Medal News

Volume 58, Number 5, May 2020

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Volume 58, Number 5, May 2020

Then and now. Remembering Victory in Europe AS we go to press we learn that the UK wide lockdown is due to carry on for at least another three weeks. This will take us to the first week in May, a week when the country, indeed much of Europe should have been celebrating the 75th anniversary of VE Day. That we cannot commemorate the day when Europe was finally free of the Nazi tyranny, and the end of World War II was finally in sight after nearly six long years, is a great shame. It is also a great shame that many of the veterans who were hoping to take part in the celebrations both at home and abroad this year simply won’t be with us for the next big milestone—although some, of course, seem stronger than ever; one of the enduring images of this current crisis will be Captain Tom Moore, the 99 year old veteran, erstwhile of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment and Royal Armoured Corps, proudly doing laps of his garden wearing his blazer and medals (1939–45 star, Burma Star and War Medal for those interested) and raising over £20m for the NHS in the process! We cannot change the fact that the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe simply won’t be marked as we’d all hoped but I trust all collectors out there with World War II medals in their collections (and those without) will, on May 8, silently pay their own tribute to the men and women who served from September 1939 through those long and arduous years. As we are doing so I hope we will also take time to reflect that whilst this current crisis is terribly disheartening, whilst we all watch each Government pronouncement eagerly hoping for a fall in the infection and death rates only to have our hopes dashed as the numbers continue their upward trend, what we are going through is nothing, nothing at all, compared to what those who lived through World War II endured. The media is currently rife with comparisons between this current pandemic and the ‘39–‘45 conflict, some even suggesting that the isolation many are suffering today makes it worse than the war because at least, back then, people could socialise, go to pubs, dances, the cinema. Back then, the media argues, we could all come together as a community, share our troubles as one, something we are denied the chance to do at the moment, at least on a personal level (and “social media” is very much a double edged sword I fear). But this isn’t worse than World War II, it just isn’t, and I’m getting fed up with the ridiculous scaremongers and sensationalists of the media trying to make out that it is. Of course, any deaths from this disease are horrible but to try to compare the numbers between then and now is ludicrous and to compare the “hardships” we are facing to the privations of the war years is derisory. Yes we’re stuck inside most of the time but the shops’ shelves are all full again, there’s no rationing (and no the limit of three packs of pasta per visit was not proper rationing), we can still shop for just about anything we want online and most importantly we are all together. OK, so not everyone can see their family as they might like but with FaceTime, Skype or even good old fashioned telephone calls you can check on them, talk to them, laugh with them—imagine not knowing where they were, imagine having literally no clue whether your father, son or husband was still alive let alone what he was doing. And then there’s everyday life, yes it’s an utter pain having to queue up outside for shopping (or indeed feeling you can’t go out at all) and it is worrying not knowing where the virus is or whether your trip to the supermarket might infect you, but actually the numbers of those with the infection, coupled with simple precautions like social distancing and washing your hands mean that you are probably far safer than you realise—compare that to those who lived through the Blitz or the Baedeker raids when tons of explosives literally rained down from the sky night after night. It’s just not in the same league. I’m not making light of the current crisis, really I’m not, and I know people out there are very worried but I would like us all to get a little perspective—we’ve got it tough right now but the men and women who served in World War II had it a lot, lot tougher. So please, on May 8 put aside your present worries and remember what they went through. As things stand the country cannot commemorate as we perhaps had hoped we would but we can at least do something privately—I think we owe our veterans that at least. Don’t you?

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