Medal News

Volume 48, Number 2, February 2010

Another record smashed

Volume 48, Number 2, February 2010

Nothing new... MANY of you will have seen the recent news concerning the “soldier” Roger Day who appeared at an Armistice Day parade in Warwickshire sporting a chest-full of medals and proudly wearing an SAS beret and insignia. Those of us in the know instantly spotted that this character couldn’t possibly be entitled to most of the gongs he wore (which included a DSO with MID emblem, an MC with MID emblem, a QGM, an MM, a DCM an MSM, various campaign medals amongst which was the South Atlantic Medal and Gulf War Medal, some foreign awards and an LS&GC!), or if he was he should have been very famous indeed. Putting two and two together it didn’t take a genius to realise that if he wasn’t entitled to most of them, the chances were he wasn’t entitled to any. Indeed, so it proved and this latter day “Walter Mitty” with no military service experience at all was recently sentenced at Nuneaton Magistrates Court to 60 hours community service after pleading guilty, under Section 197 of the Military Act 1955, to unlawfully using military decoration—claiming that he had only started the deception to impress his third wife. Now such bizarre characters as this are not unheard of, indeed in the US, where veterans enjoy certain privileges, the problem of “imposters” became widespread enough to warrant the introduction of the Stolen Valor (sic) Act of 2005, which addresses the unauthorised wear, manufacture, sale or claim of any military decorations or medals—an act that had US collectors worried for some time until its purpose was clarified. What is interesting is that all these oddballs, British, American, whoever, seem to claim membership of some Special Forces outfit such as the SAS or Navy Seals. Either that or, as in Mr Day’s case, they seem to sport a particularly impressive combination of awards and decorations. If they are wearing just one or two medals you can bet they’ll be biggies: the Congressional Medal of Honor perhaps or, as in the case of the man who introduced himself to me at the York Coin and Medal Fair last summer, the Victoria Cross itself (I was pleased and proud to meet him until I quickly realised he couldn’t possibly be who he claimed to be). No-one, apparently, fantasises about being in the Army Pay Corps and being awarded a long runner . . . ! As a rule of thumb you can more or less guarantee that those who talk at length about their exploits in the Special Forces and the awards they won therein aren’t worth listening to. Those that keep mum are the ones with the real stories to tell. Now you may believe that, whilst not unusual, such “Walts” are a relatively modern phenomenon— but actually you would be wrong, as the following excerpt from the Gloucesteshire Echo, sent in by reader Mick Kippin shows: A tall, well-setup man named George Roberts was placed in the dock at the Cheltenham Police Court on Thursday morning charged with wearing military decorations without authority. He was stated to be on the Army Reserve and to be 38 years of age. Capt E. B.Towse, who conducted the prosecution, said the decorations which the prisoner was found wearing consisted of the ribbons of the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the Military Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Mons Star, one red and three blue chevrons and nine wound stripes. He also wore the uniform of a regimental sergeant-major, and was masquerading as such when he was seen at Gloucester on the 28th August by the Military Foot Police. On the 30th he (Capt Towse) saw the prisoner himself in the city, interrogated him and finding that he could not give satisfactory answers, he brought him to Cheltenham. There, as he was being taken into the Police Station, Supt Hopkins recognised him as a man who had served several terms of imprisonment for various offences. Inquiries went to show that the prisoner joined the Gloucestershire Regiment in 1914, but afterwards deserted and joined the Yorkshire & Lancashire Regiment. From that he was discharged to the Army Reserve. Therefore, not only was he not entitled to the decorations he was wearing, but he had no right even to be in uniform. The only decoration he was entitled to wear was one chevron and one wound stripe. Capt Towse said the authorities looked upon the offence as a very serious one and asked for the full penalty of imprisonment. The prisoner pleaded guilty to the charge and admitted previous convictions at Birmingham, Gloucester and Cambridge for house-breaking and theft for which he had served terms of 9 months, 12 months and 3 months respectively. He was now sentenced to six months hard labour. This was from the Echo’s report of September 5, 1918—it seems that there really is nothing new under the sun. I wonder how Mr Day would have coped with hard labour...?

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