Medal News

Volume 50, Number 3, March 2012

Battle Stations

Volume 50, Number 3, March 2012

Funds for the "few" IN our particular sphere of collecting and its related areas of interest there are, of course, many “worthy causes”. There are a plethora of military welfare charities; a number of military related educational trusts and charities; numerous museums and similar and of course a good many campaigns with regard to medals that have either not been awarded, which were not awarded to the right people or which were awarded but can’t be worn! Each one of these charities or campaigns is keen to get our readers on board, keen to involve anyone with a military background or an interest in military history. Your money and your support will always be welcome by these organisations and we do, from time to feature them within MEDAL NEWS. We don’t often, however, give any of these causes our specific backing, worthy though they may be, partly because were we to do so these pages would rapidly fill up with little but appeals and partly because we feel many of the charities have a large enough presence anyway that they don’t need our help. In this particular case though we do want to make a specific appeal to our readers as the charity we have decided to back in 2012 is not one with a vast public persona, nor one that has celebrities queuing up to represent it (at least not yet) yet it is a charity that very much deserves our attention. I am talking about the Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Trust Appeal—the charity set up to try to ensure that the wonderful building and parkland that make up Bentley Priory, home of Fighter Command in World War II, are both preserved for the nation with a view to creating a museum and educational establishment keeping alive the memory of “The Few” (as well as their latter day counterparts) for future generations. Known to many RAF historians as the place from which the Battle of Britain was co-ordinated, Bentley Priory’s future became uncertain in 2005 when it was announced that it was to be sold off for redevelopment. It was, it seems, more valuable to the Government as luxury apartments for the super-rich than as a memorial to the men and women who helped save our island in 1940 and beyond. Needless to say right thinking individuals were horrified at this plan and a campaign was launched to try to save the Priory. Today a compromise has been reached, the building and parkland is being redeveloped and whilst there will be some of those luxury apartments the Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Trust has been working closely with the Barratt Developments to ensure that much of the 18th century building itself will be used as a museum. It seems to be an ideal solution, a charity, any charity, simply could not have raised the necessary funds to buy and maintain a building (and grounds) such as Bentley Priory and yet this way the developers have refurbished the entire Priory building, are providing the Trust with a “serviced shell” within the building at no cost and are also providing an endowment of £3 million towards running costs and longer term maintenance. That, however, is not the end of the story, the Museum will still need to be kitted out with exhibits, attractions, features etc., there will be additional running costs and other expenditure and that all comes to over £2.4 million. Some of this will money be raised via the National Lottery’s Heritage grants (see those scratch cards do benefit somebody!) however, in order to be successful in that application the trust needs to raise over £1.8 million themselves and this is where we in the medal world come in. Later this year the Trust is organising a special medal and militaria auction in association with Spink (more information on that when we get it—I am sure they will be looking for consignments and we will let readers know more as soon as we can) and in MEDAL NEWS this month you will see that the Trust, in association with Cleave and Company the court jewellers, have produced a beautiful limited edition, hallmarked, lapel badge (at no cost to them—the badge production has been paid for by Melissa John in memory of her brother Christopher John) which they are now offering for sale at £200. Of course in this case you aren’t so much buying a badge for £200 but rather receiving a token of appreciation for a donation—and let’s be honest here a donation of £200 to help preserve such an iconic building, and the memory of “The Few” for future generations is a fairly small amount—especially when many of us are happy to buy groups for our collections that cost far more. That said I am certain that Bentley priory would be glad of any donation no matter how small so please, if you can, dig deep and let the trust have what you can. I know there are worthy causes around, many of them, and I know our readers are more than generous when it comes to those causes but if you don’t yet give to any charity and have been considering it then maybe this is the one you will consider first, we believe strongly that this cause is one worth supporting and will be doing so within MEDAL NEWS—we hope that you will feel the same. Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Trust will also be exhibiting at Britannia on March 18.

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