Medal News

Disaster at Scapa Flow

Posted on Mon, 28 November 2016 by Phil Mussell
Posted in: Medal News
Disaster at Scapa Flow Remembering today

BY the very fact that you are reading MEDAL NEWS I feel safe in assuming that you are a collector, a researcher or just someone who is interested in medals and the men and women to whom they were awarded. You may be interested in this hobby of ours because of your desire to know more about your family history, maybe you have inherited your father’s or grandfather’s medals and want to know more about them or perhaps you have an interest in battles and military history and see medals and medal collecting as a natural extension of this. These are perfectly valid reasons for collecting and I suspect that the vast majority of collectors fall in to one or other of these categories. There is, however, a third category of collector, one who may fall into one of the first two categories but also has a reason of their own to collect—they are those whose interest has been piqued because they have medals of their own. This month we carry a profile of Melissa John (see pages 11–12), not just because she’s a “personality” within the trade (she was the buyer of the “Cat’s Eyes” Cunningham group back in 2013), but rather because earlier this year the President of the Republic of Poland awarded her the prestigious Gold Cross of Merit, one of Poland’s highest honours, for her tireless work in “preserving the memory of the role of Poland and Polish troops in the Second World War”. To my knowledge Melissa never served in the armed forces, police or coastguard and hasn’t saved anyone’s life in a civilian capacity, therefore, I assume this is her first and only medal to date and in this case the medal came as a result of her interest. But for many of you it is the other way round: you are part of this hobby today simply because you have, at some point, been awarded medals of your own and from the moment that first gong was pinned to your chest—boom—you were hooked!

Too often this magazine, and indeed the hobby at large, focuses on the historical aspect of medals and decorations. We look at them as pieces of history, as artefacts from days gone by and even when we associate them with living people we think of ageing World War II veterans proudly displaying their gongs on Remembrance Sunday. Too often we forget that many in this hobby are currently serving, or have recently retired, and they have current medals of their own. We have readers entitled to the South Atlantic Medal, the Gulf War Medal, the Iraq War Medal, the Operational Service Medal, the Accumulated Service Medal, the Iraq Reconstruction Medal, the Ebola Medal, various grades of the Order of the British Empire and a plethora of Long Service medals for a host of different services—as well, of course, as a Polish Cross of Merit! These medals are not historical pieces (although I accept that the SAM is becoming so, such is the passage of time, and before long the Gulf War Medal, now 25 years old, will be seen purely in an historical context too, but you get my point), they are not part of our distant past—they are part of today. They are relevant and important now to the people who proudly wear them and it is imperative that those of us who don’t have any medals ourselves remember that.

So, to all of you who have your own medals, I would like to take this opportunity to take a leaf out of the Americans’ book and “thank you for your service”(I know, it sounds a little odd to British ears but the sentiment is a sound one) and to extend an invitation to all of you to let us know who you are and what you have—it really would be wonderful to be able to focus on more of our readers who have been awarded medals in their own right—perhaps not in a full Profile piece every month but certainly somewhere, somehow. So send us your details, and maybe a picture or two (we don’t mind anonymous submissions, we know many of you don’t like to be too public about these things, particularly those with gallantry decorations) to let us know what medals you have, personally, and help remind those of us who too often view medals just in an historical context, that these pieces of metal and silk are as relevant today as they were during the reign of Queen Victoria.

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