Fashion

Sleeves Of Honour

Written by Sam Skelding

Most cufflinks offer the chance to stamp your personality on a shirt or suit, but how many are made from a Spitfire plane?

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, where the German Air Force attempted to gain superiority over the RAF. During the months of July and October 1940, the RAF lost 544 aircrew and 1023 planes, but this moment was a huge turning point in World War Two and undoubtedly helped prevent Germany from invading Britain.

To commemorate this pivotal moment in Britain’s history, The Royal British Legion – who are committed to keeping alive the memory of the fallen and supporting the future of the living – have teamed up with TMB Art Metal of London to produce a very special set of cufflinks.

Beginnings

Of all the planes that flew during the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire is arguably the most symbolic. Even so, only a mere 35 remain in use around the world. Of those, the Spitfire P7350, which survived the Battle of Britain complete with battle scars and bullet holes, is the oldest and most historically significant airworthy plane of its type in existence.

With the P7350 having to undergo restoration work, a small quantity of its original metal, duralumin (an aluminium alloy), was removed and replaced. TMB Art managed to get their hands on a section of this material, melted it down and began the remarkable transformation.

Private Smith’s Poppy

The shape of the cufflinks is poignant, and once again, there is far more to this than meets the eye. The design is based on a 100-year old dried and flattened poppy found by Private Len Smith. Private Smith, a veteran who lived until 1974, plucked the poppy from No Man’s Land in 1915 and preserved it in his illustrated diary – serving as a beautiful yet tragic reminder of war.

This summer marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. 

To add further uniqueness, each set is different thanks to the age and character of the metal used, meaning no-one else on the planet will own an identical pair to you. Engraved with the inscriptions ‘1940’ and ‘Battle of Britain’, the cufflinks were also made using the traditional ‘lost wax process’ in which every single step of their production, to some degree or other, was done by hand.

This involves making an individual wax model of each and every cufflink, based on the ‘master cufflink design’ (which took a painstaking three months to create). These wax models are then placed in a ‘casting can’, which once heated causes the wax to melt and leaves a hollow for the molten metal to fill in the shape of the poppy. As a result, the cufflinks really do look and feel high-quality.

The Cause

Although fascinating, the biggest attraction of these cufflinks isn’t actually anything to do with their design. It is that all proceeds raised from their sale go directly to The Royal British Legion, funding the important work they do in providing care and support to all members of the British Armed Forces and their families.

One thing is for certain, you would be hard pressed to find another fashion accessory  for shirt sleeves or otherwise – that carries both incredible significance and style in equal measure.  

The Battle of Britain cufflinks are available exclusively from The Royal British Legion’s Poppy Shop, www.poppyshop.org.uk, for £99.99.

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