By BRIAN KRAPF
Northern Ireland played a strategic role for the United Kingdom during the Second World War. With the ports of independent Ireland closed to British warships due to that nation’s neutrality, the ports of the North became all the more important in protecting the vital Trans-Atlantic supply line. Additionally, American forces were pre-staged in the North in the run up to D-Day.
This colorful paper badge was made in Belfast and depicts Prime Minister Winston Churchill posed with the flags of the “Big Three.” The inclusion Soviet Russia’s flag indicates the badge dates to 1943–1945. The fact that the badge is made of paper illustrates the state of Britain’s wartime economy. The celluloid that usually covered such badges was needed to manufacture gunpowder, and the tin that usually backed them was needed for the production of a variety of war materials, including airplanes. Paper badges were the norm in Britain until materials restrictions were later reduced.
The image of the Prime Minister is unique. It is the only wartime item I have seen that has him making the “V” with the backside of his hand. Historically, the back sided “V” represents a defiant “up-yours” gesture. Churchill’s well-known defiance inspired the British people, and we continue to admire him for it today. The question remains, however, whether his gesture on this badge was a design error or an intentional signal to the Axis. While it is fun to speculate, the question will never be answered.
Wartime paper badges were meant to be used and discarded. The one pictured here is a rare survivor, likely stuck in a book or the back of a drawer and forgotten about for decades until recently discovered.
“Churchill and Northern Ireland” is the theme of the forthcoming issue of Finest Hour.
Brian Krapf’s forthcoming book We Want Winston!—A Treasury of Memorabilia will be published in 2022.
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