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Sweetheart Brooches

  • "Sweetheart brooches" (to be sent to loved ones) were a very popular thing with the British Army. Not so with the AIF. There were several reasons for this.
    • The AIF blokes were 12,000 miles from home and had little chance to get a 'sweet heart' to send jewellery to (except of course mothers and sisters)
    • The AIF really only had one badge. Every British Regiment had it's own badge and it's own traditions which made the production of 'sweethearts' more personal therefore more appealing. (Aussies tended to use the unit colour patch in place of a Regimental badge).
    • Aussie blokes, then, as now, were a bit slow on the 'let's send a present" uptake.
  • Fifteen carat rose gold and enamel sweetheart brooch showing a voided machine gun, crossed signal flags and colour patches for 9th, 26th and 42nd Infantry Battalions, AIF, within gold scrolls surmounted by a king's crown. 

Worn by Mrs Mary Ann Powell throughout her life, in commemoration of the service of her three sons in the First World War. 

6136 Private Nigel Edward Powell, from Toowoomba, Qld, enlisted on 5 August 1916 and served with 26 Bn, AIF. He was killed in action, at the age of 20, at Ribemont, France, on 24 May 1918. 

749 Corporal Harry Powell, also from Toowoomba, enlisted on 8 December 1915 and served with 42 Battalion, AIF. He returned to Australia on 8 August 1918 and died in the 1950s.

 96 Sapper Arthur John Powell, also from Toowoomba, enlisted at the age of 27, on 21 August 1914, and served with 1 Division Signal Company and 1 Division Engineers. He returned to Australia on 8 April 1917 after being wounded. He died as a result of his wounds.  c 1922.
  • The example above is the most ornate example I have seen and it is significant that it was post war manufacture, represents 3 brothers to their mother and of the 3 , 2 were deceased. It must have been a very hard brooch to wear, seeing it represented so much sacrifice.
Click to enlarge The Indefatigable Class battle-cruiser HMAS Australia was the first flagship of the Australian fleet. Commissioned in 1912 and delivered to Australia in 1913, she served throughout the First World War, escorting the ANMEF to New Guinea and a New Zealand force to Samoa to occupy German colonies.
 'Australia' later served with the British Grand Fleet based at Scapa Flow, but saw little action, missing the battle of Jutland in 1916 owing to damage suffered in a collision with her sister ship HMS New Zealand. HMAS Australia was sunk off Sydney Heads in 1924 in compliance with the Washington Treaty which limited the numbers of capital ships in the Pacific.
Click to enlarge Born in 1888, Percival Gorman Neeson was a school teacher working in Grafton before he enlisted in the AIF in August 1916. Commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in 26 Infantry Battalion, he sailed for France on the troopship 'Commonwealth' (A73) with the 10th Reinforcements to the unit in late March 1916. 
Neeson quickly became known to his men as 'Granny', due to his interest in their welfare, but was known to his fellow officers and superiors as 'Gordon'. Within four months of his departure from Australia, he was involved in the savage fighting at Pozieres, on the Somme, and on 29 July he was severely wounded in the head while attacking enemy positions. For his gallantry in this action he was recommended for the Military Cross (MC), but his wound was so serious that he was not initially expected to survive. Evacuated to the Duchess of Westminster's Hospital in Paris, and thence to England, suffering from partial paralysis of the right arm and hand, Neeson was operated on by the King's surgeon, who removed fragments of skull from his brain and inserted a silver plate into the hole in his skull. He made a full recovery in time to receive his award of the MC personally from the King on 4 November 1916. Despite his recovery, Neeson was not considered fit for further military service, and he was repatriated to Australia in 1917, returning to his pre war occupation. Known in later life (as he had been in the army) as Gordon Neeson, he died in 1958. This brooch was possibly worn by Neeson as a tie pin.
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Associated with Esme Kura Murrell who served with the Women's Emergency Signals Corps

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Enamelled sweetheart brooch : 1 Australian Field Artillery Brigade This 'Tek art' brooch was sent to the donor, Judith Elliot, then aged about 8 years old, by her uncle Thomas Harold Martin. Martin was serving in a ground crew capacity with the Royal Australian Air Force in the Pacific. 'V' for Victory sweetheart brooch
2/27 Inf Bn 2nd AIF

42nd Bn AIF Australian Artillery

Note the Rising sun badge worked into the centre-piece and the AIF shield.

41st Battalion sweet-heart badge

  • More Sweetheart badges & brooches on Page 2 


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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces