Medal News

Volume 45, Number 10, November 2007

Three generations at war

Volume 45, Number 10, November 2007

In or out? THE publication of the new MEDAL YEARBOOK 2008 has thrown up some interesting questions about just what should and shouldn’t be included in this well-respected publication and, by implication what should and shouldn’t be included in the broad term “medal collecting”. For years the boundaries were fairly well defined, essentially a medal collector was anyone who hoarded/accumulated/stored those funny little pieces of metal with bits of silk attached. The mainstream collectors were those who only held on to (sometimes even researched!) the “official” medals—those awarded by the Government to somebody who had served, usually in the uniformed services, either for bravery, to denote participation in a particular campaign or for long service/good conduct. It was nice and clear cut, simple parameters that we could all be happy with, only the Memorial Plaque throwing the odd spanner in the works (but only in recent years—it wasn’t too long ago that plaques were routinely split from their corresponding medals). Gradually it was accepted that some oddities—like the early medals awarded to HEIC forces or the “unofficial” Trafalgar and Nile medals—could also be included in a collection without being frowned on overmuch. Then somebody pointed out that actually certain other things ought to be included in the mainstream hobby too—badges for war service for example, they’d been officially awarded so shouldn’t they be kept with medals as much a part of a group as a campaign star? And what of the Canadian and Memorial Crosses? Surely if the plaque was considered “OK” then they should be too? Gradually these items became as familiar a part of the Medal Yearbook, and as familiar on dealers’ tables as the medals they accompanied and for years it stayed that way—the odd non-official item or official non-medal was fine and any paperwork that might be with the group, well that was perfectly acceptable too, indeed in the case of World War II items log books and the like became essential where there was no named medal to prove provenance. The Yearbook reflected this and we were happy that you could go to any fair, visit any auction and quietly price up and identify more or less anything in the room. Unfortunately we were silly enough to tell people that that was our aim and soon the flood gates were opened! Before long we started getting letters and ‘phone calls regarding oddments that weren’t in the book. Groups were appearing which included strange, odd-shaped and odd-sized medals—medals that looked out of place but were, evidently, perfectly legitimate and could indeed be worn alongside the more well known awards. Suddenly we found the Yearbook was awash with strange things from the skeletal medals for Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service (MYB 325—326) to the myriad “visit” medals (MYB 292, 300, 312, 314, 315). The lifesaving section blossomed too, with dozens of new entries. Admittedly most were privately instituted and unofficial but they seem universally accepted as legitimate awards and frequently appeared alongside other medals, so had to be included too. Soon our overseas readers, particularly those in the “Dominions” rightly pointed out that the groups they were coming across included not only medals from the old Empire days but modern medals issued by their country in its own right— shouldn’t they be included as well? The Yearbook went from 292 pages in 1995 to 428 in 2000 and that was before the inclusion of the “unofficial” medals. Love them or loathe them these “bought gongs” are now appearing on lists at fairs and in auctions and as they do so, so it becomes necessary to include them in the Yearbook for identification purposes if nothing else. With their inclusion the pagination of the Yearbook easily topped the 500 mark and is still growing. Now the latest trend seems to be for the lapel badges or emblems—this year’s book includes the Veteran’s Badge, the Merchant Seafarer’s Lapel Badge and the Arctic Campaign Emblem—included in much the same way as the Badges for War Service were in the early days of this venture. But are we right to do so? Should they too become part of the mainstream hobby? They are all official but should they be included in the book just as the medals that their wearers have already won are included? And if we do include them have we put them in the right place? This year we have them as numbers 242C—D following on from the Volunteer Reserves Service medal which in turn follows on from the Special Reserves LS&GC but shouldn’t they perhaps be elsewhere? The Arctic Emblem by the Atlantic Star maybe? The Veteran’s Badge by the GSM or CSM? But if that’s the case where would the Merchant Seafarer’s Badge go? And shouldn’t the Arctic Badge go nearer the Soviet 40th Anniversary medal (MYB 203A). Maybe there should be a brand new section for badges—but if this is the case do you put the Silver War Badge (172A) and King’s Badge (186A) in there too—even though they were awarded for entirely different reasons? If we leave them out entirely then aren’t we saying that something only has a place in our hobby if it conforms to a certain type—i.e. is of a certain size and suspended on a ribbon?—and if we are do we then have to ignore the Memorial Plaque? What of Davisons and Boulton’s medals? And if we’re not saying that, then shouldn’t we be including other things in the Yearbook? Certificates and such like? After all they too are official recognition of service just as a medal or badge are—aren’t they? There are no right or wrong answers here, there will always be those who think we should all be sticking to “proper” medals and nothing else and others happy to embrace every facet of the hobby—we just hope that the government isn’t planning to issue too many new badges in the next year—we don’t think we can get many more in!

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