During (and after) World War I, British folklorist Edward Lovett made a point of collecting examples of lucky charms and amulets that soldiers had carried to war. Some of these—included in a new book about the Imperial War Museum’s World War I collections, The First World War Galleries, by Paul Cornish—are below.
Lovett was a contemporary folklorist, collecting and analyzing material from his own city of London instead of working with archives or in other countries. Most active during the 1910s and 1920s, Lovett worked at a bank by day, gathering examples of amulets, charms, and talismans in his free time.
Lovett was interested in seeing how country folklore lived on in working-class parts of London. He investigated the use of such charms to cure illnesses, wish ill upon enemies, or attract good luck. You can see some of his larger collection online through this Wellcome Library digital exhibition.
The charms Lovett collected from soldiers were sometimes fashioned from materials with some significance to their owners: bog oak or Connemara marble, carried by Irishmen as mementos of home; bits of armaments that could have killed the bearer, but didn’t.
“Coal fragment sent to a soldier at the front for luck.” (All caption information from Paul Cornish, The First World War Galleries, p. 171.)
“Connemara marble boot charm, carried by an Irish soldier.”
“Lucky black cat brooch worn by a London soldier.”
“Marble four-leaf clover lucky charm belonging to an unknown soldier.”
“Horseshoe charm made from a fragment of German shell, Ypres, by a wounded Belgian soldier.”
“Lucky pig charm carved out of Irish bog-oak.”
“White stone arrow charm worn by a U.S. soldier.”
“Chinese soapstone monkey, which was a charm carried by both British and Japanese soldiers.”
“Doll brooch representing a wounded soldier.”
“A small heart-shaped Connemara marble charm; carried by an Irish soldier.”