Designs during WWI - Symbols of support

For those on the home front, the tales of life in the trenches were a grim reminder of a global conflict - a war which became known as the Great War. Contained in the pages of the Register of Designs from 1914-1918 is a vibrant patchwork of designs which tell a tale of this time, from quirky children's toys, to patriotic badges and buttons, medallions of hope for peace and tokens of remembrance.

In some cases they were designed to rally the war effort, and in others they were created to honour lost loved ones. What these designs show is that even in the simplest of ways, the war trickled into every part of people’s lives.

Toy tanks

Caption: John Daly's 'Toy War Tank', 10 December 1917, no. 2588. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 3

The military tank became one of the most common symbols of the battlefront. The development of the tank is credited to South Australian engineer Lance de Mole though his accomplishments were not recognised until after the war. The tank captured the imagination of two designers, whose creations sought to rival this symbol of power.

The first designer was John Charles Daly, a grocer from Rose Bay in Sydney, who on 10 December 1917 registered his design for a 'Toy War Tank'.1 A former bombardier in the Field Artillery Brigade he enlisted in the Army on 4 January 1915, was admitted to hospital for 'Valvular Disease of the Heart' in Egypt in October 1915 and declared medically unfit and discharged from the army in March 1916.2

Caption: William Iggulden's 'Toy rocker', 29 July 1918, no. 2761. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 3

A second designer to take Daly's concept further was William Alfred Iggulden with his 'Toy rocker for children representing a battle tank'.3 Iggulden was a manufacturer from Brighton, Victoria who registered this design on 29 July 1918 which was then followed by a series of other registered patents4. These examples are an indication of how the war in Europe made its way into Australian households.

War is not a game

Caption: Frederick Paton's 'Puzzle', 23 January 1917, no. 2345, National Archives of Australia, A13166, 3

Along with children's toys, designers registered war-themed puzzle games – demonstrating how the war became an integralpart of people's everyday consciousness.

On 23 January 1917 Melbourne manufacturer Frederick Ninian Paton registered his design for an anti-German puzzle game. In this game participants are required to 'Intern the Kaiser', referring to Wilhelm II, Germany's Emperor from 1888 to 1918.

On 24 November 1915 Londoner Albert Hunt registered two designs for games titled 'Battle in the Skies' and 'North Sea Tactics'.5 On his concept drawing, a Royal Navy officer stands over what appears to be the south of England with a German officer standing on the opposing side, above him the figure of a Zeppelin airship. The main theatre of sea operations during the war was the North Sea where a major confrontation between the British Grand Fleet and German High Seas Fleet occurred. This resulted in a naval blockade designed to block supply routes to Germany which Hunt replicated in his board game.6On the North Sea area of the checker board, participants are required to outplay each other in a game of strategy, as if mimicking the tactics of real-life war.

Caption: Albert Hunt's puzzle game 'North Sea Tactics', 24 November 1915, no. 2005. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 2

Badges, buttons and bric-a-brac

Found in the pages of the design registers are a range of buttons, badges, medals and other trinkets which illustrate the shapes and images associated with war.

  • On 4 November 1915, George Wybar from Melbourne registered his 'ornamental design for radiator caps for motor cars, paper weights and ornaments'.7
  • Alfred James Ogilvie from Sydney registered his design for a 'Torpedo mascot for motor car' for the 'purpose of the pattern and ornamentation'. 8
  • Also inspired by the war, Henry Albert Chivers from Kew, Victoria submitted his design for a charm in the shape of a military tank.9

Caption: Military car ornament_NAA. Caption: George Wybar's ornamental design, 4 November 1915, no. 1990. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 2

Caption: Torpedo car ornament_NAA. Caption: Alfred J Ogilvie's Torpedo mascot, 13 March 1918, no. 2638. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 3

Caption: Tank trinket_NAA. Caption: Henry A Chivers' tank trinket, 30 May 1917, no. 2457. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 3

Aside from motor car ornamental designs, no object found in the registers communicated patriotic support more than a badge or button. Samuel George Pepper and Claude William Smyth from Sydney designed a series of buttons in 1916. It is clear most of buttons were for women as they were decorated with word such as 'For King & Country', 'Husband', 'Sweetheart'.10 These buttons were designed to publicly display an individual's patriotic support as much as to honour your relative fighting on the front.

Caption: ‘United We Stand' badge designed by Edward Durant, 8 August 1914, no. 1589. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 2

The designs of badges and buttons varied depending on what year they were registered. One design for a badge registered 11 days after war was declared, shows the flags of the Allied powers kept together by a banner that reads 'United We Stand'. 11

Another early design has the shape of Australia with a picture of King George V and the words 'Rule Britannia', while another depicts the shape of Australia again with the words 'United We Stand' and the flags of the Allied nations.12

In another interesting series of designs for badges, one shows the map of Australia and the head of a soldier whilst the other has the outline of Australia again, with shapes representing 'the heads of the British Lion, the Russian Bear, and a Trench Soldier'.13

Caption: Patriotic badge design by Norman Macleod, 28 August 1914, no. 1607, National Archives of Australia, A13166, 2

Caption: Patriotic Entente badge design by Norman Macleod, number 1611, 7 September 1914, National Archives of Australia, A13166, 2

As the war progressed and Australia participated in Gallipoli and other battle campaigns, the badges, buttons and other bric-a-brac transformed from symbols of unity with the Entente countries to more Australia-centric expressions of patriotism.

A design registered in 1915 for an enamelled brooch resembles a leaf and appears emblazoned with the words 'Dardanells' [sic].14 Francis Henry Miller's design depicted Australia in front of the rays of a rising sun - a reference to its association with the Australian Army, now a symbol of the concept of the 'Anzac spirit'.15

In another design, a kangaroo is standing over an outline of the Gallipoli peninsula marked with 'Gallipoli 25.04.15'16 the date of the Anzac Cove landing and what has become one of the most significant anniversary dates commemorated in Australia and New Zealand.

Other designs registered have an anti-German sentiment, with one button from a Melbourne firm of a kangaroo on a shield covered with the British Union Jack and the words 'I will not buy German goods'.17

Caption: Gallipoli with kangaroo trinket designed by Edward Arthur Newlyn, 30 August 1915, no. 1915. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 2.

Many of the designs were registered before legislation was introduced in May 1916 that banned the use of the word 'Anzac' 'in connection with any trade, business, calling, or profession'.18 Over time, this was extended to include words such as 'Returned Soldier', 'Aussie', 'Our Wounded Soldiers', 'Repatriation', 'AIF', 'Australian Imperial Force' and many others.19

Some designs were rejected after legislation took effect, including a series of eight 'Anzac' brooches registered by New Zealander Percy Norwood Wenton and Victorian Walter Sneddon McNee in December 1915.20

Herbert Ernest White's design depicting the Gallipoli peninsula outline was cancelled because it was marked with the word 'ANZAC'.21 Joseph Hendry Grice's design for 'jewellery consisting of the word "Mother" above the letters A.I.F' was also cancelled under the regulation because of the wording of 'AIF'.22

Caption: Wenton and McNee's banned Anzac brooch designs, 7 December 1915, no. 2021 and 2023. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 3

Caption: Anti conscription button registered by Henry Griffin, 19 November 1917, no. 2578. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 3.

As the horrors of the battle front trickled back to the home front, recruitment slowed and public opinion eventually ruled against the idea of compulsory conscription.

In the lead up to the national referendum called by Prime Minister William M Hughes on 28 October 1916, pro and anti-conscription individuals and groups rallied passionately for their cause. One of the most common expressions of support came from buttons and badges which were sold in trams, buses and railway stations with mail orders advertised in the newspapers.23 The Commonwealth Button Fund was established to coordinate and sponsor the fundraising activities of smaller state groups and it became a lucrative business.24

Women became a powerful force and organised movement on this front. Knitting and sewing circles grew as women sewed for their male relatives at the front, and also donated their stitching skills to the war effort in general. Funds were raised through 'button days' and special events and support services came together to provide home comforts which were dispatched to the front.25 The trinkets were emblems of sympathy for the cause, a small gesture designed to, on the surface, show solidarity in support of Australia's troops but in reality support their local patriotic fund.26

Caption: Design for a women's handbag possibly alludes to women's knitting efforts, Rose Maud Mullen, 21 October 1915, no. 1972, National Archives of Australia, A13166, 2. It reads: ‘I've knit & I've darned Till my fingers ache, I'll be if another Slilch [sic] I'll take'

After the first referendum was defeated, a second referendum was held on 20 December 1917 asking again: 'Are you in favour of the proposal of the Commonwealth Government for reinforcing the Commonwealth Forces overseas?'.27 Elaborate recruitment parades were seen in city streets. One in Melbourne featured military bands, model tanks and visibly wounded returned servicemen with signs reading 'We are dying of exhaustion for want of a spell' and 'Wanted – A man to fill this gap'. The referendum was again defeated, with 1,015,159 in favour and 1,181,747 against. 28

Watch the Returned Anzacs video

Caption: Australasian Gazette - Returned Anzacs, c 1917. National Film and Sound Archive of Australia via Australian Screen

A sense of 'war weariness' set in and n 12 October 1917 Ethel Barringer from North Adelaide, South Australia submitted her design for a medal depicting what appears to be the Greek goddess of peace, Eirene, carrying a cornucopia and torch amid rifles and the general destruction of war.29 The words 'Peace', 'Disarmament', 'Arbitration' surround the image while on the reverse, a dove is depicted hovering over a globe surrounded by a wreath and the words 'In Unity' 'Liberty and Brotherhood' and 'Let all peoples be one'.

The sense of war weariness and desire for an end to the large scale destruction and loss of life is apparent in Barringer's design. Though less focussed on peace, the sense of commemoration is evident in a design registered fifteen days after Armistice Day which signalled the end of the war. A photographic mount appears with a wreath design and the words 'His Country Called, He Answered', 'The Great War 1914-1918' and the battle campaigns surrounding it.30

Caption: Ethel Barringer's peace medal, 12 October 1917, no. 2552. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 3

The Registers of Designs from 1914 to 1918 show a wide range of emotions and views that reflected the sentiment of the Australian people during WWI. Design applicants showed their patriotic passion in designing buttons to illustrate multinational unity, rally support for conscription and display anti-German sentiment. But as the battle wore on, some designers showed a sense of 'war weariness', creating designs that communicated a desire for peace and remembrance. During what became a period of complete social, political and economic upheaval in Australia, these designs were signs and symbols of how war invaded every aspect of people's lives.

Discover more about IP rights during WWI

Footnotes

  1. Number 2588, 10 December 1917, Designs Register. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 3.
  2. Service no. 3526, National Archives of Australia: B2455, DALY J C. See also John Charles Daly, The AIF Project, accessed 25 March 2015 <https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=71687>.
  3. Number 2761, 29 July 1918, Designs Register. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 3.
  4. Patents include ‘An improved floor cramp’ (24030/25), ‘An improved appliance for cutting fibro-cement sheets’ (18308/29) and ‘An improved domestic appliance for handling hot cooking vessels’ (29434/30), accessible via AusPat <www.ipaustralia.gov.au/auspat/>.
  5. Number 2004 and 2005, 24 November 1915, Designs Register. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 2.
  6. David Stevens, In All Respects Ready: Australia’s Navy in World War One, (South Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 142-55.
  7. Number 1990, 4 November 1915, Designs Register. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 2.
  8. Number 2638, 13 March 1918, Designs Register. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 3.
  9. Number 2457, 30 May 1917, Designs Register. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 3.
  10. Numbers 2317-21, 16 November 1916, Designs Register. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 3.
  11. Number 1589, 8 August 1914, Designs Register. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 2.
  12. Number 1600, 14 August 1914, Designs Register. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 2 and Number 1612, 9 September 1914, Designs Register. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 2.
  13. Number 1607, 28 August 1914; number 1611, 7 September 1914, Designs Register. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 2.
  14. Number 1860, 15 July 1915, Designs Register. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 2.
  15. Number 1885, 4 August 1915, Designs Register. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 2.
  16. Number 1915, 30 August 1915, Designs Register. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 2.
  17. Number 1944, 28 September 1915, Designs Register. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 2.
  18. Statutory rule no. 97, War Precautions (Supplementary) Regulations1916, 18 May 1916, ComLaw, accessed 26 March 2015 < http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C1916L00097>.
  19. ‘‘ANZAC' - a national heirloom’, Gallipoli and the Anzacs, Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Board of Studies NSW, 2010, accessed 25 March 2015 <http://www.anzacsite.gov.au/5environment/anzac/anzac.html>. See also ‘Our Wounded Soldiers Not to be Used as Trade Mark’, 9 February 1917, The Telegraph, p. 2 and ‘Prohibited Trade Mark’ 15 July 1919, Western Argus, p. 21 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article34209253>
  20. Numbers 2019-26, 13 March 1918, Designs Register. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 3.
  21. Number 1919, 6 September 1915, Designs Register. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 2.
  22. Number 2194, 29 June 1916, Designs Register. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 3.
  23. ‘Fundraising badge: Commonwealth Button Fund 1914-1919, 'In Commemoration’’, Australian War Memorial, REL39111, accessed 29 March 2015 <https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/REL39111/>. For a collection of conscription badges and buttons see ‘Conscription, World War I, 1914-1918’, Museum Victoria, accessed 29 March 2015 <http://museumvictoria.com.au/collections/themes/2823/conscription-world-war-i-1914-1918>.
  24. ‘Buttons and Boodle. “Linely’s Lucrative Lark”’, 10 June 1916, Truth, p. 6 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article130161175>.
  25. Judith Brett, Australian Liberals and the moral middle class: From Alfred Deakin to John Howard, (Port Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 61.
  26. ‘Commonwealth Button Fund’, 25 June 1915, Evelyn Observer and Bourke East Record, p. 1 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60662152>.
  27. Conscription referendums, 1916 and 1917 – Fact sheet 161, National Archives of Australia, accessed 29 March 2015 <http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/fact-sheets/fs161.aspx>.
  28. Conscription referendums, 1916 and 1917 – Fact sheet 161, National Archives of Australia, accessed 29 March 2015 <http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/fact-sheets/fs161.aspx>.
  29. Number 2552, 12 October 1917, Designs Register. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 3.
  30. Number 2850, 26 November 1918, Designs Register. National Archives of Australia, A13166, 3.
Published: 
18 April 2016

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