Australia's First VC

June 2017, Volume 55 No. 6
Decisions, decisions

THERE are, I suspect, two types of medal collector: those who like owning the physical pieces of metal and silk and those for whom the medals are secondary and it’s the research, the story, which is the main thrust of their hobby. That isn’t to say the two don’t cross over. Those that enjoy the ownership, the aesthetics of displays, the variety (or uniformity) of their collections, etc., will still do research on “their men” and those that enjoy the research still enjoy owning the medals too, otherwise why would they bother having them at all? Why not just research diaries or photographs? Why need the metal? I am, I confess, more of the former type of collector than the latter. I enjoy the search, the hunt for new medals to add to my collection and am more than a little lax when it comes to doing some of the research that others so enjoy. I know about the recipients in my collection, of course. I know their military history, know their basic biographical details, but I don’t go to the lengths some do. I don’t research the village where they were born or check the census for family members. I don’t know them beyond, really, what they did to get the awards I am now custodian of—and that’s OK. We all have different ways of collecting and mine is to accumulate medals, do the basic research and move on to finding more medals in my theme. Others will have far smaller collections but will diligently know all they can about the recipients, only moving to the next acquisition when they have done all they can—and of course there are those who are somewhere in the middle: those who choose to research some recipients (often officers because more information is available on them) to the nth degree, whilst content to leave the “men” with a medal index card and a war diary entry and little more. No way is inherently better than another; we do what suits us best.

The trouble is that my way of collecting has led me to something of an impasse. I had a very good Yate fair recently, not because of the buzz in the room nor because I got to say “hello” to lots of old friends, but rather because I managed to find a medal that I didn’t have within my theme—and I realised that it was actually the first such acquisition for quite some time. My problem is that I, like so many of us, have been building a fairly narrow collection within a budget and with few duplicates, and this is, naturally, restricting me. Over the years I have been fortunate enough to acquire a reasonable number of on-theme medals, some really quite rare, but now I find the ones available I either already have or are out of my price range (I’d always considered my budget generous but as I now need the really rare medals I find that not to be the case!) and so now I must face the reality of having added only two items in nearly 18 months. This, sadly, means I am not really “collecting” anything at the moment, I am no longer a collector I am a hoarder.

So I have some decisions to make: I either break my two golden rules and start getting duplicates/spending serious money; decide to stop “collecting” per se; start researching properly and not worry too much about adding things or I move on to a new theme—one where I can go back to enjoying the thrill of the hunt. I’m not certain I have the patience or time to do “proper” research as some of you do (I’m always in awe of some of the things you guys find out), I haven’t got the serious money I perhaps need to buy the real rarities (I have some wonderful groups/singles but oh what I couldn’t do with a spare £500k or so!), and I don’t really want to buy more of the same and end up with lots of duplicates—so that leaves a new theme, helping me back to getting out there and hunting down those medals, becoming a collector again. If I’m honest, I think that’s the way forward for me. I love this hobby, I genuinely do and I am both proud and pleased to be a part of it and all of its facets, but at heart I’m a collector. I enjoy adding to my collection. I love the feeling I get when I’m able to find something new. Now I’m sure many of you will think that I may as well be collecting coins or stamps if acquisition is the driving force. But it isn’t JUST the collecting. I like the subject, the stories, the history, but the actual collecting is a huge part of it too and so, I think, it is time to get back to it properly.

That being the case what do I do with the medals in my existing collection? Do I keep them or is it time to let others enjoy them? Sometimes I think I would like to hold on to them but then I think I am being selfish by not allowing others to have the pleasure of the research or to add to their own collections. But if I do decide to sell then how do I dispose of them? And once I’ve done it what should be my new theme? What will really inspire me as my current theme has? And should I have just one theme or several? Once I’ve chosen something should I apply my golden rules again or will that mean I may risk coming up against this problem again? Ah, decisions, decisions . . . .

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In This Issue

INTERVIEW17
At lunch with Spink
Catching up with Marcus Budgen and David Erskine-Hill of the Medal Department
BACKGROUND21
Mexican adventure
Middle-Eastern army lands in America!
HEROES24
Australia’s first Victoria Cross winner
Sir Neville Howse, rural and military doctor 1863–1930
CASEBOOK29
Portrait of a Peninsular veteran
Finding the identity of an unknown Chelsea Pensioner captured on canvas
RESEARCHER’S NOTEBOOK32
Changes of name
A challenge to the researcher
SPOTLIGHT37
For “Gallantry in Action”
A history of the American Silver Star
TALKING MINIATURES40
Seven become one
The United Arab Emirate
FACT FILE41
“Indifferent to all bullets”
Thomas Lancashire, MM—a Passchendaele stretcher bearer
MY MEDALS44
A reader’s medals
An unusual group of nine medals
ANNIVERSARY45
The battle for Crete—III
The evacuation
MEDAL OF THE MONTH50
A modern Military Cross
The medal of Corporal Mark Ward, MC, Mercian Regiment

Regulars

The Editorial Page5
News And Views6
Market Scene13
Medal Tracker54
Dealers’ Lists56
Semi Display Advertising57
Classified Advertising58
Diary Dates60