Coldstream Guards Shanghai Cigarette Case, 1928
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Measurements: 8cm (3.2in) x 12cm (4.75in)
Steel, gold, silver. Japanese nunome zogan (classical metalwork overlay technique) cigarette case, the front set with the Garter Star, the interior inscribed ‘JATB / from Rixon / December 12th 1928’ and bearing the maker’s mark of Komai of Kyoto and Shanghai.
The present cigarette case is believed to have been given by Evelyn May Rixon, a nursing sister with the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, to Coldstream Guards subaltern Jasper Bower and is dated to the day he resigned his commission in 1928. The case was made using a technique traditionally used to decorate Samurai swords. When Japan underwent its drastic modernisation and in the Meiji period (1868-1912) and swords were banned for all but the daimyos in 1876, the art of nunome zogan went into a major decline. However, a handful of practitioners continued, decorating objects for the Western market. These included the descendants of the Kyoto sword furniture maker Otojiro Komai (1842-1917), whose grandson Seibei operated a shop in Shanghai where this cigarette case originated.
Lieutenant-Colonel Jasper Angus Tatton Bower (1902-1969), late Coldstream Guards, was the son of Major Sir Robert Bower, Chief Constable of West Riding, and the brother of Lieutenant-Commander R.T. Bower who as M.P. for Cleveland was punched in the face on the floor of the Commons by an opposition M.P. during a debate on British foreign policy in 1938. Jasper was educated at Eton and commissioned into the Coldstream Guards in October 1921. In 1927 he deployed with the 2nd Battalion to Shanghai after the British Concession had been sacked by Chinese Nationalist forces. The Guards arrived on 10 March 1927 bolstering the Shanghai Defence Force and took up positions within the Concession. By May the situation had calmed, despite attempts by the Chinese to persuade the British troops to kill their officers. On 3 June the Battalion trooped the Colour on the King's Birthday Parade at Shanghai Race Course. The remainder of the time passed uneventfully and the Battalion arrived back in England on 21 March 1928.
Jasper rejoined from the Reserve of Officers in early 1940 and served with the British Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders. Both the 1st and 2nd Battalions fought in the defence of the Dunkirk perimeter. On 31 May, the Germans nearly broke through at Nieuport. The 2nd Battalion was rushed to reinforce the line near Furnes, where the British troops had been routed. The Guards restored order by shooting some of the fleeing troops and turning others around at bayonet point. The British troops returned to the line and the German assault was beaten back.