Whose wrist did this lovely little bracelet adorn? The mystery surfaced after I wrote about a young navigator named Jim Barnes from Battleford, Saskatchewan, who died on a bombing raid over Germany. (To read the previous post, click Letters From a Lonely Airman.) I asked readers for more information, and Emily Tucker of North Battleford sent me this photograph of a mysterious bracelet bearing the name "J.M.J. Barnes."
(Readers, in response to your comments and emails, today I want to update you on several previous posts beginning with this story about the bracelet.)
Emily found the bracelet in her uncle’s effects after he died, but she has no idea where it came from. Her uncle was Elijah (Lige) Scargall, brother of her father Aner. Both were born in Lincolnshire and emigrated to Canada when they were young.
During World War Two, Lige served as ground crew in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Emily doesn’t know much about his service overseas (except that he brought home some horrendous pictures of the death camps in Germany.) Here is a photo of Lige Scargall in uniform.
After reading my post about Jim Barnes, Emily thought there might be a connection and generously decided to pass the bracelet along to a Barnes family member. But I’ve been unable to find any, although I left several telephone messages with people named Barnes.
When I tried to research the Service Number on the bracelet, I learned that the W in front of the number means that it belonged to a woman, a member of the RCAF Women’s Division.
It's a small bracelet for a small wrist, bearing the service number W301958, the name “Barnes, J.M.J.” and the date: January 10, 1942. On the opposite side is the RCAF crest, as shown here.
But it appears that "J. M. J. Barnes" was no relation to Jim Barnes. Jim did have a sister Bernice who served in the RCAF Women’s Division, but those aren’t her initials.
And although we know this woman's service number, the Department of National Defence won't release any information unless you are a family member.
So the mystery remains.
Being a hopeless romantic, I suspect the bracelet's owner gave it to Lige for a good luck charm, and he kept it all those years.
Lige Scargall married late in life and had no children. Perhaps he was still carrying a torch for the mysterious J. M. J. Barnes!
If someone knows more, please contact me.
The Horse Mystery
Here’s a photograph sent to me by Lise Niddrie of Invermere, B.C. after reading about my grandfather’s service in Lord Strathcona’s Horse during World War One. (To read the full post, click Brotherly Love.) Lise is wondering about the origins of her own souvenir.
Her statue is about ten inches high, hollow inside, of unknown metal, with no visible markings. Note the tooled leather saddle and stirrups, and the rifle hanging from one side. It was passed down to Lise from her grandmother’s second husband, whose surname was Jacques. He served in Lord Strathcona’s Horse and the family always believed that this was a replica of one of the cavalry’s horses, and a souvenir of his service during World War One.
If anyone knows more, please contact me.
(Since this post was published, a World War One expert pointed out that the horse is wearing a Western-type saddle, so the statue cannot be a replica of a cavalry horse).
The search is underway for family members of Gordon V. Walker of King City, Ontario. He was a rear gunner who died on April 25, 1945 along with three other crew members when his bomber crashed into a mountain near the village of Adnet in Austria, shown here.
Seventy years later, the village is erecting a new marble monument to the fallen flyers in 2015, and the mayor has invited family members to the dedication. All have been located except the relatives of Gordon V. Walker. You can read the whole story from the National Post by clicking Austrian town to erect memorial. David Young, the British organizer of the search, asked me to help spread the word. If you have more information, please contact me.
Memories in Etched Glass
My post entitled Sacrifices Honoured in Stained Glass described examples of memorial windows dedicated to various wartime efforts. Afterwards, one reader directed me to a truly beautiful set of etched glass windows found in St. Nicholas Church, in the tiny village of Moreton, Dorset near the south coast of England, population 270 people.
Moreton is famous for two things. Firstly, it was the home of T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and his body is buried in the Moreton churchyard.
Secondly, the village is known for the windows of its church, which were designed and engraved by a famous glass artist named Sir Laurence Whistler over three decades, from 1955 to 1987. The original windows were blown out by a bomb dropped by a fleeing German bomber in World War Two.
The windows in the apse are particularly striking from the inside.
A visit to the exquisite St. Nicholas Church in Moreton, Dorset is definitely going on my bucket list.
More Great Wartime Novels
Finally, my post called Best Wartime Fiction drew plenty of recommendations from readers. Three in particular caught my fancy, so I’ll start with those.
1. Tuesday’s War, by David Fiddimore. As their battered Lancaster limps home to base in thick fog, an RAF crew almost collide with another bomber whose pilot skillfully swoops out of the way. On the runway the thankful young men are stunned when the other pilot climbs down from the cockpit and they see a female Air Transport Auxiliary pilot.
2. Monuments Men, by Robert M. Edsel. Based on a true World War Two story, a group of museum curators and art historians called the Monuments Men risked their lives to save pieces of art that the Nazis planned to destroy. The movie will come out in February 2014 with an all-star cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman and Bill Murray.
3. March Violets, by British author Philip Kerr. The first book in this series introduces readers to Bernie Gunther, an ex-policeman working on the streets of 1930s Berlin whose cases suck him into the grisly excesses of Nazi subculture. This is noir writing at its blackest and best.
And here, folks, are the rest of the book recommendations (so far). Thank you for sending them to me. Enjoy!
First World War
- The Secret Battle, by A. P. Herbert
- Her Privates We, by Frederic Manning
- The Century Trilogy, about both wars and the period between, by Ken Follett
- The First Casualty, by Ben Elton
- Passchendaele, by Paul Gross
Second World War
- Blue Man Falling, followed by three other books in the series about fighter pilots, by Frank Barnard
- A Pair of Silver Wings, by James Holland
- The Red Line, by John Nichol
- Das Boot: The Boat, by Lothar-Gunther Buchheim
- The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro
- Battle Cry, and Mila 18, both by Leon Uris
- Night of Flames, by Douglas Jacobson
- The Cauldron, by Zeno
- The Kappillan of Malta, by Nicholas Monserrat
STAR WEEKLY AT WAR
The Star Weekly was a Canadian newsmagazine published by the Toronto Star. During the Second World War, a beautiful colour illustration appeared on the cover each week with a wartime theme. Here, in honour of Robbie Burns Day on January 25, is an image showing a member of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps playing the bagpipes, dated November 6, 1943.
To see my entire collection of Star Weekly covers, and I'm adding a new one almost every week, click Star Weekly at War and scroll to the bottom.
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I have a fascinating one-hour powerpoint presentation describing wartime women in uniform, and the little-known practice of aerial photographic interpretation. And I come dressed in my wartime vintage duds! To contact me about speaking at your organization, click: Contact.
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