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A Personal Note from World War II

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发表于 2019-3-5 08:21:35 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
A Personal Note from World War II
By Gilbert Chang

The best thing about being in numismatics it that you will never know what you are going to stumble across, not unlike a box of chocolates ….. to quote Forest Gump. So one fine day a collector friend of mine showed me this interesting piece of old banknote asking if I can help identify it, trace its history and tell its story. Being a researcher and somewhat of a cyber-sleuth I just couldn’t resist the challenge!

So here’s the piece in question:
11.png
Fig 1: A Short Snorter of a 10 Shillings Japanese Invasion Money

First we will identify the note: this is a 10 Shillings Japanese Invasion Money which was issued between 1942 and 1945. During World War II the Japanese invaded and occupied South East Asia and most of the islands in the Pacific. They issued their own paper currency to be used in the occupied territories and these notes are referred to as Japanese Invasion Money or JIM by collectors. This particular piece was issued and circulated in Oceania region, as indicated by the block letters starting with letter “O”.

What makes this one unique is that it has some handwriting on it. Such notes are commonly referred to as "Short Snorters". To quote Michael Marotta's definition from "The Numismatist" - "Short Snorters are pieces of paper money circulating during the war and/or in a combat zone signed by friends or comrades." They are in essence an improvised scrap book of sorts during World War II. These artefacts usually commemorate events, locations, people, and dates. They may be signed by group of friends from the same State or hometown or a group who served together or just acquaintances having drinks at the bar. Think of them as Facebook postings or pages of those days.

It is not uncommon for World War II soldiers would carry these with them wherever they went, therefore the condition of these pieces is usually very low. They'd been through the war zones and in many different climates and may have been soaked in sea water. Sometimes multiple pieces were taped together by service men or women as a “paper trail” of sorts, commemorating the multiple locations in which they fought or served. As a collector, you should be very suspicious if you come across any Short Snorter in uncirculated condition.

This piece is question is soiled and folded multiple times with some tears along the upper edges, most likely due to rubbing and pulls while being inside someone’s wallet. This will put the note in a “Very Fine” grade or condition. And mind you, ball point pens didn’t exist until after the war, fountain pens were widely used in that era. The slightly faded colour and width of the handwriting on this piece is consistent with the writing implements of the time. So there is a high possibility that this is a genuine item.

Next, we examine the writings - the first clue is phrase "Souvenir from NG" at the centre top. Since this is supposed to be in circulation in Oceania region, NG is likely initials for a place and of all the locations in the Pacific, “New Guinea” certainly fits the bill, pun very intended! On the centre left side, you can see “NSW”, which stands for New South Wales, Australia.  Cross checking that with WWII history - the Australian Army was involved in several successful campaigns against the Japanese forces defending New Guinea in Operation Cartwheel in the mid of 1943 led by General Blamey. So this puts a location on the note.

The next important clue – the who. There are 2 numbers on the note – on the right there is QX54229 and on the left it’s 93944, both are service numbers of military personnel. The names written below these numbers are hardly legible, so we only have the service numbers to go by. Since this note was issued in Oceania, so it will be highly likely the service men / women will be from Australia. Working on this tip - we did a quick check with the National Archives of Australia using the service numbers and much to our delight the two service numbers do exist and they belong to the Weakleys:
12.jpg
Fig 2: Two service numbers of the military personnel was clearly written on it, which the names are hardly legible.

As we look closer, the handwritten name of the top left reads “F Sgt Weakley B.”; F Sgt being "Flight Sergeant". The one on the right read “Weakley BC”. We now have their full names from the official records that match their service numbers!

What’s more fascinating is the official records reveal that both Betty and Bernard Weakley were born in the same town of Muttaburra in Queensland, Australia in the 1920s. Both of them enlisted during the war, Betty served as Flight Sergeant; she was just over 19 years old when she enlisted.

Bernard on the other hand joined the army, enlisted 2 years after Betty, also 19 years of age at the time and most likely sent to New Guinea sometime in mid-1943. Further checks also reveal that Bernard served in the Cryptography / Cipher unit of the Australian Army, probably a code breaker!

Furthermore, base of the dates of birth Betty is the elder of the 2 siblings. Further checks on their home town hospital records reveal that there in one Charles Weakley also hail from Muttaburra, whom we suspect is their father.

So the big question now is – Did they survive the war?

We know Bernard survived. We found a record of his passing date 1988, at the age of 64 but unfortunately there are no post war records on Betty, not online at least. If she is still alive, she'd be 97 years old now.
13.png
Fig 3: Sgt. Bernard Charles Weakley QX54229

To conclude, these two persons who signed it actually do exist, the fountain pen writing checks out, Bernard being in New Guinea is highly likely and him picking up a JIM piece then signing it with Betty when he was with her is entirely plausible, which makes this piece of Short Snorter quite genuine!

Mystery solved.

Now this is what collecting is all about - learning about the people, the story and part of a history at a time when the world was upside down; it was a very satisfying experience indeed. There are moments that I wonder what both of them were talking about when they met and signed this piece. Many questions, many thoughts..... And nothing but sheer respect and admiration for those who risked their lives to serve in WWII at the age of just 19. What were you doing when you were 19?

Author Profile:  Gilbert Chang is an avid collector of British Commonwealth banknotes, Japanese Invasion Money, French notes and numismatic books. He owns and manages the alphaNumis Coin & Banknote Gallery & Library in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He is currently a Life Member (LM-233) of the International Banknote Society (IBNS), Executive Committee Member of the Malaysia Numismatic Society (MNS), Platinum member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and member of the Paper Money Collectors Society. Gilbert currently holds a Diploma in Numismatics from ANA, Certificate in Numismatics from the Professional Numismatist Guild USA, Bachelor of Economics (Australia) as well as a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from UK. Career wise he is an IT professional with 29 years of experience in various industry sectors including government and financial services. His blog is located at www.numismatica.com.my.
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