A cross to bear.

Posted on Mon, 2 November 2009 by Phil Mussell
Posted in: Medal News
A cross to bear.

FORGIVE me if I split this “Comment” in two but there are a couple of things that need my attention this month and they can’t really be amalgamated into one editorial. The first concerns the latest “medal” to be issued—the Elizabeth Cross. Now, whilst I wholeheartedly support the institution of this badge given to the next of kin of those who lose their lives whilst on active duty, I cannot help but feel the retrospective nature of the criteria, and the fact that only one Cross is awarded per fatality, could well lead to all sorts of problems. Take for example the case of a young soldier who lost his life in the Falklands Conflict. He was newly married but had still listed his mother and then father as next of kin. In the intervening years his parents have divorced in an acrimonious split and his mother now lives in America, his widow has remarried and the MoD have long lost touch with all members of the family. The father hears about the Elizabeth Cross and applies for it and it is duly sent to him. Some months later the widow hears about it and she wants to apply, only to find the Cross has already been awarded. After all, the MoD is under no obligation to try and trace any other members of the family who might have a better claim, so why shouldn’t they have awarded the Cross to the father? And what about when the mother returns from the States and learns about the Cross? She too will want to apply for it, but she too will be thwarted—this will inevitably lead to tabloid stories featuring grieving widow and/or grieving mother for whom the pain of loss is exacerbated by their being told that they can’t have the official Commemoration of their loved one’s life for it has gone elsewhere. This is hardly going to be the sort of publicity the Government wants associated with this latest offering and I question the wisdom of inviting such problems by making the eligibility so chronologically wide-reaching. Far better, I would have thought, to make the award eligible only to the next of kin of those lost in the recent Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts. At least in those cases the possibilities of family politics getting in the way are far less! I’m being cynical of course, and I do hope that such problems do not occur, but when you realise that the award will span over 60 years and that inevitably there will have been deaths, splits and family schisms in that time, you will see that working out who is eligible to receive the Cross and who isn’t might well not be as straightforward as some might hope. Part of the problem lies in the fact that this is something that must be applied for and as far as I can see there is no clear cut way of the MoD making sure that the person who applies is indeed the person who should receive the Cross. I have spoken with the Medal Office and I am assured they do their best in every case but with so many possibilities and permutations and no clear cut indication of just what the definition of next of kin actually is (is it the father or mother? What about a live-in partner of many years? Are they less eligible than husband or wife? What about a legitimate child versus an illegitimate one? And so on. Another problem lies with the time-span involved. As the years have gone on so it has become more and more likely that those once listed as “Next of Kin” by the service personnel who fell are themselves no longer with us and now perhaps only distant branches of the family are still around to claim. There was no clear way round this of course, even multiple awards wouldn’t have pleased everybody, but given the scenarios outlined above it easy to see how the award of the Elizabeth Cross could become a bone of contention for some. On an entirely different note I beg your forgiveness for shamelessly promoting our Britannia Medal Fair once again. If you take a look on pages 36–37 of this issue you’ll see that word has spread about the success of the last fair and that this time around the show, on November 22, features more than 30 dealers from across the UK, making this, without a doubt, the country’s biggest medal fair! I do hope you’ll be able to come along to the Victory Services Club in Seymour Street just off Marble Arch. If you do you’ll find some of the best medals in the country on offer as well as some great catering facilities and a warm welcome! It is free entry for MEDAL NEWS readers and we’re offering everyone who comes through the door a £2 gift voucher to spend with us and the chance to win £100 to spend with anyone of the dealers stalling out on the day. Come along if you can—this is the MEDAL NEWS show for MEDAL NEWS readers and together we can make it the best medal show in the world. I look forward to meeting you on the day!

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