Inside Our Collection – The much travelled Willow Christmas cake tin and ‘postal bag’
In many museums it is easy to find objects that look really quite ordinary. You might wonder why they have been kept at all. Strangely, it is often these very ordinary looking objects that have the most extraordinary stories to tell.
This is certainly the case with a Willow cake tin and a handmade calico postal bag that were donated to the Moruya Museum earlier this year and are now prominently displayed in the museum’s Remembrance Room.
During World War 11, this Willow cake tin, filled with Christmas Cake made with the family recipe, was sent north by Miss Constance Mary Tremlett (1884-1975), a schoolteacher living in Ashfield, Sydney to her nephew Leading Aircraftman (LAC) Geoffrey George Tremlett (1909-2007) who served briefly in Townsville and then in New Guinea.
The practice of sending “Willow Tin Christmas Cakes” to the troops was a common one during the war. Many families had their favourite recipes. . The recipe that Constance Tremlett used was a version of the recipe below. This recipe has been handed down through the generations and like all recipes, modified over time. To read the handwritten Tremlett family recipe click below
Constance Tremlett was a fortunate cook and LAC Tremlett was an even luckier soldier. The introduction of wartime rationing in 1942 meant that many cooks had to alter their recipes by finding substitutes for vital ingredients, particularly butter. Constance was able to keep cooking her rich cake as butter was sent to Sydney by family members who were living at Walcha Road (New England Tablelands) during World War 11 and who kept their own cows.
Butter and other produce was packed into biscuit tins and sent overnight by train to Central Railway, where it was picked up by family members. Constance or ‘Great Aunt Con’ would then, using the best possible ingredients available and with whatever coupons the family could give her, bake the fruit cake in the Willow cake tin the cake.
After cooking the lid was placed on the tin and everything was wrapped in a handsewn calico bag and posted to Townsville and later in the war, to Port Moresby. Numerous post marks can be seen on the front of the bag demonstrating that the bag was sent backwards and forwards a number of times.
Those postmarks are a real testament to how much LAC Geoffrey Tremlett ( and his mates) must have enjoyed his Aunt Con’s Christmas cake!
Marisha Kelly – Donation of tin and bag, Tremlett family photos, Christmas Cake recipe anf family information
Maureen Keating – Object photography