As the first American flag on the beach during the Battle of Guadalcanal (1942), this flag is an important piece of World War II history. Following the battle, Colonel HA Cavanaugh brought it with him to Australia, where he emigrated after the war. In 1957 he presented it to the Ivanhoe RSL, VIC, and it has been in their possession ever since.
After years in storage the flag was in need of conservation and repair. Primarily made of silk, it features embroidered stars and a heavy braid border, and is attached to a long wooden pole. Antique silk is fragile by nature and so, over time, the piece had fallen out of shape and its colours had faded significantly. There were also several insect holes across its surface.
ICS was approached by Ivanhoe RSL to conserve and frame the flag. The process involved:
• Removing the flag from its pole
• Carrying out a thorough surface clean
• Stabilising stains and holes in the silk
• Humidifying and flattening the flag to bring it back into shape
• Attaching the flag to a fabric-covered, acid-free backing board
• Framing the flag (with pole) to conservation standards
In 2016 the flag was rededicated at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and presented to then US Vice-President, Joe Biden. It was a symbolic choice of venue as the First Regiment of the First Division of the United States Marine Corps (who held the flag during the Battle) briefly made camp at the MCG when on leave. ICS Senior Textiles Conservator Skye Firth was honoured to be part of the proceedings and was able to discuss the conservation of the flag with Vice-President Biden.
AWARD WINNING Overview Named in honour of General William Riddell Birdwood (1865-1951) – the commander of the Australian forces on the Western Front during the latter part of WWI – the Birdwood Flag served as the Australian ensign, and was the first recorded, and officially sanctioned, presentation of an Australian flag in the field of war (as distinct from the...