24 October 2014

Medals in marble


This beautifully executed memorial is one of many in Canterbury Cathedral. It was dedicated by the wife of Major General Henry Richard Abadie CB, formerly of the IX (Queen's Royal) Lancers, in memory of her husband and four sons who died in the service of their country.

23 October 2014

Dix Noonan Webb - 24th October 2014


The latest DNW medal fest kicks off tomorrow with the auction of British Orders and Medals formed by the late Fred Rockwood. The usual deep pockets will be required. Dix Noon Webb auction catalogue here.

12 October 2014

The Italy Star


Qualification:For the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy, the 1939-45 Star must have been earned by six months' service in operations before the qualifying period for the Italy Star could commence. Service in the following areas would qualify: Mediterranean and Aegean seas; operations in and around the Dodecanese, Corsica, Greece, Sardinia and Yugoslavia after 11th June 1943.

For the Army, no prior time qualification. The following operational areas of service qualified: Aegean, Dodacenese, Corsica, Greece, Sardinia, Yugoslavia and Elba between 11th June 1943 and 8th May 1945.

For the RAF, no prior time qualification. Operational qualification consisted of participation in aircrew service within the Mediterranean theatre including sorties from the Mediterranean area over Europe.

Description:
Bronze, 43mm diameter six-pointed star. The Royal cypher GRI with the roman numerals VI below. The cypher is surmounted by a crown and within a circlet which reads, THE ITALY STAR. All the Second World War Stars were designed by The Royal Mint.

Ribbon:
32mm wide, a central yellow stripe (symbolising the desert) and two dark green stripes either side (symbolising forests). From the left, equal stripes of red, white, green, white and red (the colours of the Italian flag). This ribbon, in common with all WW2 Star ribbons, was designed by His Majesty the King, King George VI.

Suspension:
A ring attached to the uppermost point of the star.

Naming:
Issued unnamed although some stars may have been privately engraved.

Clasps:
None

Acknowledgements
Photo courtesy of Sarah Jane Framing and Medals.  Text assistance from British Battles &amp.

24 September 2014

The Great War Medal Collectors Companion VOLUME II

http://www.naval-military-press.com/product.php?productid=29329&partner=PaulNixon

This long awaited second volume in Howard Williamson’s Great War Medal Collectors Companion series is now completed and ready for publication. Sales of Volume I are currently standing at [approximately] 3400. It has been decided that the print run for Volume II will only number around 2000 so early ordering is highly recommended. In has become clear that the vast amount of information gathered for Volume II would take more than one volume to print, so it was decided to split the work into two Volumes. Please Note chapter and page numbering continues sequentially with each Volume.

Volume II begins with Chapter 6 on page 572. The contents of Volume II are as follows:

FIRST CHAPTER [Chapter 6] A STUDY OF THE REGIMENTAL NUMBERS OF THE BRITISH ARMY AND DOMINION FORCES DURING THE GREAT WAR [Awarded OMRS Silver Medal 2013]

This incredible study comprises 200 pages packed with information on the regimental numbers and prefixes allocated to the Soldiers of the Great War. For the section on Line Regiments, the Author collaborated closely with Paul Nixon, whose research on Regimental Numbers provided much additional information to that compiled by the Author. The Territorial re-numberings of 1917 are all included, plus information on which number blocks were allocated to those in action on the First Day of The Somme.

The Sections on the Corps include: 
  • ASC: All the prefixes shown with their number range are explained and the units employing them are identified.
  • Labour Corps. The numbers for the Labour Companies and the Regiments to which they are affiliated plus a table linking regimental numbers and transfer details and dates.
  • RAMC: All Territorial re-numberings including refinements to include field ambulances plus notes on number blocks prior to TF renumbering.
  • RAOC: Prefixes and number ranges explained. 
  • Military Police: Notes from Paul Nixon’s blog on dates of enlistment.
  • RAVC: Notes on prefixes and numbers. 
  • RA: Territorial re-numberings. Prefixes explained.
  • RE: Notes on all number bands including a refined version of the TF numberings, Tunnelling, Gas and other companies identified as associated with certain number blocks.
  • Tank Corps: Origins of personnel revealed plus number blocks to specific battalions.
  • Sections on AIF, CEF SA, NZEF. Regimental Numbers. 
  • An A to Z of Regimental Letter & Number Prefixes, covering all units including Navy and RND.
SECOND CHAPTER [Chapter 7] ABBREVIATIONS FOUND ON GREAT WAR CAMPAIGN MEDALS AND DOCUMENTS [Awarded the OMRS Gold Medal 2013 for Outstanding Research].

This 140 page Chapter is the result of 25 years work by the Author. Sources for the information include: Medals from private collections; Medals observed at the major London (and other) auctions; Medal Index Cards; Official Documents; Ebay medal sales; plus information supplied by friends, medal dealers, and collectors etc. The study records not only the abbreviation as it appears on the medal and its interpretation, but also many useful annotations giving further information about the rank or unit. Main contents are: 
  • British and Commonwealth Unit abbreviations. 
  • MIC abbreviations [Expanded from Vol I]. 
  • British and Commonwealth Rank abbreviations. 
  • Rank & Unit abbreviations found on Documents. 
  • British Naval Rank and Unit abbreviations. 
  • Relative Ranks Army and Navy. 
  • Indian Ranks explained. 
  • Military appointments and ranks.
NOTE a check with over 100 DNW, Spink and other catalogues shows no abbreviations omitted. This should be the standard reference for WWI Abbreviations.

THIRD CHAPTER [Chapter 8] CORRIGENDA AND ADDENDA FROM VOLUME I

This section includes additional information on the following:

The Wauchope Medal
Flat Back Suspensions on WW1 Stars
The Memorial Plaque additional notes
Manufacture of WWI Medals – a summary
Complete lists of proposed Battle Clasps for both the Army & Navy
Comrades of the Great War magazine
Jutland Medal, Lady Beatty
Annotated DCM Gazettes
Additions to 1.7.16 DCM Roll
Naming issues on Great War medals

also included are some revisions to tables in Vol I plus odd typographical errors corrected.

INDEX: A user friendly Index completes the book.

The Great War Medal Collectors Companion VOLUME III Volume 3 is currently nearing completion and it is anticipated it will be published in time for Christmas.

Contents are as follows: 

Army Divisions. Their signs, brief history and a chronological list of the Battles and actions in which they were involved. 
Dates British Units landed overseas: includes British Regiments, RE, RAMC, MGC, RA [TF], Cyclist Corps, Tank Corps, etc. 
Battle Honours with dates of actions. 

Each unit is shown with its Brigade and Division so can be cross referenced with the Chapter on Army Divisions. 

The RE Section gives histories of each individual unit plus the battles which each unit was engaged.

Order NOW from Naval and Military Press or direct from the author, below:

PRICE £38.00 plus £6.50 postage and packing to HOWARD WILLIAMSON, 5 HANKIN AVENUE, HARWICH, ESSEX CO12 5HE. Please make CHEQUES PAYABLE TO: MRS ANNE WILLIAMSON.  NOTE cheques will NOT be cashed until the book is ready for posting. For general enquiries or for those wishing to collect their book in person email: howard@williamson2844.fsnet.co.uk with your instructions.

VOLUME III is nearing completion (see details above). Its expected date of publication is November, 2014. If you are interested in purchasing this Volume please tick the box and you be contacted when it is ready. All profits from the sale of this book will be used towards costs for the production of the Military Medal Roll 1916–1919. Due for publication in 2016.

11 September 2014

Military Medals of the First World War

 
Military Medal - Bravery in the Field
 
Here's the latest Naval & Military Press release for those with a World War One or medal interest: Great War British Army recipients of the Military Medal 1914-1920. This is a big book and now would be the time to buy it at this special introductory price. Click on the link or the images to go straight to the Naval & Military Press website.

Great War Military Medals 1914-1920
 


28 August 2014

Indian Mutiny medal roll


Findmypast has recently published Kevin Asplin's Indian Mutiny medal roll: 56,608 officers and men who were awarded this medal and the various clasps.

This is at least the third version of this roll that now appears online and there are differences with each.

1. Dix Noonan Webb publishes a free version HERE which is a transcript that does not include regimental numbers. But it is free.
2. Ancestry publishes the images and a thin index which you need to pay to see. In my opinion, this is the best version.
3. FindmyPast's version is also accessible only if you have a sub or Pay Per View Credits but like Ancestry you can search for free. The FindmyPast version has been augmented with information from sources other than the medal rolls and could arguably be said to be the most complete version - although you don't get images.

The image above appears on the North East Medals website.



21 August 2014

Reeman Dansie - militaria auction 28th August

 
 
Lot 487 (above) also includes a death plaque. The soldier, 301617 Rifleman William Frederick Tindley of the London Rifle Brigade was killed on 1st July 1916 so you can probably add a 0 to the £100-£150 estimate.
 
 
Update 4th September 2014. Hammer price on the above was £620. Add seller's premium of 20% (£124) plus VAT on that (£25) and you get an overall price of  £769.

6 August 2014

Pip, Squeak and Wilfred


As everyone goes First World War commemoration-crazy (and rightly so), a reminder that you'll find information on the ubiquitous WW1 trio on the following British Army Medals pages:

1914 Star
1914-15 Star
British War Medal
Victory Medal

Also see this post which details dates of issue for the 1914 Star, 1914/15 Star, BWM and VM.

Finally, don't forget the Territorial Force War Medal.

24 June 2014

Dix Noonan Webb auction, 25th-26th June


Lots of goodies coming under the hammer in this week's DNW auction including the group pictured above: a Delhi Durbar, 1914 Star trio and plaque to 9432 Pte William Smith of the Black Watch who DoW on 9th May 1915. This lot (866) is estimated at between £400 and £500 but will inevitably realise more than this. Visit the Dix Noonan Webb website to browse the catalogue or download a PDF version.

Image courtesy Dix Noonan Webb.

Footnote 26th June 2014.
I see that the above realised £460 at Hammer which means that DNW's estimate was spot on. Mind you, add buyer's premium at 20% and then VAT on top of that and the price moves north of £570; probably still a fair price for this group (albeit I find myself wanting to straighten the BWM).

12 February 2014

Dixons Gazette 77 - due soon

 
 
I love these multi-campaign groups and this one, albeit missing its LSGC, would be a good one to own.  It's currently up with Dixons for £1800. The write-up reads:
 
"William James Smith...  was born in the Parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Middlesex [and]originally enlisted in the 54th Foot in September 1870, aged 24 years. Subsequently advanced to Armourer Sergeant, he transferred to the 72nd Highlanders in February 1877 and witnessed active service in India and Afghanistan, October 1871-August 1882 and in Egypt, August-October 1882..."
 
Dixons' next catalogue is due out soon.


8 February 2014

Robert Victor Chapman's duplicate 1914 Stars


I picked these up on a well-known internet auction site a few months ago.  What's unusual here is the fact that the man apparently has two 1914 Stars, one correctly named to R V CHAPMAN:

 
the other incorrectly named to R V CHAPHAM:

 
The man has two medal index cards, neither of which shed any light on the duplicate. The first is incorrectly indexed as R Y CHAPMAN:
 
 
The second is correctly indexed as Robert V CHAPMAN.  Not a CHAPHAM in sight:

 
Despite the lack of evidence, I don't find anything deeply suspicious about the duplicate 1914 Star. I'm guessing that Robert Chapman received his incorrectly impressed Star and asked that a correctly impressed replacement be sent.  Perhaps he was asked to return the original, perhaps he wasn't; maybe his service record at the Guards' archives would tell me more.  In any event, I'm not going to lose sleep over it.  The impressed letters look correct on the CHAPHAM medal - note 1 / G. Gds. as opposed to I / G. Gds: on the CHAPMAN medal, but I tell myself that the impressing is different on the CHAPMAN medal because it's a later issue.  In any event, what of the man himself?
 
There is no service records that I could find on Ancestry but his number indicates that he joined the Grenadier Guards between 16th and 19th January 1912.  As he was born on 16th May 1897 (and baptised a couple of weeks later at Cadoxton-Juxta-Barry, Glamorgan), he can only have been 14 years old, a boy soldier, when he joined the Guards.  His medal index card notes that he arrived overseas on 6th October 1914 (still only seventeen years old) but interestingly there is no indication of entitlement to a clasp.  Does this suggest that although he arrived overseas he was not under enemy fire during the qualifying period?
 
He appears to have come through the war unscathed and on 31st December 1919 married

Ellison M Bamon at Pontypridd, Glamorgan.  His marriage certificate notes his age as 22 and profession as policeman (his father George is recorded as a baker). A son, Robert George Chapman, was born on 17th July 1921 (and I also purchased his Second World War medals in a separate transaction with the same vendor, below). 



Robert Victor Chapman died in 1976 aged 78 years.  His wife Ellison, born on 4th August 1897, survived him by nine years, dying in 1985.  Their son Robert died in September 2000.
 

14 November 2012

Charles Thomas Bothwell MC


I've had this photo for a while and until today I didn't know who this officer was.  This afternoon, I discovered the self-same photo on somebody else's tree (thanks Ancestry) and now know that this man is Lt Charles Thomas Bothwell MC (1887-1969).  His son Stan would later marry my father's cousin Olive and, whilst on active service, would be tragically killed in a road traffic accident in England in 1941. Olive never re-married and claimed a war widow's pension until she died in 2008 at the age of 93.

As for Charles Thomas Bothwell, he arrived in the Balkan Theatre of war as a sergeant, was commissioned second lieutenant on the 25th September 1916 and was awarded the Military Cross the following year.  His citation was published in the LG on the 16th August 1917 and reads:


I'd love to know where his medals are and reunite them with that of his son's.  Anyone know of their whereabouts?

7 April 2012

Lost Medals Australia



An honourable mention here to Lost Medals Australia and the associated Lost Medals Australia blog. Run by Lt Col Glyn Llanwarne, Lost Medals Australia has, since 2000, been returning lost medals to veterans or their families. This is a free service supported through donations of 'found' medals.  To date, an impressive 1111 medals have been returned.

The image on this post has been taken from the Lost Medals Australia blog and the fascinating story of the return of a First World War pair owned by a former mayor of St Kilda. Well done, Glyn, and thanks for following this blog.

6 April 2012

203507 Pte L A Harris, Essex Regiment



I picked up the Victory Medal to this man about eighteen months ago; part of a job lot from the second-hand market in Chelmsford.  I wrote about Stephen Smeeton - another component of the job lot - yesterday.  This is Leslie Harris's story.

The medal index card gives this man's name as Leslie, and little else.  He was entitled to the British War and Victory Medals and so did not arrive overseas until 1916 at the earliest.  His number - 203507 - belongs to the series allocated to the 4th Battalion, Essex Regiment, and I know from my own research into army numbers that this number was not issued until after May 1917. 

There are surprisingly few candidates for Leslie A Harris recorded in the GRO's birth records. The most compelling candidate appears to be Leslie Arnold Harris who was born in Godmanchester, Huntingdonshire and who appears on the 1911 census as a 12-year-old living with his family at 64 Salisbury Avenue, Rochford, Essex.  This would have made him an 18-year-old conscript in 1917.

The owner of my Victory medal certainly survived the war and, I believe, died in 1961.  There is a death for a 61-year-old Leslie A Harris recorded in the Brentwood District in the June quarter of that year.

Cap badge courtesy of North-East Medals.

5 April 2012

B-2966 Pte S S G Smeeton, Rifle Brigade


I picked up this man's Victory Medal some while back and thought it might be an idea to post what I know about him.  His medal index card tells us the following:

1. He was entitled to the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal
2. He was awarded silver war badge number 151770 which was mislaid, was found by the police,returned to him and subsequently acknowledged on the 20th June 1917
3. He arrived overseas in France on the 21st July 1915
4. He was a corporal when he stepped off the boat in France but was subsequently reduced in rank
5. He must have been discharged from the army prior to 20th June 1917 (see 2. above)
6. His British War Medal was incorrectly impressed and was returned on the 18th February 1921.  It was re-issued on the 21st December that year.

No service record survives for this man but the B prefix indicates that this man was either a reservist whose number had been re-allocated (which, incidentally, according to Queen's and King's Regulations, it shouldn't have been) or a time-expired regular who was re-enlisting.  I could find no surviving service record in WO 97 but his silver war badge roll entry confirms that he enlisted on the 1st September 1914 and was discharged on the 20th March 1917 as a result of wounds (rather than sickness).

A search through birth records yields one candidate: Stephen Samuel G Smeeton whose birth was registered in the West Ham district in the September quarter of 1885.  I have not located him on either the 1891 or 1901 census returns but he appears on the 1911 census as a 25 year-old stevedore living with his parents and five siblings at 68 Canton Street, Poplar.  A widowed sister-in-law, Bertha Kershaw, is also recorded and it is noted that his mother had given birth to eleven children, nine of whom were still living in 1911.  Stephen is recorded on the census as Stephen S J Smeeton and he is the only child who is recorded as having been born in West Ham.  The next youngest sibling is Albert James Smeeton aged 20, and therefore born around 1890, whose place of birth is noted as Poplar.  Presumably then, the family moved from West Ham to Poplar at some point between 1885 and 1890. Stephen is the only member of the family noted at that address on the 1915 electoral roll.

As regards Stephen's military service, let's assume he joined the army at the age of 18.  This would have made his year of enlistment as 1903 and a time when general short service enlistment terms were three years with the colours and nine on the reserve.  So perhaps he served until 1906 and was on the reserve when war was declared.  This doesn't seem right to me - his date of entry into France seems just too late for a much-needed reservist - but I'll have to content myself with this mystery in the absence of documentary evidence to the contrary.

The year after he was discharged from the army, Stephen Smeeton married Gwendoline E E Hiorns in Hackney.  Their marriage was recorded in the September quarter of that year. He and Gwendoline appear on the 1919 and 1920 electoral rolls living at 167 Mandeville Street, Hackney but by 1922 Stephen is living at 50 Spring Lane, Stamford Hill (Gwendoline does not appear) and he's still there, alone, in 1923 and 1924.  As well as confirming Stephen's address, the electoral rolls also give us his full name: Stephen Samuel George Smeeton.

I could find no evidence of issue from Stephen's marriage to Gwendoline Hiorns and after 1924 the trail goes cold until 1937 when Stephen Smeeton's death at the age of 51 is recorded in the registration district for Ongar, in Essex.

9 March 2012

The Burma Star


Qualification:
Awarded for service in the Burma campaign between 11th December 1941 and 2nd September 1945 inclusive.

Description:
Bronze, 43mm diameter six-pointed star. The Royal cypher GRI with the roman numerals VI below. The cypher is surmounted by a crown and within a circlet which reads, THE BURMA STAR. All the Second World War Stars were designed by The Royal Mint.

Ribbon:
32mm wide, dark blue with a wide red stripe (denoting the Commonwealth) down the centre and two orange stripes (denoting the sun) on either side. This ribbon, in common with all WW2 Star ribbons, was designed by His Majesty the King, King George VI.

Suspension:
A ring attached to the uppermost point of the star.

Naming:
Issued unnamed although some stars may have been privately engraved.

Clasps:
One: PACIFIC. Personnel qualifying for both the Burma Star and the Pacific Star were awarded the Star to which they first became entitled and a clasp denoting the second. When only ribbons were worn, a silver rose emblem signified the award of the clasp.

Qualification by service is listed below. Official visits did not qualify for this star unless these amounted to thirty days or more.

ROYAL NAVY & MERCHANT NAVY
Service at sea in the Bay of Bengal "... enclosed by a line running from the southernmost part of Ceylon for a disatnce of 300 miles south, thence to a point 300 miles west of the southernmost point of Sumatra, and continuing east to the western side of the Sundra Strait. The Malaca straits are included." (British Battles and Medals).

The 1939-1945 Star must have been earned by six months' service in operations before elegibility for the Burma Star could begin. (BBM)

Persons entering operationl service during the last six months of the war qualified for the star if they did not subsequently serve in another operational area. In this case the prior time qualification of six months did not apply. Naval personnel serving ashore qualified under the same rules as army personnel.

ARMY
Qualifying service in any part of Burma, the provinces of Bengal and Assam between 1st May 1942 and 2nd September 1945, China and Malaya between 16th February 1942 and 2nd September 1945.

RAF
Awarded to RAF personnel who had completed at least one operational sortie. Non-aircrew qualified under army rules.

Acknowledgements
Photo courtesy of medal auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb.  The group, awarded to Sergeant Thomas Henry Harris of the Royal Artillery comprises a G.VI.R. Military Medal, 1939-45 Star, Burma Star; and Defence and War Medals. It was sold at auction in September 2011 for £1450 (hammer price).Text assistance from British Battles & Medals.

3 March 2012

The Pacific Star


Qualification:
Awarded for service in Pacific theatre of operations between 8th December 1941 and 2nd September 1945 inclusive.

Description:
Bronze, 43mm diameter six-pointed star. The Royal cypher GRI with the roman numerals VI below. The cypher is surmounted by a crown and within a circlet which reads, THE PACIFIC STAR. All the Second World War Stars were designed by The Royal Mint.

Ribbon:
32mm wide, a central yellow stripe (symbolising the desert) and two dark green stripes either side (symbolising forests). The red edges and light blue and dark blue stripes represent the army, air force and navy respectively. This ribbon, in common with all WW2 Star ribbons, was designed by His Majesty the King, King George VI.

Suspension:
A ring attached to the uppermost point of the star.

Naming:
Issued unnamed although some stars may have been privately engraved.

Clasps:
One: BURMA. Personnel qualifying for both the Pacific Star and the Burma Star were awarded the Star to which they first became entitled and a clasp denoting the second. When only ribbons were worn, a silver rose emblem signified the award of the clasp.

Qualification by service is listed below. Official visits did not qualify for this star unless these amounted to thirty days or more.

ROYAL NAVY
Service at sea in the Pacific Ocean, South China Sea and Indian Ocean east of the line running south of Singapore. Except in the case of those who served in the Pacific for less than six months after 2nd March 1945, the Pacific Star was only awarded to those who had served at least six months and qualified for the 1939-45 Star. Naval personnel serving ashore qualified under the same rules as army personnel.

ARMY
Qualifying service was restricted to territories (except Burma) which had been invaded.

RAF
Awarded to RAF personnel who had completed at least one operational sortie over the appropriate land or sea area.

Acknowledgements
Photo courtesy of medal auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb.  Text assistance from British Battles &amp.

18 February 2012

The Africa Star


Qualification:
Awarded for one or more day's service in North Africa between 10th June 1940 and 12th May 1943 inclusive.

Description:
Bronze, 43mm diameter six-pointed star. The Royal cypher GRI with the roman numerals VI below. The cypher is surmounted by a crown and within a circlet which reads, THE AFRICA STAR. All the Second World War Stars were designed by The Royal Mint.

Ribbon:
32mm wide, one central red stripe on pale buff and with two narrow stripes, one of dark blue, one of light blue. This ribbon, in common with all WW2 Star ribbons, was designed by His Majesty the King, King George VI.

Suspension:
A ring attached to the uppermost point of the star.

Naming:
Issued unnamed although some stars may have been privately engraved.

Clasps:
Three: 8TH ARMY, 1ST ARMY and NORTH AFRICA 1942-43. Note that only one clasp was awarded to any one individual. Personnel qualifying for more than one clasp were awarded the first one to which they were entitled.  A silver rose emblem worn on a ribbon denoted the NORTH AFRICA 1942-43 clasp; a figure 8 denoting 8TH ARMY and a figure 1 denoting 1ST ARMY.

Qualification by service is listed below. Note that visits and inspections to or in the areas listed below did not qualify personnel for the award of this star unless these amounted to thirty days or more.

ROYAL NAVY
Any service at sea in the Mediterranean between the qualifying dates and/or service in support of the campaigns in Eritrea, Abyssinia and Somaliland between 10th June 1940 and 27th November 1941. Naval service ashore in the same area as Army operations also qualified.

MERCHANT NAVY
Those Merchant Seamen who took part in operations off the coast of Morocco between 8th November 1942 and 12th May 1943.

ARMY
Those serving in North Africa on the establishment of an operational unit. Service in West Africa was not included, but service in Abyssinia, Somaliland, Eritrea, Sudan and Malta was.

RAF
Those RAF personnel who landed in or flew over Abyssinia, Somaliland, Eritrea, Sudan or Malta (excluding West Africa) or territory occupied by the enemy.

Acknowledgements:

The photograph is courtesy of Dix Noonan Webb and shows the group awarded to Captain Harold John March of the Royal Army Service Corps. Captain March's medal group comprises the British Empire Medal, 1939-45 Star; Africa Star (with 8TH ARMY clasp), Defence and War Medals (with M.I.D. oak leaf), Coronation medal 1937. The group, sold at auction in December 2011 for £250 (hammer price).

British Battles & Medals for chapter and verse on this medal.

5 February 2012

The Air Crew Europe Star


Qualification:
Awarded for operational flying from United Kingdom air bases over Europe between 3rd September 1939 and 5th June 1944.

Description:
Bronze, 43mm diameter six-pointed star.  The Royal cypher GRI with the roman numerals VI below.  The cypher is surmounted by a crown and within a circlet which reads, THE AIR CREW EUROPE STAR. All the Second World War Stars were designed by The Royal Mint.

Ribbon:
32mm wide, light blue with black edges and two yellow stripes (symoblising continuous service by day and night). This ribbon, in common with all WW2 Star ribbons, was designed by His Majesty the King, King George VI.

Suspension:
A ring attached to the uppermost point of the star.

Naming:
Issued unnamed although some stars may have been privately engraved.

Clasps:
Two: ATLANTIC and FRANCE AND GERMANY. Note that only one or the other, not both, could be awarded to the Atlantic Star.

Those personnel who qualified for the Atlantic Star and/or the France and Germany Star were entitled to wear the clasp for which the second star would have been awarded. When just ribbons were worn, a silver rose on the Atlantic Star denoted the award of a clasp.

Acknowledgements:
The photograph is courtesy of Dix Noonan Webb and shows the group awarded to 1056077 Sergeant E. R. Mitchell of the Royal Air Force.  His medal group comprises the Distinguished Flying Medal, G.VI.R; 1939-45 Star; Air Crew Europe Star (with ATLANTIC clasp) and the War Medal 1939-45.  The group, together with the sweetheart brooch illustrated, was offered for auction in September 2010 but was unsold on the day.

British Battles & Medals for chapter and verse on this medal.

The Atlantic Star


Qualification:
Awarded to commemorate the Battle of The Atlantic between 3rd September 1939 and 8th May 1945.

Description:
Bronze, 43mm diameter six-pointed star.  The Royal cypher GRI with the roman numerals VI below.  The cypher is surmounted by a crown and within a circlet which reads, THE ATLANTIC STAR. All the Second World War Stars were designed by The Royal Mint.

Ribbon:
32mm wide, equal bands of (from left) watered blue, white and sea-green (symoblising the waters of the Atlantic). This ribbon, in common with all WW2 Star ribbons, was designed by His Majesty the King, King George VI.

Suspension:
A ring attached to the uppermost point of the star.

Naming:
Issued unnamed although some stars may have been privately engraved.

Clasps:
Two: AIR CREW EUROPE and FRANCE AND GERMANY. Note that only one or the other, not both, could be awarded to the Atlantic Star.

Those personnel who qualified for the Atlantic Star AND the Air Crew Europe Star and/or the France and Germany Star were entitled to wear the clasp for which the second star would have been awarded. When just ribbons were worn, a silver rose on the Atlantic Star denoted the award of a clasp.

Acknowledgements:
The photograph is courtesy of Dix Noonan Webb and shows the group awarded to 530644 Flight Sergeant Andrew Brown of the Royal Air Force who completed 40 operational sorties including 18 sorties to Berlin, the famed “Big City”, as a Mosquito Navigator

Flight Sergeant Brown's medal group comprises the Distinguished Flying Medal, G.VI.R; 1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star (with copy clasp AIR CREW EUROPE); Africa Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, and Mentioned in Dispatches oak leaf; The group, sold at auction in September 2011 for £1700 (hammer price).

British Battles & Medals for chapter and verse on this medal.

4 February 2012

The 1939-45 Star


Qualification:
Awarded for service in the Second World War between 3rd September 1939 and 2nd September 1945.

Description:
Bronze, 43mm diameter six-pointed star.  The Royal cypher GRI with the roman numerals VI below this.  The cypher is surmounted by a crown and within a circlet which reads, THE 1939-1945 STAR. All the Second World War Stars were designed by The Royal Mint.

Ribbon:
32mm wide, equal bands of dark blue (symoblising the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy), red (symbolising the Army) and light blue (symbolising the Royal Air Force).  This ribbon, and all WW2 Star ribbons, was designed by His Majesty the King, King George VI.

Suspension:
A ring attached to the uppermost point of the star.

Naming:
Issued unnamed although some stars may have been privately engraved.

Clasps:
One: Battle of Britain.

Acknowledgements:
The photograph is courtesy of Dix Noonan Webb and shows the group awarded to Squadron leader N J Wheeler of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve who flew Hurricanes in No 615 Squadron during the Battle of Britain.  The group, sold at auction in December 2011 for £2900 (hammer price) comprises the Air Force Cross, G.VI.R., 1939-45 Star (with copy clasp Battle of Britain); Air Crew Europe Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45; Air Efficiency Award, G.VI.R., 1st issue. 
 
British Battles & Medals for assistance with the text.

12 January 2012

Punjab and Sutlej Campaign Medals


I was responding to a query the other day from somebody whose relative had died in India in the early 1850s and who had probably served during the Punjab and Sutlej campaigns with the 29th Regiment of Foot.

The Sutlej Campaign Medal and The Punjab Campaign Medal make a very nice pair that would grace any collection (and certainly don't grace my own yet).  DNW sold a pair to a 29th Foot man in 2002 for £800 and he'd got a clasp for Sobraon on his Sutlej medal and Chilianwala and Goojerat on his Punjab medal.

The pair illustrated above show the same entitlement as those awarded to the 29th Foot man but these were awarded to Captain E A C D'Oyly of the Bengal Horse Artillery and were sold by DNW at auction for £4800 in June 2005.  You can read more about Captain D'Oyly on the DNW site.  Image courtesy of Dix Noonan Webb.

2 January 2012

5942061 RQMS John William Beeby Gale, 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment


Medals: 1914 Star (with clasp) Trio, Army LSGC.

A few weeks before Christmas I was delighted to acquire the medals of a man I had first come across in 1981. The image above appeared in an autograph album kept by a Broomfield-born VAD nurse, Edith Oliver. She had moved to Chailey in Sussex before the First World War and worked as a Lady's Companion to Margaret Blencowe in the village. She joined the local VAD detachment - Sussex 54 VAD - and between 1914 and 1918 she nursed at two auxiliary hospitals: Hickwells in Chailey and Beechlands (or Beechlands House) at the neighbouring village of Newick. John Gale was one of many men - albeit probably one of the most senior NCOs - who she cared for during her time with the VAD detachment. This is John Gale's story.

He was born at Ellington, Huntingdonshire in September 1877, the son of Angelina Gale (nee Smith) and Charles Gale who had married at Huntingdon in 1871. On 23rd October 1905 he enlisted with the Bedfordshire Regiment aged 18 years and one month. He gave his trade as farm labourer and became 8355 Pte John W B Gale.

In all probability, John Gale's military career would have begun with 10 weeks' drill at the regimental depot at Bedford followed by two years' service in the UK. This would then have been followed by service overseas and by 1907 the 2nd Battalion was in Gibraltar, would move to Bermuda in 1910, followed by South Africa in 1912. In that year, Lance-Corporal Gale, serving with A Company, is recorded in the regimental magazine The Wasp as a contributor to the 2nd Battalion benevolent fund.

When war was declared with Germany in August 1914 the 2nd Battalion was stationed at Robert's Heights, Pretoria. It was mobilised on the 10th August and Gale and the rest of the battalion set sail for England aboard HMT Kenilworth on the 27th of that month. After a brief stop at the island of St Helena, the battalion arrived at Southampton on the 19th September where it was assigned to the 21st Infantry Brigade in the 7th Division. The battalion sailed on two ships, SS Cornishman and SS Winefredian, arriving at Zeebrugge on the 6th October.

John Gale's medal index card shows that he landed overseas as a lance-sergeant and records held at Bedfordshire County Record Office note that he was overseas until the 2nd November 1914 when, according to his own autograph entry in Nurse Oliver's album, he was wounded. Records at the Bedfordshire archives note that his wound was a GSW (gunshot wound) to the chest. It seems likely that he was wounded on the 31st October, this from the 2nd Battalion War Diary (transcribed and augmented by Steve Fuller):

31 Oct 1914
Near Inverness Copse. Early in the morning about 2.30 A.M. orders were received to occupy a small fir wood about 250 yards in front of our line which was then held by L.North Lancs.R. Captain Lemon [Arthur Buche LEMON] & 2 platoons of C Company were ordered to hold this position. This wood had been subjected to heavy shell fire from two sides during the previous day. Shell fire started as soon as it was light. It soon became evident that the enemy were advancing in force on the left of the wood held by Captain Lemon [Arthur Buche LEMON] & also on the right. The Adjutant went to report the situation to Brigade H.Q.& almost immediately on his return to Battalion H.Q. 2 orderlies arrived with an order from the Brigadier to retire fighting towards MENIN-YPRES Road. Part of the Battalion moved back in compliance of this order. An order was sent to Captain Lemon [Arthur Buche LEMON] to retire from the fir wood upon the Battalion. Part of the Battalion remained in the trenches till late in the afternoon about 4.30 p.m. when they were brought back & established a line which they held till relieved on Nov.5/6. The losses were very severe on this day. The C.O. Major J.M.Traill [John Murray TRAILL] & 2nd in Command Major R.P.Stares [Robert Percy STARES] remained in the trenches & were shot at short range. Lieut.Paterson [John Agar PATERSON] was killed in the fir wood. Lieut.Gott [Gilbert Ewart GOTT] was wounded in the Fir wood. Captain A.B.Lemon [Arthur Buche LEMON] was twice wounded in the fir wood & captured. Captain C.S.Garnet Botfield [Charles Sidney GARNETT-BOTFIELD] was severely wounded. 2/Lieut.W.Dixon [William DIXON] wounded. Captain E.H.Lyddon [Ernest Hugh LYDDON] missing [Comment; later assumed KIA]. Lieut.Anderson [Wilfred Cruttenden ANDERSON] missing. The Battalion strength on night October 31st-1st November was 4 officers, 350-400 other ranks. 4 officers were Captain & Adjutant C.C.Foss [Charles Calverley FOSS, VC, DSO], 2/Lieut.B.H.Waddy [Bentley Herbert WADDY, MC], Lieut.S.D.Mills [Stephen Douglas MILLS, MC], Transport Officer, Captain & Quarter Master H.Cressingham [Hugh CRESSINGHAM]. [Comment; also killed was Lieutenant Donald Godrid Campbell THOMSON] A short line was taken up and entrenched.


The wound was severe enough to keep John Gale in England for almost a year. He returned to The Western Front on the 19th October 1915 (having fortuitously missed the Battle of Loos) and rejoined the 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment at Bourecq.

In December 1915 he 7th Division’s 21st Brigade was assigned to the 30th Division, its four battalions of regular soldiers being mixed in with the newly created (and inexperienced) Pals battalions. The Bedfordshire’s new brigade was the 89th and they shared it with Kitchener volunteers from the 17th, 19th and 20th King’s Liverpool Regiment.

The 2nd Bedfords played a supporting role on 1st July 1916, following the 17th and 20th King’s as they moved through cut barbed wire to take their objectives as planned. The other brigades had also enjoyed similar successes and by the end of the day the division had taken all of its objectives and could claim the distinction of having captured the first three field guns of the battle as well as Montauban, the first village to fall.

On 10th July, orders were received that the 2nd Bedfords would attack Trones Wood the following day. Having taken Bernafay Wood almost without a struggle, Trones Wood was proving a much tougher nut to crack. Initial attacks on 8th July by battalions from the 21st Brigade had successfully established a foothold on the south eastern edge of the wood, but subsequent attacks had either failed or been met by stubborn resistance in a see-saw series of engagements which saw portions of Trones Wood switch from German to English control and then back to German. By the time John Gale and The Bedfords moved up to play their part in the action, the wood was still largely in German hands.

Despite the intensity of artillery and machine gun fire concentrated in the area over the previous three days, Trones Wood was still thick with undergrowth that made it difficult to see more than four yards in front. Into this tangle, the Bedfords had advanced at 3:10am, getting to within 400 yards of the south eastern edge of the wood before being spotted by German machine gunners. Thirty five minutes later they had managed to reach the southern end but not without sustaining many casualties on the way in. Two decades later, in a letter published in The Great War I Was There, Private E G Robinson, also of A Company, wrote:

“The first thing that greeted me was a pair of legs, but no body, cut off as clean as with a knife. Farther in, the dead lay in heaps, you couldn’t move without stepping on them… The wood was very dense so we could not see far ahead. We struck off towards the edge of the wood and we came to a clearing where we could see a trench and it was lousy with Germans. At this point we lost touch with the officer and never found what happened to him so we returned to the main body and reported… The branches of trees were flying about as bad as shells and bullets. We were troubled quite a lot by snipers who were up in the trees at the far end of the wood. Captain Tyler said we had better try to drive them out, so he took our platoon forward with that idea. But Jerry had other ideas, and promptly let loose hell: we dived from one tree to another, and the bullets were cutting the leaves and bark round our ears… Eventually we got back to our funk holes with the remainder of the Company. There was no rest of any sort, what with bombing, sniping, machine guns, shells, wounded and dying screaming, the stink of dead bodies, it was Bedlam.”

The remainder of the day followed the now familiar pattern of attack and counter attack, the Bedfords, supported by two companies of the 17th King’s managing to hold on to the southern portion of Trones Wood until relieved on the morning of the 13th by a battalion of the Royal West Kent Regiment. The operation cost the Bedfords 244 casualties including John Gale who had been hit before even getting as far as the wood. He gets a mention in the battalion war diary entry for the 11th July:

"Whilst the men were digging in, strong patrols worked the interior of the wood collecting stragglers and bombing the enemy in their Trenches and Dug-outs, and accounted for a great number. "A" & "B" Companies were leading Companies in the Advance at 3.10 a.m. and were particularly unfortunate in losing many N.C.Os on entering the wood, including the C.S.M. of "A" Company (C.S.M.GALE)."

Bedfordshire archives records note that John Gale received a shell wound to his right knee. He must have remained in hospitals overseas for a couple of weeks as records show that he returned to the UK on the 26th July.

Back in England, John Gale would presumably have been sent to the 2nd Eastern General Hospital in Brighton before being sent to Beechlands in Newick, and his rendezvous with Nurse Oliver. He almost certainly would have met some of the men below, posing for Nurse Oliver's camera at Beechlands in 1916.


In the October quarter of 1916, John Gale married Emily Jane Warman at The St George's Hanover Square district. He spent the remainder of the war in England and, on the face of it at least, appears to have been untroubled by his wounds in his subsequent military career. He gets a number of mentions in The Wasp; playing football in 1922, winning the Spoon Shoot in July 1924 and a whist drive in 1924.

RQMS John Gale was discharged at Bedford on the 22nd October 1927 on the termination of his engagement. His conduct was recorded as exemplary and his address on discharge given as Kempston Baracks, Bedford. He was awarded a pension of 56d a day for life and had already been awarded the LSGC with gratuity in April 1924.

John Gale died on the 6th March 1943 aged 52. He is buried in Flitwick churchyard in Bedfordshire.

19 December 2011

Falklands DSC group sells for £120,000


Hammer price on the Falklands DSC group; lot 1056 last Friday, was £120,000.  Add the DNW premium of 20% (£24,000) and 20% VAT on that premium (£4,800) and you're looking at a grand total of £148,800.  Wonder how much it will go for when it next comes up for sale?

Photo courtesy of Dix Noonan Webb.

6 December 2011

WW1 Campaign Medals - dates of issue


The following information, in much abbreviated form, is taken from Howard Williamson's, The Great War Medal Collectors' Companion:

1914 Star
Issued as a single medal from January 1919 to October 1920
Issues of the 1914 Star Trio between November 1920 and end of 1922, with late issues from 1923

1914 Clasp and Roses
Main issue dates between January 1920 and July 1921
Issued with Trios from November 1920

1915/15 Star
Issued as a single medal from January 1920 to September 1920
Issues of the 1914/15 Star Trio between October 1920 and 1926, barring late issues

British War Medal & Victory Medal
First issues mainly to 1914 and 1914/15 Star recipients.  Trio issues, see dates above.
Majority of pairs issued between November 1920 and December 1927

Territorial Force War Medal
Majority issued between 1922 and 1926

MID Emblems
Majority despatched between April 1920 and May 1921
Incorporated with 1914 Star Trios from April 1920 and 1914/15 Star Trios from July 1920

The above information may be helpful in dating photographs of service personnel wearing a single 1914 Star (with or without clasp) or 1914/15 Star; similarly photos of men wearing just the ribbon for these medals. 

25 November 2011

Falklands DSC Group up for grabs


Deep pockets required for this Falklands War DSC group which is up for grabs at the next DNW medals auction on the 15th December (when are deep pockets NOT required for medals?)  DNW estimates the group at between £80k and £100k.  Let's see how much it actually goes for.

Interviews with the recipient, who had his left arm blown off whilst unsuccessfully defusing a bomb during the Falkalnds War, are HERE and HERE.  Image courtesy of Dix Noonan Webb.  Read more about the group HERE.

1 November 2011

KSLI footballers

My thanks to Philip Morris for supplying me with QSA medal roll information on a number of the footballers mentioned in my King's Shropshire Light Infantry 1895/96 post. Now updated.

27 October 2011

South Africa Medal 1834-1853


Instituted:
By General Order No 634 on the 22nd November 1854.

Qualification:
Awarded to survivors of the African frontier wars of 1834-5, 1846-7 and 1850-3. This was the first medal specially struck for military service in Africa which was available to all ranks.

Description:
Silver, 36mm diameter, with an ornamental scroll swivelling suspension. The obverse portrays the diademed head of Queen Victoria and the legend VICTORIA REGINA. The reverse depicts the lion of South Africa crouching in front of a protea bush. Above are the words SOUTH AFRICA; in the exergue, the date 1853.


As with the Indian Mutiny Medal, the South Africa Medal design is another father/son collaboration. The obverse of the medal was designed by William Wyon (1795-1851) who was the official chief engraver of the Royal Mint from 1828 until his death. (See also the Army of India Medal). The reverse was designed by Leonard Charles Wyon (1826-18910, William's eldest son, who became Second Engraver at the Royal Mint in 1844 and who succeeded his father as Modeler and Engraver in 1851.

Ribbon:
Watered, orange-yellow with two narrow and two wide stripes in dark blue.

Naming:
Indented in roman capitals, as seen on the Military General Service Medal.

Clasps:
None issued.

Other:
The medal is commonly called the Kaffir Wars medal. Royal Mint records show that 10,558 medals were struck between 24th April 1855 and 31st March 1862; this number including two patterns presented to Queen Victoria, those issued to deserters and later cancelled, replacements, duplicates etc. The actual number of medals awarded is, according to British Battles and Medals, 8,540.

Acknowledgements:
The obverse photograph is courtesy of Dix Noonan Webb; the reverse courtesy of Neate Auctions. British Battles and Medals has been invaluable in putting together the information.

21 October 2011

Medal prices to make you weep


I've just returned from a short business trip to Colwyn Bay.  When I travel, I like to sniff out the local secondhand and antiquarian booksellers and, if I'm able to, pick up a book as a memory of that trip.  I found a nice volume on Indian Regiments on a trip to Canterbury the other week, and yesterday visited the Bay Bookshop and came away with a second edition of E C Joslin's Standard Catalogue of British Orders Decorations and Medals (1972).  I recommend the shop if you happen to be in Colwyn Bay; nice people to chat with and a great military section.

You know that Joslin is going to be a depressing read when you read in his foreword, that "... we have experienced some remarkable figures at auction such as £3,500 for a fairly ordinary VC...".  What would he have thought of the Ted Kenna VC sale I wonder.

Anyway, back in 1972 your silver Queen's Sudan Medal would have been valued at £8 and a Khedive's Sudan medal at anything between £7 and £22.  Prices for medals with multiple clasps are not given.  These days you'd be lucky to get away with spending less than £500 on a Queen's Sudan and Khedive's Sudan.  As for the First World war medals, £2 might have got you a 'bare-arsed' 1914 Star, but you'd have had to pay double that for the same medal with the Mons clasp. 

I'm on the look-out now for the first (1969) edition of this book, plus subsequent editions.  I still rue the day, back in the days when I did not collect medals, that I sold a 1914 Star trio in my local market for £12.  Then again, that was some years ago and looking at Joslin's valuations, it probably wasn't such a bad deal (although that's one sale that I do regret).

11 October 2011

7162 Pte Alexander Burns, Royal Highlanders


I've written about 7162 Private Alexander Burns before.  Since that post, I've managed to retrieve his Boer War medal rolls from Ancestry, and also his First World War medal index card.  I looked in vain on WO 363 and WO 364 for a surviving service record, and also checked WO 97 over at findmypast.co.uk on the offchance that there might be something there that had been mis-filed.  There wasn't.  I did however, find papers in WO 96 which show that Alexander joined the Forfar and Kincardine Artillery (militia) on the 11th October 1898. He signed his name as "Alex Burns", giving his age as 17 years and 11 months and his place of birth as Dundee.  He was a mill-worker employed by Mr Scott of Dundee; not a lot to go on in terms of research leads, but at least it's a lead of sorts.


Alex was slight. He stood five feet, five and a half inches tall and weighed 109lbs (which is just seven stones and 11 pounds).  He had a fresh complexion, grey eyes and brown hair.  A scar on the second finger of his right hand is also recorded.


Alex's attestation was approved at Perth on the 12th October 1898 but he was barely with the regiment before he joined the Royal Highlanders on the 20th January 1899.  He had completed 49 days of drill and his character was noted as "good". 


There are only four pages of this service record that survive in WO 96 but crucially, on page four, Alex's father is recorded as Frank Burns of 17 Arbroath Road, Dundee.  This again, should enable further research.