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Unexpected Symbols

central coast auction house the ashes bert oldfield

Recently consigned for our Antiques & Estates auction is this piece of 'trench art' - a WWI Australian 'Souvenir of the Somme' brass shell casing ring. Engraved with decoration that includes a coo-ee boomerang and a flower, it also displays a swastika. More typically associated with WWII and Nazi Germany, it was a shock to see a symbol with such a deeply troubling association on an Australian piece.

Digging deeper into the history, our auctioneer found that during WWI Australian army corps and divisions used symbols as a means of covertly identifying ownership of vehicles, baggage etc. In his letter of 16 March 1918 General John Monash states that his symbol was that of a swastika. Also in March 1918 Monash was tasked with holding the Germans between the Ancre and the Somme. It is possible then that the person responsible for this piece of 'trench art' was in the 3rd Division which was under the command of Monash.

Central Coast auction house the ashes sport

Ref: Monash, John (29 July 2015). War Letters of General Monash. Black Inc.


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