D-Day 65th Anniversary

August 2009, Volume 47 No. 7
WHILST I applaud Her Majesty the Queen for giving the Royal Assent to a new medal bearing her name, the newly-instituted Elizabeth Cross is an award that few would prefer not to have in their family—receipt of the new medal (or more properly, emblem) will mean that a loved one has died in the course of doing their duty. Of course a medal should be given to the next of kin when someone is killed, but it is no replacement for the relative that died. As I write this, the tragic story has unfolded of the loss of no less than eight of our soldiers in as many hours in the difficult battleground that is Afghanistan. There certainly seems to be no end to the tragedies: every news bulletin carries clips of the war and reports of yet another one of our troops wounded or killed. The press continue to harass the Government with reports of inadequate equipment, insufficient funds and other excuses for the apparent lack of headway being made in the war. Nevertheless the troops on the ground remain determined and morale is high. What they need is support from the public not the continued carping and criticism that seems to make the headlines. The Elizabeth Cross is a step in the right direction but interestingly, as most collectors know, is a bit late in coming! The design of the Cross is very similar to that initially given to the widows or mothers of Canadian servicemen who died in the line of duty in World War I. The “Canadian Memorial Cross” (MYB 188A) was instituted at the end of 1919 for casualties of World War I, and was again introduced in 1940, during World War II, when its eligibility was extended to the next of kin of merchant seamen and civilian fi refi ghters. In 1960 New Zealand also introduced a Memorial Cross (MYB 191A) for the next of kin of fallen servicemen, the design for which was almost the same as the Canadian Cross but with fern leaves replacing maple leaves on the arms of the cross. Although New Zealand’s Cross was first announced and approved by HM King George VI in 1947, it was not actually produced until 1960 and since then its eligibility has been extended to virtually every conflict since in which New Zealand troops have taken part.

Given the tasteful dedication with which these two countries have issued their Memorial Crosses it is perhaps surprising that other countries within the British Commonwealth have not seen fit to follow their example, until now. At last the mother country has “come up with the goods”. Of course, for World War I casualties we had the “Dead Man’s Penny”, the “Death Plaque” or more correctly the “Memorial Plaque” (MYB 172), but this unique item was unwieldy and expensive to produce, with each one being individually named in relief. These plaques were accompanied by a parchment letter from HM King George V but for World War II KIA there was no such lasting memento of a relative lost, just a printed letter bearing a facsimile signature of HM King George VI. And for the various conflicts that have resulted in countless casualties since, we have not been able to come up with anything better. So perhaps, given the mounting number of deaths occurring in Afghanistan and still no end to the fight against terrorism in sight, it was high time the authorities did the proper thing.

On a totally different subject, but one which seems to create a great deal of controversy, the auction houses’ “Buyer’s Premium” (BP) is raising its head again. We have had a number of readers comment on the fact that in our “Market Scene”, columnist John Sly consistently provides prices realised including the BP. This apparently causes some readers to have a problem, particularly when trying to compare the price an item fetches with the auctioneer’s pre-sale estimate. It seems that some collectors need to know the “hammer price” before the addition of the BP. Whilst I personally think that the amount of the cheque required to secure an item is the true figure a piece is sold for, there are those that consider the BP as an “extra”. If I bid at an auction I equate my bid with my bank balance and include the BP in my reckoning of the items worth to me! What do others think? Please let us know and if necessary we might change the way we report the sales.

Whilst on the subject of auctioneers’ estimates, how do you feel about auction catalogues carrying low estimates which everyone knows are likely to be surpassed “on the day”? We have all seen them—is there a bargain to be had, is the auctioneer unaware of the true value of the lot, or is it a deliberate ploy to get people interested? We have had a number of letters on this subject and before we discuss it with the auction houses in question we need to get the overall opinion of our readers—do let us know.

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D-Day 65th Anniversary
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In This Issue

The 21st Lancers
Comparing two famous charges
Family courage
One family, two VCs and 40 years between
Not the America’s cup
A chance find sparks further research
Unlikely medal on the CSS Hunley
Spotlight on the first sub to sink a surface ship
D-Day 65 years on
Special photo feature of the commemorations
Sunk by UB64
The strange story behind a lone Victory Medal
Deadly crossing
The brave actions of Boy Scouts save the day
New Zealand Cross locator
Tracking down the whereabouts of the 23 NZC for the New Zealand Wars