAAF navigator Flight Lieutenant Mervyn Neville Austin from 456 Squadron, the only Australian night fighter squadron. The couple were married in Winchester Cathedral on 29 April 1944. They moved to Australia in 1949 and in 1952 settled in Perth where Austin had been appointed to the chair of classics and ancient history at the University of Western Australia, a position he held until 1978. Rosemary Austin died in Canberra in 2010.