Brother in Arms
Volume 52, Number 10, November 2014
This month? All about the man "They went with songs to the battle, they were young. Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted, They fell with their faces to the foe. "They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them. "They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; They sit no more at familiar tables of home; They have no lot in our labour of the day-time; They sleep beyond England’s foam" The second verse of Laurence Binyon’s “For the Fallen” is known to most of us, the words are spoken across the country, indeed the world on Remembrance Sunday and on Armistice Day itself and that last line is echoed by those who stand, heads bowed to pay homage to those who never made it home. Indeed we do remember them and in this Centenary year more than ever. They have all gone now of course, some didn’t grow old, others did, very old indeed, but as time has passed so they have all faded away and now they are merely memories, some kept alive in the hearts of those who knew them, others no more than “old photographs, torn battered and stained, faded to yellow in a brown leather frame” (If you have never heard the song “The Green Fields of France” from which this quote is taken, then go and buy/download it immediately!). We medal collectors remember them too, of course—we didn’t meet them, probably never knew their families, but we remember them. We hold their medals in our hands and know what they had to go through to earn them— even the humble pair was hard won —and we silently give thanks for their sacrifice. We do not forget them. In recent months there has been some debate about whether medal collecting (and in particular journals and magazines, etc.) should be concentrating more on the numismatic/technical aspects of the medal than the man behind it—after all, for the wider audience reading about how “Uncle Bill” won his trio is not that riveting—but this month I make no excuses for saying it should be all about the man. So, on November 11 dig into your collection, pull out those World War I medals, really look at them and remember the men who were awarded them. Think about what they went through, think hard and thank your lucky stars you never had to experience anything like it. I know many of you have served in the Armed Forces and will have had your own tough, if not horrific, experience, but I wager most of you will be eternally grateful that you didn’t have to endure the trenches of 1914–18, no matter how rough it got for you in the field. The men whose medals we now have in our possession did have to endure it, most of them having had no previous desire to “join up” at all, instead being ripped from their homes by conscription. They endured it all and many did not return; those that did were often scarred for life. So now, in the November of 2014, I think it should be about the men, and their memory, and whilst the debate about what should be included in this magazine will rage on for now, I would ask you all to join with me and really look hard again at the man behind that humble pair. We will remember them. They deserve it.
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