What is a Sweetheart Brooch?

Published: 14/02/2022

The Tank Museum boasts a large collection of armoured vehicles and weaponry, but less known is our range of personal items that reveal the human side – the sons, husbands, fathers and brothers inside the machines.

Separation from loved ones has always been the experience of the soldier at war and one of the hardest to bear. Hundreds of miles away on the battlefield, often for long periods, letters and mementos were – and still are – much cherished reminders of family left behind.

The popularity of military jewellery grew out of the appeal of wearing a sentimental token that had been given from a soldier serving at the front, during the First and Second World Wars.

“Hundreds of different designs were forthcoming and these ranged from the humble base metal bar brooch to exceptionally fine examples in diamond-studded platinum.

“The corresponding variation in price meant that poorest “Tommy”, as well as the better-off Officer, could afford to give his sweetheart a memento.” – Military Sweethearts by Pamela M. Caunt

Makers of this jewellery soon recognised the commercial opportunity. They started to mass-produce miniature versions of regimental badges as brooches that were particularly popular during the First World War.

A black and white photograph of a man and woman looking at each other whilst sitting down. The man has his arm arm round the lady.

You’re fighting to come home to your wife, your kids, your family’ Lance Corporal Geoff Hall, First Royal Tank Regiment, Helmand Province 2010

A colour image of the Sweetheart Brooch, a bronze coloured brooch featured a First World War tank and the words 'Fear Naught' underneath. The Tank Museum's logo is in the bottom right hand side.

During the First World War the manufacturing of such items enjoyed a lively spell as it did again during the Second World War.

Popular motifs included hearts, ribbons, trailing ivy and horseshoes, as did the appearance of references to forget me not, faith, and hope and charity, peace, victory and good luck.

The materials used for these brooches were as varied as the designs and included gold, silver, tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl and coloured enamels.

These items of photographs, letters and artefacts from the First World War highlights the importance of a soldier’s relationship with his family.

Little has changed over 100 years, many sentiments expressed here are echoed in the museum’s Battlegroup Afghanistan exhibition.

Discover another personal story from the First World War, involving a gold ring and a smashed glass prism – the Henriques Ring.