Medal News

Volume 41, Number 8, August 2003

At Last a fitting reward

Volume 41, Number 8, August 2003

At last There can be few announcements more eagerly awaited in the medal world than that given by the Tony Blair during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday June 11 2003 – the announcement that at long, long last, after half a century of campaigning, the Veterans of the Suez Emergency are to be given medallic recognition. A clasp to the Naval General Service Medal 1915-62 and General Service Medal 1918-62 is to be authorised to those who saw service in Suez in 1951-54. It is likely that the clasp will bear the words Canal Zone. At this stage the exact Criteria for qualification for the clasp are unknown but it is likely that they will follow similar patterns to other campaigns in as much that it will be a set time limit “in situ” for those eligible (usually either 30 days, 60 days, three months or six months) with those who were wounded or killed whilst on duty there, and thus who had their service curtailed, probably (and we must stress probably as nothing is set in stone yet) automatically qualifying regardless of total length of service. Also yet to be decided is just exactly what area made up the “Canal Zone”, rumours coming out of the MOD indicate that those stationed in other parts of Egypt may not be eligible for this new award but how many men were actually posted to something called a “Canal Zone”? Most will have services histories that show them deployed in Egypt or as part of a “Middle East Force”, what will single out their service in the “Zone”? How will they prove they were where they needed to be to win this award? Obviously there are still obstacles to overcome and undoubtedly there will be one or two whose length of service disbars them from receiving this clasp or whose geographical posting leaves them a mile or two adrift and there are sure to be complaints, there always are, but this mustn’t detract from the very real victory that the Suez veterans have won for themselves and for the next of kin of those who haven’t made it thus far. For many, mainly National Servicemen this will be their first and only award, the only thing they have to show for their years of service and they have fought hard for the right to wear it, however it may take some more time, even now, before they can finally pin their medals to their chests. Partly because the exact criteria have not yet been agreed upon and partly for other reasons the MOD is requesting that Veterans don't apply for their medals just yet; according to our MOD source additional stocks of the NGSM and GSM have to be procured, the clasp itself has to be manufactured and delivered to the medal issuing bodies and, once the qualifying criteria have been announced the service files for all claimants must be recovered from Departmental archives and a careful check of eligibilty carried out. The very nature of this endeavour means that whilst it is hoped to issue the medals this year no promises are being made. There are those who will undoubtedly say that 50 years should be enough time to wait and that these logistical matters should have been thought through before the announcement was made – very true and it seems that there may be more work to do before the campaigners are able to proclaim outright victory, they might be better off waiting until the medals and clasps are actually issued before they do that, but for now we wholeheartedly congratulate them on getting this far and we will of course keep everyone up to date on further developments and let veterans, and their next of kin, know when and to where they should apply for this long awaited award. As a footnote to this it was recently announced that those who have fought in the recent war in Iraq are to receive a medal (most likely an entirely new medal as with the first Gulf War) however no mention has yet been made of an award for the war in Afghanistan which seems to have been somewhat overshadowed by later events - déjà vu any one?

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