We Did Our Bit: WWI Exhibition Favourites Part 1 – “Pip, Squeak and Wilfred”

After four great years, the St. Catharines Museum’s Doing Our Bit: WWI from St. Catharines to the Western Front exhibition is coming to a close on November 30th, 2018. To honour the centenary of the end of the war, as well as the work staff and volunteers put into this exhibition, we present the “We Did Our Bit” series, featuring our favourite objects and stories in the exhibition.

The first installment of our We Did Our Bit series comes from Anthony Percival, Collections Coordinator here at the St. Catharines Museum.

Pip, Squeak and Wilfred

The 1914-1915 Star (Pip), The British War Medal (Squeak), and the Victory Medal (Wilfred) as displayed in the Doing our Bit: WWI from St. Catharines to the Western Front exhibition.  STCM M2015.1.6

I had occasion once to speak to a Veteran of the First World War at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto.  He told me some wonderful tales and he mentioned the medals he wore, “Pip, Squeak and Wilfred”.  I was struck by the charming phrase though I didn’t know its history.  In reality the medals he wore were called the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal;, and Victory Medal.  In all over two and a half million serving men and women where awarded all three of these medals including Brits, Canadians, Australians, Kiwis, South Africans, Indians and a host of smaller former areas of the British Empire.

The 1914 Star (Pip) was created to be awarded to the “Old Contemptibles” (a name given to the British Expeditionary Force which was the initial British contingent to enter the War).  The 1914-1915 Star (also called Pip) was a second medal created following a request by the Dominion Governments who also wanted to recognize their first contingents who entered the War with Great Britain.  Only one of these two medals could be awarded (both were virtually the same in appearance) and it was always awarded with the British War Medal (Squeak) and Victory Medal (Wilfred) to form the common trio.

It was years later that I found out that “Pip, Squeak and Wilfred” was a common name used to call these Great War Medals.  The term was taken from a popular comic strip published by the British Daily Mirror newspaper. It was written by two Veterans of the War Bertram Lamb (known as Uncle Dick in the comic), and drawn by the cartoonist Austin Bowen Payne.  The comic concerned the adventures of an orphaned family of animals.  Pip, who assumed the “father” role, was a dog, while the “mother”, Squeak, was a penguin.  Wilfred was the “young son” and was a rabbit with very long ears.  Austin Payne had been an Officer during the war and his batman had been nicknamed “Pip-squeak” and this is where the idea for the names of the dog and penguin had come from. For some reason the three names of the characters became associated with the three campaign medals being issued and the names stuck.

Pip, Squeak and Wilfred – Daily Mirror Cartoon Serial.

The Medals in the above photo belonged to Percy Bradshaw who joined up at the very beginning of the war and was sent overseas with the first contingent from Canada.  He served with the 4th Battalion and in the 2nd Battle of Ypres was wounded in the arm.  After almost a year in hospital recovering he was returned to Canada and as he was unable to operate a rifle was discharged from the Army.  Percy received his medals in little boxes that had been mailed to him.  He never had them mounted or wore them.  He eventually found work at Yale & Towne.  He married and bought a little house on Page Street where he lived out the remainder of his days.  He never talked to his family about his experiences in the War.

Doing our Bit: WWI from St. Catharines to the Western Front officially closes on Friday, November 30. Please join us as we close out this exhibition with a 1918 Victory Party celebrating the end of the First World War. Enjoy live jazz music, swing dance lessons, food, and drink throughout the evening.

Friday, November 30, 8pm-midnight | $10 per person | Tickets online or by calling the Museum at 905-984-8880| Visit our website for more details | 

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