Trench art souvenir watch stand, 17 Battalion AIF : Mrs M A Rattigan, Anzac Buffet, London

Unit 17th Australian Infantry Battalion
Accession Number RELAWM06182
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Brass, Wood
Maker Caple, Francis James
Place made France
Date made c 1918-1919
Conflict Period 1910-1919
First World War, 1914-1918

Trench art watch stand with a wooden base, the front of which is cut sloping upward. A thin layer of brass covers the top of the base. An upright bullet and cartridge is attached to each end of the base by means of a small bolt attached to the cartridge head which passes through the wooden base where it is secured by a recessed wing nut. A map of mainland Australia, cut from brass from a shell case is auspended between the bullets by two pieces of shaped metal soldered to the bullets and the back of the map. Western Australia, the Northern Territory, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria are shown by engraved lines indicating state and territory boundaries. Also engraved into the map is the text ' TO / MRS RATTIGAN / from / 17th BATTALION A.I.F. / FRANCE / F.J. CAPLE'.

History / Summary

This trench art souvenir was made by 505 Driver Francis James Caple as a gift from the 17th Battalion to Mrs Minnie Augusta Rattigan, one of the founders of the Anzac Buffet in London during the First World War. During the early years, Mrs Rattigan ran the Buffet two days a week from 6am to 10.30pm. The Buffet was established by the London branch of the Australian Natives Association - an organisation of ex-patriot Australians - and was opened in late 1915. It provided free meals and entertainment to Australian servicemen in London. The Buffet was originally located at 130 Horseferry Road until September 1916, when it was relocated to 94 Victoria Road. The staff at the Buffet usually fed and entertained 1000 Australian servicemen a day. In addition to serving meals, the Anzac Buffet had a billiard room, reading room and music room.

Minnie Augusta Rattigan was born Minnie Augusta McFarland, the daughter of Patrick and Eliza McFarland, at Barooga Station near Tocumwal, NSW on 23 July 1870. She married firstly Herbert Whitty in 1892 in Corowa, NSW and secondly Alan Mansell Rattigan in 1912 in Victoria. The couple travelled to England where Alan Rattigan joined the 1st Life Guards, part of the Household Cavalry. He was serving with them in 1914 as a second lieutenant interpreter when the First World War broke out. He later transferred to the Royal Fusiliers and was promoted to captain. The couple returned to Australia on 28 September 1919. By 1935 they were living in France and were there when the Second World War broke out. Mrs Rattigan died at Hotel Savournin at Cagnes in the French Riviera on 11 February 1943.

Private Caple was born at Port Chalmers, New Zealand but was working in Australia when he enlisted in the AIF at Liverpool, NSW in February 1915. Caple was 24 years old and worked as a Striker. He was single and his next of kin was his sister Winnie Jenkins, living in Dunedin New Zealand. Upon enlistment he was allocated to B Company, 17 Battalion. Caple embarked from Sydney aboard HMAT Themistocles on 12 May 1915. After training in Egypt he was promoted to driver on 13 August. Caple embarked from Egypt to join his unit on Gallipoli on 16 August but was instead admitted to the Hospital Ship Alaunia on 18 August and then transferred to a hospital on Lemnos. After a few weeks in hospital he was assigned light duties for two months, before joining his unit on Gallipoli on 6 November. After the Gallipoli campaign Caple remained in Egypt until 17 Battalion embarked for France, arriving at Marseilles on 24 March 1916. He served in France and Belgium until August 1918 when he went on leave to England. It may have been during this leave that he first visited the Anzac Buffet in London. He returned to France mid September. Caple returned to England in January 1919 in anticipation of returning home and may have given Mrs Rattigan the trench art souvenir during this visit in gratitude for her work with the Buffet. He embarked for Australia aboard the Warwickshire on 5 April 1919 and arrived in Australia on 31 May. Caple was discharged on 30 July 1919.