RNZAF Sweetheart badges

The collecting of sweetheart badges is a bit of a specialist area in militaria collecting and it’s not something I have got that deep into, however, over the last month or two I have managed to pick up a few “sweet” air force examples.

These “love tokens” showed that the wearer had a loved one who was doing their bit and was serving in the branch of the service represented by the miniature badge being worn proudly by their loved one. These little representations of the badges being worn in service were very popular in both World Wars where it seemed that almost every women was wearing one.

These “sweethearts” come in many forms some being quite simple while others show the jewellers skill in representing the various badges in miniature.

My first few examples are on the simpler side of the scale and are probably the most common form of these sweethearts when a military button or badge simply has the back converted with the addition of a broach making it easy to wear.

My first example is simply a RNZAF button that has had the button shank removed from the back and has been replaced with a simple broach.

For comparison here is a example of a un-modified Firmin made NZ air force button.


The second example is a converted RNZAF other ranks cap badge. Always thought this was a cool badge with the way the RNZAF letters have been squeezed into that little space available between the laurel leaves. Makes a nice little sweetheart.

Again for comparison here is an unconverted badge with the original lugs on the back.

The following examples are miniature versions of air force qualification wings.

First up a rather simply manufactured cast version of the pilots wing. The RAF in the centre of the badge has the addition of NZ on the wings.


Next example is of a sterling silver, blue enamel miniature of the Observers Wing. There is no makers mark other than the “Sterling” stamp in the back.

observer sweetheartobserver sweetheart 1

Next up, appropriately enough as the large version of the Navigator badge replaced the Observers badge in 1942, is a nice mini navigators badge in gold. The back of this is marked JWB (James William Benson), and hallmarked with the crown (for Gold), 375 (for 9 caret), and an assay mark which I cant make out even with a loop.


My last example of these rather cool badges is a miniature of the Air Gunners qualification wing. This one only has “Silver” stamped into the back, unfortunately no makers mark.




New Zealand prisoners of Japan WW2

Over the last year and a bit I have been working on a register of all New Zealanders (both military and civilian) who were held captive by the Japanese in the Second World War. The intention was to create something that would be useful at my work and as an online resource that might be useful to others. Currently my register has 785 names on it.

My methodology in deciding who is a New Zealander is broad. If they were born there, resided there and still have next of kin there or were married to a New Zealander, I have included their names in my list. I haven’t included all those New Zealanders who were in the “Far East” and either got away or were killed in the fighting, only those that were captured by the Japanese.

If they served in the Army, Air Force, Navy or Merchant Navy I have counted them as Military. If they were a civilian working in the Far East but then joined and served with one of the many volunteer forces in the area at the time, I have counted them as military too. If they were one of the many missionaries working in the area before capture, I have considered these as civilians.

The civilian classification is broken into 1.) New Zealanders 2.) nationality undetermined (indicated by *) 3.) British nationality (indicated by **).

The main source of information for civilian names in my register, is the card index of the “New Zealand Missing and Prisoners of War Agency”, held by Archives NZ in Wellington. I have also used online resources like the Ancestry, CWGC, Cambridge Digital Library, FEPOW family, Centre for research – Allied POW’s under the Japanese, Australian Department of Veterans Affairs – nominal roll, Hong Kong War diary, plus others. I am lucky in that where I work, I have access to the WW2 New Zealand military service files and some other resources that have helped me compile the names of NZ military held as POW by the Japanese.

Some interesting numbers from my register:

Of the 785 kiwis there were 153 women and 632 men held in captivity.

There were 119, who died while in captivity, 114 of those were men.

Of the 785 names, 351 were in the military. 98 (or 27%) of them died in captivity.

I have identified 31 kiwis who worked on the “Death Railways”. Of the 25 kiwis who worked on the Thailand/Burma Railway, 19 of them died. Of the 6 kiwis who worked on the Sumatra railway, 2 of them died.

The first kiwi death in Japanese custody was on 16 December 1941, the last was 10 August 1945.

52 captive New Zealanders served with the Federated Malay States Volunteer Force. 25 kiwis with the Australian Military Forces (14 of them died). The British forces had 22, and Hong Kong Volunteer Defence force 19. There were smaller groups of kiwis who served with the military forces of lots of other groups/countries in the area.

I don’t believe I have captured the names of all the New Zealanders who were held by the Japanese and I am sure there are some names I have listed that, for one reason or another, shouldn’t be here. I want to make this register as accurate as possible so that is why I want to put the draft register here for comment, correction or addition.

If you see any errors, names spelt wrong, names listed that shouldn’t be here, tell me. If you know of a name I have missed, let me know. There are lots of gaps in the roll, initials, names of camps missing etc, if you can fill-in any of these details please add a comment with the details and I will correct/update my master list.