Posted 6 years ago
As a militaria collector, I am often suprised by an unusual find in an otherwise bland or common looking grouping.
This letter is one such example.
Several years ago, I purchased a large grouping of about 50 WW1 letters from a Lieutenant Supplee of the AEF. Most of the letters were written to his father in NYC, who was a retired Army Colonel. In my first examintation of the letters after purchase, I was somewhat disappointed to find that most of the letters were from the occupation period and only about 10 had wartime dates. In a quick first read of those letters I found some interesting content but nothing really unusual.
I moved on to the occupation letters and started to go through them. After reading a few, I noticed one (April 7th, 1919) was heavy and had something in the envelope. Inside there was a small 3" X 2" plastic covered card with the alphabet on it. Additionally, I found a thin 6" X 7" piece of folded fabric with numbers and letters painted on one side. I immediately thought airplane fabric!
The origin of the card and my suspicions on the fabric were confirmed in the letter. LT Supplee had sent the two items home as souvenirs and documented them in the letter.
Supplee wrote about the card:
"Enclosed are a couple odd souvenirs which may or may not appeal to you. The celluloid piece I had removed from the case of a German electric battery. What it signifies is more than I can tell, unless somebody was to learn his alphabet from the sign."
Actually, LT Supplee was correct-- the card holds the German Phonetic Alphabet and was probably used as a quick reference guide for newer soldiers who had not learned the phonetic alphabet.
Supplee wrote on the fabric:
"The other is a piece I cut from what is left of an English airoplane which the Boche (Germans) had downed and dragged behind a machine gun factory in Langefou (??). Its chief interest lies in observation of the material of which an airoplane's wings are made. The writing is unintelligible to me."
I have no idea on the type of plane this fabric came from. Perhaps the numbers will help to identify the plane. Since the plane was downed near a machine gun factory, I would suspect the plane was a large bomber type aircraft.
I have several other pieces of airplane material in my collection, some with small period notes on them, but this piece is by far the most interesting and most well documented example.
Any information on fabric writing is appreciated.