A Controversial Issue
Volume 40, Number 1, December 2001
In the medal world at least the year 2001 will perhaps be best remembered for one issue – the award or rather non-award of certain medals. Quite naturally in this fiftieth anniversary year the Suez campaign medal or lack thereof has dominated the news but as we draw to the end of 2001 and the beginning of 2002 with that issue still unresolved yet another controversy comes to the fore. February 7 2002 is the fiftieth anniversary of Her Majesty the Queen’s accession to the throne, it is the Golden Jubilee, and with that event, as with other Jubilees before it, comes the award of a medal to be worn by at least some of those who have served Her Majesty in her time as monarch. However, as with other such awards just who those lucky enough to receive this medal will be is a matter of high debate and whilst in terms of numbers the Golden Jubilee medal looks set to be the most generous there are many who are unhappy with the allocation. For Victoria’s Golden Jubilee most medals were awarded to high-ranking officials, foreign dignitaries, senior ministers etc with the only forces recipients being those Officers and a few NCOs who took part in the Jubilee parade of June 21 1887. The 1897 Medal had similar allocations with only 4,003 medals awarded in total of which only 980 went to the army and then only to Officers. The 1935 Silver Jubilee of King George V saw more medals awarded (some 85,000+) but these were again distributed far and wide to “the Great and Good of the Empire”, the Empire was back then still huge and 85,000 medals did not stretch very far leaving thousands of service men and women, many of whom had fought in World War I for “King and Country” who were sorely aggrieved at being overlooked. The next Jubilee, the present Queen’s Silver in 1977 again saw an allocation of thousands of medals (30,000 general issue and 30,000 Canadian issue) but again this was never going to be enough to please everybody and there was great controversy surrounding the award particularly in relation to the numbers awarded to the Armed Forces and the Emergency services. So it was that when the announcement was made that the new medal would be awarded far more generously there was hope at last that all those who deserved recognition would get it, it was at first thought that perhaps all those serving at the time of the jubilee would be presented with a medal but that rumour was quickly squashed and it was announced that only those in active service on February 7 2002 who had completed five or more years in one of the Armed Forces would qualify, and even then that was the minimum qualification and such service still did not guarantee anything. Although ostensibly a little harsh it can be seen why doling out medals to everyone serving would not be desirable, after all this medal is a recognition of service and to award it to everyone is to devalue it, one of the complaints about the 1977 medal was that it was in many quarters awarded too liberally, however when it is realised that, at least at the time of going to press, there are no plans at all to make this award available to anyone in the Fire, Police or Ambulance services and that if they wish to receive any such decoration at all it must be a purchased “unofficial” one it can be seen why once again controversy surrounds the issue of a Jubilee medal.
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