Keep it going
Volume 42, Number 3, March 2004
A good collection should never be a static thing, it should constantly be growing, be improved upon as new items are added and maybe as some of the older ones sold off to finance new acquisitions. Most collections, be they of postcards, stamps, coins or medals are the same and there are few collectors who would deny that there is a small pang of loss or regret when they realise that actually they have finally realised their dream and now actually have every shilling from every reign or every postcard of Salisbury Cathedral ever issued in a particular series. When that happens there is quite often a sense of “yes, but what now?” Fortunately that rarely happens in the medal world, certainly it is possible to narrow your collecting field down so much that feasibly you could one day obtain every piece available but as a rule medal collectors don’t think like that and our hobby is one full of stories of how people started off collecting one thing in one way and ended up collecting something altogether different. The great thing about our hobby is that it is both easy to stick at what you are collecting and also, should you wish to, to go off at tangents so seemingly extreme that no logical connection can apparently be made. Unravelling some collections is akin to solving the most complex of riddles but that is what makes this such an interesting pastime. I only mention this because of something that came to light earlier this month when I purchased a memorial plaque and scroll to a Private in the Sherwood Foresters – a Private who was born, lived and enlisted in Exeter. I live in Exeter and quite logically collect World War I medals to the Devon regiment, I also collect to the Foresters as I lived in Nottingham for three years and consequently know the area reasonably well – the memorial plaque neatly married the two branches of my hobby together. When I received the plaque I was delighted to find the scroll still in it’s original tube, neatly addressed to this poor soldier’s widow, an address that just happened to be a house in the next road over from me. A bit of research helped me to discover that the local Historical Society had recently published a small book on all the Soldiers from my particular suburb of Exeter (then a separate parish in it’s own right) killed in the 1914-18 conflict. I eagerly purchased a copy and upon flicking through discovered that five men from that road had died during the Great War and that three from the road where I live had also met their end in the trenches – including one who had actually lived in my house. As I sat in my front room trying to imagine his parents sitting there too, having just received his scroll, plaque and Trio, I realised that I really had to try and acquire his medals at some point, this lead me on to thinking that I should also aim to acquire the medals of the other men from my little road who had paid the ultimate price – and if I’m doing that I really should be on the look out for the neighbours of my Sherwood Forester from one road over. Suddenly, from one plaque, bought simply because of my original interests, I now had a wish list that included medals from the Welsh Regiment, the RA, the RAMC, the Somerset Light Infantry and the Royal Navy, however should I be fortunate enough to find the WWI medals and/or plaques to the eight men from the two roads my search won’t stop there; more research led me to discover that at least one of the men whose medals I’m now hunting for was a pre-war regular who had fought in South Africa during the Boer war, so now I’m on the hunt for his QSA and KSA too. With the Royal Naval recipients, both of whom died at sea, I can see myself searching for the medals of others who went down with those ships, or perhaps those who survived, perhaps picking up the odd LS & GC named to the ships that my local men served on. After I have managed to acquire all of those (!) I can move slightly further afield maybe looking at the local cemetery with its Commonwealth War Graves or once again delving into the little booklet to see what others from my Parish lost their lives in World War I – such was the scale of the war that in the six roads closest to me some twenty-four men never came home, if I can add their medals to my collection I shall be a happy man, broke I accept, but happy. So it is, I think, highly unlikely that I’ll ever feel that pang as I find the last medal that completes my collection, certainly the frustration of searching for medals to re-unite those broken groups can be hard to bear, but rather the constant search, the constant anticipation than the awful realisation that actually there is nothing left I want. Better that my collection grows in new ways that I’d never even thought of than lays dormant in albums, chests and drawers if it does that it is simply an accumulation and I am a hoarder – and I’d never want to be accused of that!
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