The Tank Museum in Dorset is appealing for anyone who knows the whereabouts of a WWI ‘tank handbag’ to get in touch.
During the Great War the accessory was produced by Mark Cross in London and it is one of the few tank-related items the museum doesn’t possess.
The award-winning attraction’s new exhibition opens on April 1 and is called ‘Tanks for the memories: The Tank in popular culture’.
Staff would love to find one of the handbags and perhaps even have it on display.
The ‘Tank handbag for ladies’ was introduced in 1917 after the new invention had made a real impact after its introduction the previous year.
Britons were hugely interested in the new weapon of war and they caused a sensation when news of their successes filtered back to Blighty.
Souvenirs were made and the invention became a rallying point for fundraising and encouraging the population to support the war effort.
A newspaper advert for the handbag states: “Nothing like this has been produced before. It is made in the shape of ‘Tanks’ which have attained to public fame to-day – a fact which imparts a deep interest to the possession of this new ‘Cross’ handbag.”
The leather bags were on sale at the Mark Cross shop in London’s Regent Street for 60/- and were available in black or blue.
The museum is also on the look-out for evidence that writer Rudyard Kipling – whose son died in the war – encouraged the creation of the museum as anecdotal history claims.
Museum curator David Willey said: “After tanks were introduced in 1916 the public became very interested and excited at this new British invention.
“They helped raise money for the war effort with tanks being sent to towns and cities and politicians and prominent people made speeches while standing on them. Then the public could queue up and buy War Bonds from the ‘Tank banks’.
“Lots of souvenirs were made – including models and money boxes – and we have examples of them which will be on display at the new exhibition.
“But one thing we don’t have and that I’ve never seen is a tank handbag produced by Mark Cross in London.
“We have an advert so we know they existed, what they looked like and how much they cost.
“They were made of leather so we are hoping that one might exist somewhere.
“We’d love to find one and are appealing for anyone – including antique dealers and collectors – to let us know if they can help.
“Another thing we’d love to find out is proof that Kipling suggested the idea of the museum in 1923.
“That has always been the story that has passed down the decades, but we are lacking primary evidence and would love to find some.
“The new exhibition is a bit of a departure for us, concentrating as it does on tanks in popular culture – the wider civilian world.
“This part of their history will inevitably bring back memories for many as it includes toys, models, games, films and books – as well as some of the vehicles themselves. But it would be nice if we could show off a tank handbag if anybody has one.”