From machine-gun pits to intimate bits: Rose of No Man’s Land perfume

Update 13 November 2015: questions remain about the proportion of profits going to charity, though MSF Sweden has confirmed there is a ‘collaboration’.

Update 10 November 2015: Fairfax columnist Ian Warden has been advised by perfume blogger Jessica that the information about Byredo donating part of its profits to MSF Sweden was on Byredo’s Facebook page. Sure enough, there it is, buried in a response to ‘Angel Blak’ on 21 September: ‘part of Rose of No Man’s Land’s global profits will be donated to Doctors without Borders (Sweden)’. We would still like to know what proportion of profits is being donated. And why not trumpet the fact?

Update 9 November 2015: we have heard nothing from either Byredo or MSF about the claim that the former is donating to the latter a proportion of the profits from flogging Rose of No Man’s Land perfume at $A200 and $A300 a bottle. We will put it down as an unconfirmed rumour.

Update 3 November 2015: Fairfax columnist Ian Warden is also chasing Byredo for answers.

Update 1 November 2015: we try to find out whether Byredo are donating some of their profits to the Swedish division of Medecins sans Frontieres.

Update 27 October 2015: Crikey’s Tips and Rumours column has linked to our item also and added this extra twist:

BBC recently visited a number of No Man’s Lands, and found that in one such location in Verdun, France, a location of many horrific battles in World War I was still, 100 years later, deemed too dangerous for people to return to live, filled with unexploded ordnance, arsenic, chlorine and phosgene. Not the most appealing smell for a hip new fragrance.

Update 26 October 2015: this issue has been taken up by Fairfax columnist Ian Warden (Gang-Gang). If readers wish to make a point to the manufacturers, the email address is info@byredo.com. No Glory in War website in London reprinted our original piece.

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We thought we had become immune to the crassness of Great War centenary marketing – Woolworths, Raise-a-Glass, Camp Gallipoli, Lone Pine commemorative coasters, Audacity, Anzac Ted, soft porn commemorative t-shirts, on and on it goes – but this latest one possibly takes the biscuit. It comes from Sweden and it is coming to a body near you.

Wallpaper website announces that Byredo, ‘the painfully cool Swedish fragrance brand’, is bringing out a new fragrance called ‘Rose of No Man’s Land’ to mark the centenary of World War I. This pungent unguent, says Byredo, is a ‘fragrant tribute to the nurses (often referred to by soldiers as “rose of no-man’s land”) who saved thousands of lives on the front lines’.

01_byredoWe are promised ‘a rose fragrance, but a clean, modern, pared-down rose rather than a blowsy old-fashioned one’. In the mix there is Turkish rose, pink pepper and papyrus. It’s described as ‘a unisex scent’ though Wallpaper‘s scribe, obviously a man’s man, suggests ‘it’s probably too floral to appeal to most men, lacking, say, the woodiness that gives Serge Lutens’ wonderful Feminité du Bois its universal appeal. But for anyone who likes a fresh floral fragrance it would be an appealing daytime choice.’

Carolyn Holbrook, author of Anzac: The Unauthorised Biography, is unconvinced. ‘I wonder what it smells of – rotting human bodies (the most potent scent in no man’s land), open latrines, cordite?’ Holbrook describes Rose of No Man’s Land as the ‘latest and arguably most distasteful example of the exploitation of human tragedy for profit’. Holbrook is one of Honest History’s distinguished supporters.

The name of this ‘trench pong’ is, of course, taken from a famous Great War song, The Rose of No Man’s Land, which will probably bring a tear to your eye. We express no opinion on what the scent of the same name will do for its users. We hope it gives them warts.

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22 October 2015

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One comment on “From machine-gun pits to intimate bits: Rose of No Man’s Land perfume
  1. Christine Bramble says:

    Agree with Carolyn, it’s really crass.

    And the notion of military nurses being associated with No Man’s Land has always annoyed me – the closest that Allied army nurses got to No Man’s Land was to the casualty clearing stations (CCSs)which, although sometimes plagued by air raids and certainly dangerous places at times, were at least a couple of kms back from the trench lines.

    I have looked at several editions of the sheet music for the song “Rose of No Man’s Land” – the woman on the cover appears to be wearing the uniform of a Red Cross VAD and again, this is a mistake – although I believe some of these untrained nurses’ aides were posted to CCSs, the majority of the nurses in these units were certificated and enlisted in a military nursing service.

    That said, there is an exception to every rule! Two English women, Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm, set up a dressing station at Pervyse in Belgium on their own initiative, just a few hundred metres from trench lines and may have even carried out battlefield rescues. But they were just two amongst many thousands of military nurses. Christine Bramble

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