Found pinned to a page in an album that housed an incredible collection of personally signed letters and photographs from former prime ministers and political figures, an MBE and records of military service and sporting achievements, was a small badge which is now revealing its own very big story.
The circular tinplate badge is a photomontage believed to be of three Stafford brothers circa 1918. It forms part of the Stafford Papers, a collection gifted to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) in August 2014, which belonged to Alfred 'Alf' George Stafford - a Gamilaroi and Darug man from NSW.
The badge reflects a time when photomontage was popular during the First World War. It involved the creation of a composite photograph by cutting and joining two or more photographs into a new image.
Alf’s granddaughter and collection donor, Michelle Flynn said she had been told the badge portrayed Alf’s brother, Pte John Harold Stafford, and had assumed it was created in memory of him after he died at an early age on return from the First World War.
“As I furthered my family history research and realised three of Alf’s brothers went to the war, it made sense the other two faces in the badge would be the two elder brothers Charles Fitzroy Stafford and Clyde Gilford Ortley Stafford,” said Michelle.
“I know the man in the centre of the photo is John Harold Stafford, I was able to source a photo of John through the state library of NSW to confirm his identity. But I haven't been able to find photos of my other two great uncles to be able to confirm whether they are Charles and Clyde.
“I’ve had the Liverpool Plains Shire Council, Gunnedah RSL sub-branch, Quirindi Historical Society and a local writer, Cate Clark in Gunnedah all searching for photos to no avail. I’ve also been in contact with extended family members, but unfortunately I haven't had any luck finding descendants of either Charles or Clyde as yet.
“I’ve been out to Binnaway and surrounds where I have found the brothers name on the World War One memorial. But it would mean a great deal to me to be able to confirm the identities of the other two men in the badge.
“I would love to know if the men in the photo are my grandfather’s three brothers, to be able to put names to the faces would make me very happy. I feel in my heart that it is them.”
The badge is an example of the social practice of visually representing the pride and honour that a mother feels for a son or sons serving in war – perhaps a way of keeping a son close to a mother’s heart. It would have been created in a private photographic studio visited either by the mother or one of the son’s prior to departure for war. Pte John Harold Stafford didn’t enlist until 1918, so for him to feature, the montage must have been created in that year at the earliest.
The men in the background are believed to be Farrier Charles Fitzroy Stafford (b. 1889 - 6 March 1954) and Pte Clyde Gilford Stafford (20 April 1894 - 22 June 1947). All three brothers served in and returned from World War One.
Michelle Flynn continues in her search…
The badge can be viewed as part of a display commemorating Indigenous Australians' war service in the the Stanner Reading Room, open to the public from 11am to 3pm, Monday to Friday. The badge will be part of the display until Friday 1 May 2015. The larger display will be open until Friday 22 May 2015.