Signed Australian auction flag brings back World War I memories
Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 6th June, 2019
World War I, or the Great War as it was known, was meant to be the “war to end all wars”.
Of course, as history records, peace after the “war to end all wars” only lasted for 20 years – as Germany once more tried its hand at world dominance by invading Poland, leading to the outbreak of World War II on September 3, 1939.
Supreme Allied Commander towards the end of World War I was French general and military genius Marshal Ferdinand Jean Marie Foch (1851-1929), who played a decisive role in halting a renewed German advance on Paris in the Second Battle of the Marne.
On November 11, 1918 Foch accepted Germany’s request for an armistice and advocated peace terms that would make it impossible for the Germans to ever again pose a threat to France.
The resultant watered down Treaty of Versailles version he considered too lenient and in a prophetic statement at the June 26, 1919 signing declared: “This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years.”
The memory of those days will once again be revisited when Leski Auctions holds its Decorative Arts & Collectables sale from 12pm Sunday June 23 at 727-729 High Street, Armadale and a full-size Australian flag signed by Marshal Foch (lot 2) goes under the hammer.
Foch signed the flag for Australian Army Captain George Hamilton at the Hotel Carlton in London the same day the treaty was signed.
The flag is mounted in a large timber frame containing an engraved plaque that reads: This Australian flag was signed for Captain George R. Hamilton, A.A.M.C. A.I.F. at the Hotel Carlton, London, by Marshal Foch on 26th June 1919, the day of the signing of peace.
After the march of the Allied troops through London, on which occasion when called on to speak, all the Generalissimo said was “Do not thank me – thank the soldiers.”
The Australian War Memorial currently holds the Kitchener Flag with Foch’s signature.
Possibly unique is lot 1 – a poster recording the screening of the 1906 film The Story of the Kelly Gang, advertised in the Guyra Argus, Thursday November 25, 1909 at page 2.
Shot around Melbourne, the silent film ran for more than an hour with a reel length of about 1200 metres making it the world’s longest narrative seen at the time.
The film was first shown in Melbourne on Boxing Day 1906 and premiered in January 1908 in the United Kingdom.
A commercial and critical success, it is regarded as the origin of bushranging drama that dominated the early years of Australian film production.
Another interesting Australian find is lot 3, a group of four glass plate negatives showing Australian cricket teams (including the legendary Don Bradman) from 1926 and 1930 on tour of England.
Sterling silver items are always popular and the auction features several superb pieces including an impressive George II Irish silver tray (lot 9) by Thomas Johnston of Dublin circa 1758 and a pair of English pepper pots (lot 10) made for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.
Within the decorative arts section, lot 49 is a stunning Emile Galle circa 1895 art nouveau cameo and enamel glass vase – while another attraction is lot 58, a German carved ivory panel depicting a medieval triumphant return with thronging crowds, a castle backdrop and harbour scene.
A George III ladies travelling dressing case workbox (lot 63) made from satinwood, hare wood with blackthorn marquetry inlay also should appeal to auction goers.
Within the decorative arts section are artworks, jewellery and gifts (lots 106-132) from the Pakistan estate of the late Syed Amjad Ali CIE OBE.
The furniture section highlights are lots 189 and 190 – a 1930s French Chinoiserie lacquered armoire and matching commode – a C.A. Richter designed art deco dressing table and chair (lot 192) and a five-piece café setting by Josef Hoffmann for the 1907 opening of Vienna’s Cabaret Fledermaus (lot 234).
The auction also contains must see paintings and artworks, clocks, Asian arts and an unusually strong offering of cameras and photographic equipment.
Posters are another attraction with one for Charlie Chaplin’s A Woman of Paris a particular hit.
Jewellery is another major section that includes a Patek Philippe vintage gent’s wristwatch (lot 504) and a spectacular pair of art deco pendant earrings (lot 552).