Medal News

Volume 42, Number 6, June 2004

Never assume

Volume 42, Number 6, June 2004

An MM to a Private who appears in the war diaries as having been awarded the medal but doesn’t appear in the Honours and Awards section of the Regimental History (published in 1921) despite two other Privates who won MMs for the same action being listed. A gunner in the RFA who died in May of 1916, who has no known grave and is remembered on the Basra Memorial, he was in the 6th Brigade ammunition column, the column that was at Kut during the siege. Everything points to his death being on the march following the fall of the town – but he doesn’t appear on the roll that lists Artillery prisoners at Kut. A Private in the Sherwood Foresters killed on Boxing Day 1914 – still heady after the famous Christmas truce maybe? The CWGC lists him but he’s nowhere to be found in Soldiers Died. An official Commonwealth War Grave in a little church in South West England and a listing on the CWGC website but no mention in Soldiers Died, no mention of him on the local war memorial (despite his brother being there) and an MIC showing no medallic entitlement despite his British War Medal sitting nicely in a private collection. A trio with MID oakleaves to a Lieutenant – no mention at all on the Honours and Awards Roll of his entitlement, but on the MIC it is clearly shown. A copy MIC showing service from August 10 1914 but no entitlement to a Star for a member of the Red Cross (serving with the French maybe) and a copy of the 1914 Star Roll that clearly lists him and thus debunks that theory. An AGS group with full service history showing a clear birth date and place of birth but the 1901 census showing no such person (in fact the census takers writing was so bad the compilers mistook an a for an o) All these anomalies come from one small collection of World War I era medals and others are turning up all the time as the collector does further research – and that isn’t counting the numerous spelling differences that seem to occur regularly with naming. If we assume that this is fairly representative of WWI collections in general and then add the fact that as we look at medals and their recipients from further back in history so records become even more scarce, then multiply this across all the collections both in private and Public hands we begin to realise just what an inexact science this hobby of ours really is. The reason for my mentioning what many collectors already will have experienced for themselves is once again to stress the importance in this hobby of in depth research wherever it is possible. Don’t always assume the one roll you have in your position is 100% accurate, don’t always assume that the MIC is right and don’t always assume if a medal does or doesn’t have a clasp or emblem that that is the way it should be. No matter how much research a compiler does rolls are sometimes wrong; MICs, although a good indication are not always infallible (in the case of the Private who shouldn’t have a medal it turned out there were 2 MICs in the Public Record Office). War memorials and parish records are great sources of information but they aren’t always without their mistakes. The “Soldiers Died” series are excellent reference works but names are often omitted and even the CWGC website, with all the modern technology that has at its disposal, doesn’t get it right all the time. Sometimes even medals themselves can be wrong - I know of a Trio named to a Cpl Green – his dog tag states his name as Creen and another where the star show Pte I Jones but the accompanying pair show Pte J Jones. These anomalies do happen quite frequently it would seem, rolls, archives, MICs and even the awards themselves do not always tell the whole story. So don’t despair if your 5 clasp QSA seems to be turning out to be a 4 clasp variety and don’t worry if that Oakleaf emblemnestling on your Victory medal isn’t mentioned in the Roll – it is more than possible that there is still hope. Of course there might not be – claps emblems and the like can be added, medals can be forged but don’t give up at the first hurdle, don’t immediately despair if you can’t find your man’s name – persevere, do as much research as you can from as many rolls and the like as you can. You might be pleasantly surprised. One thing always to bear in mind – rolls, archives and suchlike do omit information on more occasions than we’d like but they rarely add to it so if you unexpectedly find that the pair you were about to sell should have a DCM with them you’re more likely to be in luck than not!

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