The research begins…

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.


AJEX Memorial Window by Abram Games

Marcus Segal images (9)

2nd Lieutenant Marcus Segal


Nurses cape belonging to Doris Benjamin
Photograph by Jessica Mann

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.

56th London Division

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!

22nd Beach Brigade

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?

Mystery 7 mystery 2 mystery 1   mystery 5mystery 6mystery 4

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5 comments on “The research begins…
  1. Elizabeth Selby says:

    I love the penguin!

  2. […] Museum objects.. As you may remember I have written blogs about the AJEX Memorial window and Doris Benjamin’s cape. In my January blog they both went off to the conservators to be cleaned before their new redisplay […]

    • Mike Jackson says:

      Some help with your unidentified patches from Doris Benjamin’s Nurses Cape:
      Row 1: Left – US Gliderborne Troops. Right – Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regimental flash
      Row 2: Left – 1st Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment Right – United States Strategic Air Force:
      Row 3: Left – 5th Indian Infantry Division Right – 71st (East Lancashire) Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery

      Would it please be possible to post an image of the entire cape with all the badges displayed. I would be so grateful.


  3. Hi Mike, thank you so much for identifying the badges! Such a huge help.

    Unfortunately we don’t have a photograph of the cape showing all the badges as there are just so many it is difficult to get the right shot.

    It is now on display at the Jewish Museum, Camden, on the 2nd floor with a mirror behind so the visitor can see the whole cape.



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