What are regimental brooches and lucky charms?
Regimental brooches are generally small pin-brooches depicting miniature badges of units. Usually they were commercially manufactured and some are still manufactured today.
There were eventually hundreds of commercial designs, typically smaller versions of the cap (or ships) badge, in combinations of brass, silver, gold, enamel and mother of pearl, sometimes the pin mounts incorporating horseshoes, anchors, crossed swords or rifles.
Lucky charms and talismans were very popular and could be anything, but often included lucky symbols and variations on ‘touch wud’ and ‘fums up’, or religious symbols. Soldiers also kept fragments of bullet and shell – sometimes as hospital souvenirs.
An amber heart charm with a piece of string through the top
Who would have owned objects like this?
During the First World War, wives, sisters and girlfriends commonly wore pin-brooches depicting miniature badges of units in which male loved ones were serving. The phrase ‘sweetheart brooch’ is commonly used, but is misleading, as it was not only ‘sweethearts’ that wore them. Silver items will carry hallmarks that can be traced to a year – 1915 is the most common year for First World War brooches.
Usually these were commercially manufactured, bought and presented by the serviceman as they left home. Post-war, many veterans themselves wore miniature pin-badges of their former regiments, ships or arm of service.
A regimental brooch of the 2nd West Riding Brigade
The badge of a member of the 2nd West Riding Brigade (Royal Artillery) Old Comrades' Association.
Metal wishbone brooch with regimental badge
A regimental brooch on a wishbone,
Useful websites and books for further research
Online dealers’ website, linked to Bosley’s auctioneers – hundreds of First World War and more recent badges illustrated, so a good visual source.
British Military Badges
A dealers’ website that illustrates regimental brooches in an easily accessible format that would allow quick comparison; does not give historical detail, nor allow for just a 1914–18 selection.
British Commonwealth & Military Badge Forum
Some relevant discussions.
Silver makers marks
If a brooch is made of silver, makers marks can be traced
Copies of all these books can be freely consulted from open shelves at the Explore History Centre at IWM London.
Military Sweetheart Jewellery: A Guide for Collectors (3 parts) by Pamela Caunt
(Arbras, London, Part I, 1994, Part II, 1998, Part III, 2001)
The main source – three small paperbacks that cumulatively illustrate almost every design, with historical notes; out of print but can often be sourced online through second hand books sites and eBay.
Military “Sweetheart” Brooches by Kenneth Jarmin
(K W Jarmin, Boxford, Suffolk, 1981)
Out of print, but may be sourced online through second hand books sites.
The Collector and Researchers Guide to the Great War: Vol. 2: Small Arms, Munitions, Militaria by Howard Williamson
(Anne Williamson, Harwich, Essex, 2003)
Lists the types, and some of major manufacturers and their marks; p360–362.
Military Collectables: An international directory of twentieth-century Militariaby Richard O’Neill, Joe Lyndhurst
(Salamander Books Ltd, London, 1983
Illustrates regimental brooches, and much else besides.