Mothers and Widows badge : Mrs M Hutchins

Place Oceania: Australia
Accession Number REL46813.002
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Badge
Physical description Brass, White metal
Maker G & E Rodd
Place made Australia: Victoria, Melbourne
Date made 1940
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Circular white metal Mothers and Widows badge with silver safety chain and pin. The obverse shows a raised image of a woman and part of a laurel wreath with the words 'FOR AUSTRALIA' in raised letters. Suspended from the main body by two securing rings is a flat rectangular bar with four brass Federation stars. The number of stars represents the number of relatives involved in the war effort. A small metal chain is attached to the left securing ring, to which is attached a safety pin. The reverse is impressed with the serial number 'A2478' and above this are the raised words 'ISSUED BY THE C'WLTH GOVT'. Below the serial number are the impressed maker's details of 'G & E RODD' and 1940.

History / Summary

Mothers and Widows Badge belonging to Mrs Mary Hutchins. Mrs Hutchins had nine sons and two daughters with her husband Henry in Woorinen, near Swan Hill in rural Victoria. All her sons worked in the local agricultural community before war broke out and seven, William, Malcolm, Ivan, Alan, David, Fred and Eric, enlisted with the Second Australian Imperial Force. Four of Mrs Hutchins' sons, Alan, David, Fred and Eric died during the war.

Alan enlisted in June 1940, and served with 2/22 Battalion. He was 22 and had a young family with his wife Edna May. He was sent to Rabaul in April 1941, serving with Lark Force. When the Japanese invaded in January 1942, Lark Force was easily outnumbered. The commander ordered a withdrawal within hours of the invasion. Unprepared for retreat, chaos ensued and Lark Force disintegrated. Alan Hutchins died in late March 1942, reportedly from illness, however his body was never recovered so this remains unconfirmed. He was 24 years old.

David, Fred and Eric enlisted together in August 1941 and served with 2/21 Battalion. Fred and Eric falsified their ages from 18 and 17 to 20 and 19. David was older and married with two children with another on the way. The brothers were sent to Ambon in December 1941.

David, Fred and Eric were in Ambon as part of Gull Force. They too were overwhelmed by the invading Japanese in January 1942. In February, almost 300 servicemen were massacred around Laha Airfield. Eric Hutchins was among them, killed on 20 February at only 18 years old. The remainder of the battalion surrendered and was imprisoned at their former barracks on Tan Tui. Conditions for the prisoners on Ambon were harsh and they suffered the highest death rate of any Australian prisoners of war with three-quarters dying during their captivity due to mistreatment, malnutrition and disease.

After surviving over 3 years in captivity, Fred was severely bashed by a guard into a state of unconsciousness and died on 6 July 1945. He was 22 years old. His older brother David died later that month, reportedly from beriberi, aged 32. While his records state he died of beriberi, this disease was often recorded to conceal death caused by mistreatment. Within weeks Japan surrendered.

For years the Hutchins family knew little of the fates of the four brothers until in 1946 when four telegrams arrived within days of each other confirming the deaths of David, Alan, Fred and Eric. According to the Hutchins family and their descendants, Mrs Hutchins never wore her Mothers and Widows badge, nor did she ever speak about her grief of losing four of her sons. Yet she wore her Female Relative Badge (REL46813.001) every day for the rest of her life.