Last week the Museum acquired a fantastic and rather intriguing object from Moss Kimmelman when he visited us with Brighton and Hove AJEX branch.
At first glance this cigarette case appears to be just a beautiful object, but the story behind it makes it far more fascinating.
In 1944, aged 17 in Moss Kimmelman signed up to the RAF volunteer reserve. He was called up in the spring of 1945 when he turned 18. Although he wanted to fly, the war was nearly over, so he was sent to the Middle East.
Moss tells a story about travelling to Palestine for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to attend a service organised for 40 service personnel of all ranks by the Jewish Chaplain. The drive over the Sinai desert took 16 hours in a broken old bus. They visit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and the drive between the two was particularly memorable. Travelling along hairpin bends, with the back of the bus swinging off the edge at every turn, Moss’ companion kept clinging to his arm and saying, ‘That one will put us in the JC’.
In 1946 Moss was posted to Egypt at an airfield 30 miles from Cairo. Crates of new US planes, never assembled had been given to the British on a lend-lease basis, meaning now that the war was over any unused aircraft had to be bought or destroyed.
German Prisoners of War were put to work smashing the aircraft up and made trinkets out of the debris to swap for items such as cigarettes.
This cigarette case was just one of several that Moss bought for his father or brother-in-law at the airfield. It is made from aluminium from the aircraft and the coloured inlay is made from melted toothbrush handles!
The front of the case is decorated with a Mosque design.
The reverse depicts Africa upon sunbeams with the word ‘EGYPT’.
Inside the case is decorated even more intricately, with a black piece of elastic to secure the cigarettes it would have held.
The left hand side contains a red insert within a heart to put a photograph of a sweetheart or loved one.
And the right hand side is engraved with scenes of Egypt including pyramids, palm trees and a boat, with an American airplane such as the one the case is made from flying overhead.
In 1947 Moss was sent back to a Midlands airfield. After his mother became ill and passed away he applied to the local Christian chaplain for a place to pray morning and evening. The chaplaincy acquired him a two day leave pass to Woburn House in London, where the senior Jewish chaplain was located. There he met Israel Brodie, (the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth 1948–1965), who was looking for a new aide de camp. Moss got the job and for the next 9 months worked at Woburn house. He helped organise the moral leadership courses and also met hundreds of Jewish service personnel.
It is here that Moss was introduced to a young lady. The first time he met her he knew she’d be the one and they spent every morning and evening together, getting engaged 5 weeks later and spending 64 happy years together.