Wives and Sweethearts; Love on the Front Line Exhibition
Wives and Sweethearts explores soldiers’ relationships from the 18th century to the present day through a deeply-moving selection of letters and photographs. Displayed alongside are sweetheart brooches, jewellery and other touching love-tokens.
Explore the ‘Wives and Sweethearts’ online exhibition here.
Divided into themes that address the different stages or aspects of soldiers’ love lives, the display asks why a relationship with a soldier is different from that with a civilian. Throughout history, how have those who have served in the Army combined their life with partners and families with their military duties?
‘Courtship and Engagement’ explores the beginnings of soldiers’ partnerships. The section focusing on weddings highlights the immense contrast between wartime and peacetime marriage ceremonies, especially in the 20th century. ‘Women of the Regiment’ looks at the roles of women in the Army during the 19th century, while the images brought together under the heading of ‘Army Families’ show more modern soldiers and their families.
The largest part of the exhibition looks at what is perhaps the hardest aspect of life with a soldier; the long periods of separation it often entails. Finally, ‘Reunion’ takes into account the fact that soldiers’ return to their loved ones, although usually joyful in the long run, can often be painful and difficult at first.
Highlights from the exhibition, revealing individual relationships and stories in poignant detail, include:
- A gold ring in a crystal casket sent by Quartermaster Sergeant Porter to his wife after the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815, to let her know that he had survived.
- A letter from Mrs Jones to her husband Sergeant Louis Jones serving in Gibraltar in 1902, to tell him of the death of their eldest child, Teddy, aged three.
- Beautiful embroidered First World War postcards sent from the Western Front by Private H L ‘Holly’ Christmas to his sweetheart Miss Ada Manley in 1916.
- A note sent from Sergeant Anthony Baker serving in the Korean War in 1950, to his wife ‘To the only girl who ever mattered…’
- A ‘bluey’ sent to colleagues by Captain Karen Timperley while she was serving in the Gulf War in 1991, revealing that during the conflict the Army Chaplain was inundated with requests to marry serving couples.
You can catch the exhibition until July 30th in the White Space Gallery at the National Army Museum, details of which can be found here.
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