To celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, we delve into some stories of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Sweetheart Brooch. Even in times of war, soldiers were able to connect to their sweethearts through these fascinating romantic tokens of affection.
A Sweetheart Brooch was a small brooch that represented the regiment of a soldier, sailor, or airman and was typically gifted by a member of the armed forces to their sweetheart, hence their name. However, the brooches were also worn by mothers, sisters and daughters who wanted to display their pride for their loved one fighting for his country. In the case of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the sweetheart brooch came in a range of designs such as the miniature kilt with the swinging six sporran that was distinctive of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlander Regiment.
But there were many, other designs of sweetheart brooches. For the regiment this included small rifles with ‘A&SH’ letters across the front to identify the soldier’s regiment as the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Some brooches also took the form of engraved badges that were often round with decorative thistles on the borders of the brooch, such as the badge in picture above.
Sweetheart brooches first began to appear in the late nineteenth century, gaining popularity during the Anglo Boer War. However it was not until the First World War that they began to be produced in prolific numbers. Sending home a keepsake first began during the First World War when the long separation proved to be very difficult on families. These sweetheart brooches are an example of the gifts that were exchanged that acted as cherished reminders of loved ones at the front. Some brooches were hand-made by goldsmiths whilst others were produced in factories, and they could be sold widely in places such as jewellery stores or military camps and were sometimes used to raise money for the war effort. The material of the brooches differed according to their design and could include gold, silver, tortoiseshell, coloured enamels, brass, gemstones, and diamonds. However, it was the sentimental value that was often more important than the material value of the brooches.
Wearing a sweetheart brooch was a visible symbol of a woman’s support and pride for her man in the army as it matched his insignia and therefore made a symbolic connection between the brooch at home and the man at the front. It was also believed that wearing the sweetheart brooch given by their husband, son, or brother, would bring the soldier good luck in battle and return them home safely.
After the death of a soldier, the sweetheart brooch became a symbol of commemoration as some women would continue to wear their brooch as a public display of their grief. However, some women refused to wear their brooch after their loved one passed away because it was a constant reminder of their part in encouraging their man to enlist. Government propaganda had targeted women to persuade their men to sign up for the army and to wear the brooch as a sign that they had done so, which can explain why many resented the brooch when they lost their sweetheart and why so many brooches have been lost or separated from their stories.
The above image is a hand coloured photographic studio portrait of Dora Butterworth that shows Dora wearing the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders sweetheart brooch on her shirt. Wearing this sweetheart brooch allowed Dora to visually show support to the armed forces and reflected her husband’s service in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regiment.
Dora was married to Private Farrow Butterworth who initially served in the 10th (Service) Battalion during the First World War and was later transferred to the 5th (Renfrewshire) Battalion. Both of these battalions fought in many terrible battles during WW1. What is interesting about this couple is that they were from Whitworth in Rochdale meaning that Dora would have worn her Scottish sweetheart brooch in a small English town. As the war progressed, large numbers of men were dying in battle at a rapid rate and so it was not unusual to have English soldiers serving in Scottish Regiments that needed more men. This would have been the first experience of wearing a kilt and hearing bagpipes for many English soldiers sent into a Scottish Regiment!
Sweetheart brooches were not the only gifts that were passed between a soldier and his sweetheart. Sending letters and postcards to and from the front lines was also very common and allowed families to maintain a small level of communication. Letters and postcards were also very personal and therefore valuable to families separated during the war. The image below is a photograph of an embroidered postcard sent from Dora to her husband Farrow for his birthday. This type of embroidered postcard was very common during the war as they were produced on a mass scale in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. Dora has signed the card with ‘From Your Ever Loving and Faithful Sweetheart’. Followed by a plethora of x’s, which symbolise kisses. The story of Farrow and Dora Butterworth has a happy ending as Farrow was fortunate to survive the war and was reunited with his sweetheart Dora in Whitworth where they remained together after the war.
Sweetheart brooches can tell us a lot about how people in the past stayed connected during war and memorialised their loved ones during difficult times.
Written by Caitlin Stewart, Digital Content Volunteer