Object Number RM10113
In our Military Room, among a collection of medals, maps, certificates, wartime artefacts and models wearing various service uniforms, we have a doll: not the usual article one expects to find in such a room,! This one, however, has a very interesting and somewhat mysterious history.
He is called a TOMMY DOLL and is 31cm high. Tommy was donated to us by Ken W. LARBY whose father belonged to the Royal Engineers, on 12th August, 2005. He is dressed in a khaki British soldier’s uniform, correct in every detail, and has a plaster head, with a clown’s face on it. The helmet is integral. Ken tells us that his father, Bill Larby, bought it in a toy shop in MINDEN in Germany as a gift for him when he returned to England in 1945. Ken thought it was lovely.
You will notice that Tommy is missing his right arm and hand: Ken tells us that his pet cat chewed it off many years ago! Tommy is a cheeky little fellow with a big happy grin and his left thumb raised in cheerful gesture.
We first started to research the origins of this doll in 2006 and were originally told that the dolls were distributed to POWs by the Germans in order to demean the British Tommy and demoralise the P.O.Ws. but this seems to be incorrect. Another version of the story is that the dolls were dropped over England by the Germans in order to demoralise the British. Numerous enquiries made in England from our contacts there proved this story, too, to be incorrect.
However, as the years have passed and new facts have come to light, it appears that Tommy was manufactured by the Belgian UNICA doll company, founded in 1921 and ceasing operations in 1972. Contact with Esther Lutman of the V&A Museum of Childhood in London has revealed the fact that at least three of these dolls exist today, two in England and the third one here in our Museum collection. Our research on this cute little fellow is continuing, as we feel that his story may still be incomplete…