I’ve yet to trace the origin of sweetheart scarves, whether they began with WWI or earlier. What I do know is as Corporal John Lurker departed Evansville, Indiana, USA for Europe in 1918 at the height of the “war to end all wars,” my grandmother’s beau presented her with one. The scarf measures about a foot square, is trimmed in lace, and made of silk or a silk-like fabric that today has a wonderful sepia patina. Across the top an eagle carries a banner in its beak emblazoned with the words, The Farewell. Beneath the banner, a soldier embraces his sweetheart complete with high-collared blouse and upswept hair.
My research provided the following details of Corporal Lurker’s service. At 22, he enlisted. He was sent to Camp Taylor, Kentucky in September 22, 1917 where he was assigned to Company I. Later he was transferred to Camp Sevier, South Carolina and Company C, with the 120th Infantry, 30th Division. He departed for Europe with one of the first divisions on May 12, 1918. Corporal Lurker would have been attached for training purposes to British units in the Pas de Calais, across the English Channel from Dover where he remained until July 4, 1918. On that date, the division was sent to the Canal Sector, southwest of Ypres in Belgium with the Second British Army and remained there until August 17, 1918–a period of intense fighting between the German and Allied forces. The 30th Division took over the Canal Sector from the British and held the position until August 30, 1918 at which time they participated in the Ypres-Lys Offensive. Subsequently, the Division participated in the Somme Offensive, renowned for the breaking of the Hindenburg Line and the capture of Bellicourt and Nauroy on September 29 and 30. Corporal Lurker was killed in action at a place unknown on September 29, 1918 and was buried in the American Cemetery in Bony-Aisne, France.