Today is my first blog as Research Assistant and Archivist at the Jewish Military Museum. For the next nine months I will be researching and cataloguing the museum’s collection, seeking out exciting stories to tell and hidden gems to share. I have learnt a lot in my first two weeks including which objects I will need to research, who I need to speak to and where to buy the biggest falafel pitta I have ever seen!
During my first month at the museum I’ll be researching three key objects in the collection which will be the first to be displayed at the Jewish Museum London.
These are the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX) Memorial Window by Abram Games, the Marcus Segal collection of letters and Doris Benjamin’s nurse’s cape.
Yesterday I took on the daunting task to identify as many of the 177 badges on Doris Benjamin’s cape as possible. Doris Benjamin was a military nurse with the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) during the Second World War and collected these badges from the soldiers she treated. I spent the day at the National Army Museum‘s Templer Study Centre (TSC) and used various books to identify 161 of the badges, so almost all of them!
Here are a few of the badges that I found particularly interesting:
This is the badge of the Faeroe Islands Force. This force occupied the Faeroe Islands in 1940 as a preventative measure against German aggression. The badge depicts a Tjaldur or oyster catcher, the emblem of the Faeroes.
The 56th (London) Infantry Division used a lucky black cat as their regimental badge. This is said to represent ‘Dick Whittington’s cat’, who drove the rats from London. I think it’s really interesting that the Division used a cat from this London folktale. Perhaps they felt this reflected how they intended to drive enemy forces away.
This is the badge of the 5th Infantry Division who are believed to hold the record for the most travelled formation of the Second World War. They joined the British Expeditionary Force in France in 1939 and went on to serve in Norway, Madagascar, India, Persia, Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, Sicily and Italy. The white Y for Yorkshire represents its pre-war association with the Northern Command.
The penguin on the badge of the 22nd Beach Brigade (one of the beach formations) caught my eye. The brigade chose the flightless yet amphibious penguin as their symbol as they had no aircraft. I think it is probably my favourite badge!
Unfortunately there were 16 badges that I could not identify, and I’ve included them below so if anyone knows what they may be please comment below.
Next week I am hoping to visit and talk to Doris Benjamin herself about her time as a military nurse. I am really looking forward to meeting with her and will report back in 2 weeks’ time…
Can you help identify these World War II cloth badges?