The Minute Book
Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Iron Cross Business (Germany, 1919)
Topic: Medals

The Iron Cross Business (Germany, 1919)

Candid Comment, on the American Soldier of 1917-1918 and Kindred Topics, by the Germans, prepared by the Intelligence Section, GHQ, AEF, Chaumont, France, 1919

Interrogation of Fianale Fappen, of NEUENAHR.

Frau Farpen is the owner of a novelty shop in Neuenahr. Having been in the novelty business for years, she gives some interesting facts concerning her business. She cannot understand the general desire of the American soldier for the “Gott mit uns” belt buckles and the German Iron Crosses, as these seem to be the only souvenirs they care to buy. She states that she alone has sold more Iron Crosses to American soldiers than the Kaiser ever awarded to his subjects. Another strange thing in her line of business is the fact that it was absolutely impossible to buy leather pocketbooks or waist belts until the Americans came to this area. Now she can buy any amount of leather waist belts she desires.

Summary of Intelligence, #260.
42nd Div. Feb. 25th, 1919.

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The feeling against the sale of Iron Crosses to Americans has grown so strong that some stores which formerly sold large numbers of them, now not only have ceased to sell the Iron Crosses themselves, but decline to sell articles decorated with an Iron Cross design.

Intercourse between, our soldiers and the German civilians continues normal and without friction. The Germans still make a point of dealing fairly and try to retain our good will by courtesy and unchanged prices.

Summary of Intelligence, #260.
Feb. 25th, 1919.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 12 April 2017

No Home Service Medal
Topic: Medals

No Home Service Medal

Ottawa Citizen, 12 April 1923

Hon. Hugh Guthrie said that he understood that so far no medal had been issued to Canadian troops who served only in Canada during the war. These soldiers were not given either the Allied medal or the British War Medal, and consequently were left without a war medal. He wished to know if it was the intention of the government to issue a Canadian war medal.

Mr. Graham said that this question had been before the department for years. Personally he had always thought it would be a good thing if a Canadian medal could be issued. The difficulty was that the cost would probably be in the vicinity of a million dollars, and no minister had seen fit to recommend this expenditure at the present time.

To Sir Henry Drayton the minister stated that Canada had paid for the war medals and service badges issued by the British government to the Canadian soldiers.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Medal Buyer Hits War Museum Sales
Topic: Medals

Medal Buyer Hits War Museum Sales

Ottawa Citizen, 22 March 1979

London— (CP)—The Canadian War Museum came in for harsh criticism Wednesday from a London dealer who paid more than twice the previous world record for a group of medals won by a young Canadian more than 60 years ago.

J.B. Hayward and Son paid £17,000 ($40,000) for a bar of medals which included the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry, the Military Cross and the Military Medal, and two service decorations.

The medals were awarded to Lieut. G.B. McKean of Edmonton during the First World War and were put up for sale by the widow, Mrs. C. McKean-Raby, who lives in England.

Immediately after the sale, John Hayward criticized the Canadian museum for "disposing of unawarded Canada General Service Medals, Distinguished Conduct Medals and Military Medals."

These unawarded medals, going for possibly $50 or $75 on the market," were falling into "unscrupulous hands."

False names were being engraved on them and the medals resold for "up to $500."

The previous world record for a Victoria Cross was £8,200 ($19,700) paid last year.

"The museum was really interested in this group," Hayward says, "Canada can have it (the Victoria Cross) any time they want it, providing they promise not to dispose of any more unawarded medals. I would like that in writing."

Rosamund Hinds-Howell of Sotheby's said that McKean's widow, now 86, put the medals up for auction because she did not wish to become a burden on her family.

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George Burdon McKean, V.C., M.C., M.M.
(4 Jul 1888 – 28 Nov 1926)

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 18 March 2017

Wearing of Ribands and Medals (1901)
Topic: Medals

Wearing of Ribands and Medals (1901)

General Orders, 1901

Headquarters, Ottawa, 1st December, 1901

G.O. 149 – Decorations and Medals

Information having been requested as to how medals should be worn, from those who have recently received their South African medal, the following is published for the information of all concerned:—

Military decorations and medals are to be worn over the sash and under the pouch belt on the left breast of the garment which is the full dress of the unit or individual. They are to be worn in a horizontal line, suspended from a single bar(of which the buckle is not to be seen) or stitched in the garment, and placed between the first and second buttons from the bottom of the collar of the garment; in Hussar Regiments, immediately below the top bar of lace on the left breast of the tunic when that garment is worn. This riband is not to exceed 1 inch in length, unless the number of clasps require it to be longer. The buckles attached to the ribands of the third class of the Orders of the Bath and of St. Michael and St. George should be seen. When the decorations and medals cannot, on account of the number, be suspended from the bar so as to be fully seen, they are to overlap. The width of a military medal riband is 1 ¼ inches. Military medals will be worn in the order of the dates of the campaigns for which they have been conferred; the first medal obtained being placed farthest from the left shoulder.

Medals awarded by the Royal Humane Society for bravery in saving life will be worn when authorized on the right breast.

Ribands only of medals and decorations will be worn with undress, or khaki uniform, and with white uniform, except when it is worn in Review Order. These ribands will be ½ inch in length, and will be sewn on to the cloth of the coat or jacket, or with white or khaki, worn on a bar without intervals. They should not be made to overlap, and when there is not sufficient room to wear the ribands in one row, they should be worn in two rows, the lower being arranged directly under the upper.

Miniature decorations and medals will be worn with Mess dress, but will not otherwise be worn in uniform.

Stars of Orders and miniature decorations and medals will be worn in evening dress (plain clothes), in the presence of members of the Royal Family or of Viceroys and Governors General, and on public and official occasions.

When a decoration is worn round the neck, the miniature will not be worn.

These regulations extend to retired officers, provided that under the regulations they are allowed to wear uniform.

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 11 March 2017

Medals; QRO 1859
Topic: Medals

Medals; QRO 1859

The Queen's Regulations and Orders for the Army, Horse-Guards, 1st December, 1859

Medal with Annuity.

1.     A silver medal and an annuity are granted, as a reward for "distinguished or meritorious service," to Serjeants, either while serving, or after discharge, (such discharge not being anterior to the 19th December 1845,) with or without pension, and which may be held during service, and together with pension; the annuity is not liable to forfeiture except by sentence of court-martial, or by conviction of felony by a court of Civil Judicature. The name of the Serjeant, the number of his regiment, and the date of grant, are to be engraved on the side of the medal, which also bears the words "For meritorious Service."

2.     Commanding officers of regiments are to address their recommendations for this honorable distinction to the Military Secretary, transmitting at the same time descriptive returns and records of services of the Serjeants they select.

Medal with Gratuity.

3.     A silver medal and a gratuity are granted, under the provisions of the Royal Warrants, to non-commissioned officers and soldiers for "Long service and good conduct;" the rank and name, and the date of grant, will be engraved on the medal at the public expense. A medal and gratuity were also, during the Crimean War, granted for Distinguished Conduct in the Field.

4.     On all occasions in which commanding officers of regiments recommend soldiers for the Medal and Gratuity for Good Conduct,—which should be done as soon as practicable after the completion of the required term of service, viz., in the artillery, engineers, and infantry, eighteen years, and in the cavalry twenty-one years,—they are to transmit to the Adjutant-General a return of each individual so recommended, according to the form prescribed in page 195; care being taken to state accurately in this return where the soldier recommended is serving; and should he have been tried in the early part of his career, although not within the last eighteen years in the infantry, and twenty-one in the cavalry, a copy of the charge, finding, and sentence is to accompany the return. When the regiment is abroad, in order that the gratuity may be invested as the circumstances require, it must be stated whether the recipient will be sent to England as an invalid or otherwise, within such a period as to preclude the possibility of his wearing the decoration with the service companies. Under special circumstances, pensioners may be recommended by their former commanding officers for this distinction, but they are eligible only for the year in which they were discharged, and the application must be made within three years from the date of their quitting the service.

5.     In cases where the recommendation is made by the officer commanding the depot of a regiment, he is to state in his letter, inclosing the return, that he has communicated with, and obtained the concurrence of, the officer commanding the regiment.

6.     The grant of this distinction is to be announced in regimental orders, to the end that every man who obtains it may be held up as an object of respect and emulation to the non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the regiment in which he has served, and the Medal is to be delivered by the commanding officer of the regiment to the soldier on parade, and is to be worn by him as an honorable testimonial of his Sovereign's approbation of his conduct.

7.     A Serjeant on becoming an Annuitant will in all cases be required to relinquish the Gratuity of which he may be in possession, making a declaration in writing that he does so voluntarily. The Medal inscribed for "Meritorious Service" cannot be held together with that for "Good Conduct and Long Service but the latter must be surrendered on receipt of the former. Neither can two Medals for "Distinguished Conduct'' be held by the same individual, but a Serjeant on becoming an Annuitant must relinquish one of them. An Annuitant may, however, hold the "Meritorious Service " Medal, or that for “Good Conduct and Long Service," together with the Medal for "Distinguished Conduct in the Field."

8.     Commanding Officers are at liberty to recommend the re-appropriation of a relinquished Gratuity to any other deserving Soldier or Soldiers, provided they shall have been serving in the year for which the Gratuity was originally awarded, and shall have fulfilled the required conditions as to service and character in that year.

Forfeited Medals

9.     Medals granted for service in the Field, as well as Medals and Gratuities, and Medals and Annuities, for Good Conduct, are forfeited by soldiers on conviction of desertion or felony,—on being sentenced to penal servitude,—or on discharge with ignominy. They are also liable to forfeiture by sentence of court-martial, on conviction of disgraceful conduct, or, in case of Serjeants, on reduction to the ranks. Medals thus forfeited are to be transmitted to the Adjutant-General, for the purpose of being returned to the Mint.

Medals designedly made away with.

10.     Medals are to be shown at the weekly inspection of necessaries, when officers commanding companies are to ascertain that they are the property of the men showing them:—when a man is unable to produce his medal, a Board, consisting of one captain and two subalterns, is to inquire into and record the cause of the loss. If the Board be of opinion that the man has designedly made away with or pawned his medal, he is to be tried by court-martial and, if convicted, put under stoppages, and the amount is to be credited to the public. After five years' absence from the regimental defaulters' book the offender may be recommended to the Commander-in-Chief for a new medal, on again paying the value thereof.

Replacement of lost Medals.

11.     If the loss be proved to have occurred from carelessness or neglect, the loser may be recommended to the Commander-in-Chief for a new medal, at his own expense, after two years' absence from the regimental defaulters' book.

12.     If the loss be accidental the loser may be recommended at once for a new medal, either at his own expense or that of the public, according to the circumstances of the case; it being understood that, in order to justify the replacement of a medal at the public expense, the loss must be proved to have occurred on duty, by some accident entirely beyond the control of the loser; in all other cases, such as the loss of a medal cut from a tunic or stolen from a soldier's person, the loser must pay for it himself

13.     The Board is invariably to call for evidence as to the character of soldiers who lose their medals, and when no testimony regarding the loss is produced beyond the beyond the loser's own assertion, the Board, except under very special circumstances, which it will record in its finding, is to deal with the case as if it were proved that the loss occurred from neglect.

14.     When the Board recommends a medal to be replaced at once, the proceedings in original, prepared on a separate sheet in each case (unless the circumstances attending the loss be actually the same in each), are to be transmitted in a letter, with the prescribed Form of Return giving a description of the medal, and its various clasps, if any.

15.     When the Board does not recommend a medal to be replaced at once, the proceedings are not to be forwarded to head-quarters until the prescribed time has elapsed, according to the regulations above given for making the application.

16.     In cases in which the clasps are not lost they are to be transmitted to the Adjutant-General, to be attached to the new medal.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Saturday, 4 February 2017

England's Most Coveted War Medal
Topic: Medals

England's Most Coveted War Medal—the Victoria Cross (1918)

The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington, 4 February 1918
(Via Scribner's)

The Victoria Cross, one of the most coveted of military decorations, and the most rarely conferred, was instituted during the Crimean war, and is made from the bronze of captured cannon. It is not a Maltese cross, but a cross pattee, its obverse center bearing the royal crest of a lion passant, gardant, upon the British crown, above a ribbon inscribed "For Valour." On the reverse if a circular space reserved for record of the act that gained the decoration. The name and rank of the recipient are on the bar above. The ribbon is red for the army and blue for the navy.

The cross was instituted in 1856, but its award was made retroactive, so that it happened that the first Victoria Cross was awarded for an act of valor on June 21, 1854. The recipient was "Mr. Lucas," then mate on board H.M.S. Hecla. A live shell fell on the deck of the Hecla and, without an instant's hesitation, Mr. Lucas picked it up and threw it overboard.

The Victoria Cross is a dignified piece of sculpture, dominated by a lion worthy of Barye. Its possession, like those of most of the British crosses, confers a sort of military "degree," in certain cases, permitting the wearer to write V.C. after his name. Moreover, the cross carries with it an annuity of £10, which, in case of extreme want, may be increased to £50. Every recipient of a Victoria Cross is the ward of a grateful nation.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Monday, 2 January 2017

Valour---Meaning of the Medals
Topic: Medals

Valour—What the War Has Shown—Meaning of the Medals

The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, Australia, 8 November 1916

In no war have more gallant deeds be performed than in this one. It might seem unnecessary to state this fact, seeing that there never before has been a war on anything like the present scale—a war in which millions of men are fighting and billions of money being expended. But, on the other hand, there has never been a war with such colossal and deadly engines of destruction. All the devices that science, in collaboration with the military experts, has been capable of producing, including such inhuman inventions as liquid fire and poison gas, have been brought into fiendish play; and in other respects there have never been so many deterrents against exhibitions of bravery. Trench warfare, for instance, in which opposing armies fight within a few yards of each other—fight, for the most part, without actually seeing each other—is one of the greatest of all deterrents. To expose oneself even for a moment is deadly peril.

And yet men have risked their lives day after day, facing all dangers, in order to win the coveted honours that are reserved for a brave manhood. Not that the chance of winning the V.C. or other distinction is the only impelling motive to brave deeds. It is more than probably that at the actual moment when great danger faces the soldier, and he is spurred to supreme bravery, the thought of the winning of possible honours is the furthest from his mind. He is thinking only of the work in hand, whether it is a bombing raid on the enemy's trench, a bayonet charge, or possibly the more pressing, but none the less dangerous, work of bringing in a wounded comrade under a murderous fire.

"In such moments," said the Irishman O'Leary, who won the V.C. in the early days of the war, "you seem to forget all about danger—all about yourself—and you simply go on fighting like the devil, fascinated by it." That is so in some cases, no doubt—just as it may be true enough in some cases, as another V.C. put it, that "this thing they call bravery is mostly foolhardiness"—but there can be no doubt also that hundreds, thousands, of men who are honoured for their bravery know full well the danger they are running, and that their lives are hanging by a thread. They know that death may come at any moment—they know that they will certainly be wounded—but they go on with the business in hand.

And many of the bravest of the brave are never seen at all. They go out into the charge, and they perform wonderful deeds of valour, and there an end—they are never heard of more.

During the first year of the war no fewer than 100 V.Cs. were awarded to officers and men fighting with the British forces, including Lance-Corporal Jacka and several other Australians; and in the year that has since passed the list has been added to largely. There were, for instance, twenty awards of this coveted distinction in September last, including four Australians—Privates T. Cooke (who was found dead beside his gun), J. Leak, W. Jackson, and M. O'Meara. To record the names of all those to whom the D.S.O., the M.C., and the D.C.M. have been awarded for their superb courage and devotion would fill a volume. If the peril was never greater, never were Britons braver. While we have men like these the Empire need not fear. "While we have boys like this lad," said Sir John Bethell, M.P., at the Mansion House meeting held on September 13 for the purpose of inaugurating a national memorial to John Travers Cornwall, the boy hero of H.M.S. Chester in the Jutland battle, "England will never come under the foot of a proud conqueror."

What the Medals Stand For

It is not without interest to glance at the different medals that are awarded for bravery and consider the distinction between this one and that one, for to the lay mind a good deal of confusion exists on the subject.

The Victoria Cross was instituted in 1856 as a reward for "some signal act of valour or devotion to country performed in the presence of the enemy." It can be given to every grade and rank, and to those who are not of commissioned rank it carries with it a pension of £10 a year, with an additional £5 per year for each clasp. Lance-Corporal (now Lieutenant) Jacka, for instance, wears two clasps. He won the V.C. at Gallipoli, and in France he again performed "a signal act of valour," which would have won it for him had he not already been the proud possessor of it. Those who have won the Victoria Cross during the war include officers and men of both land and sea forces, as well as of the flying service. The late Flight-Commander Warneford won it. Flight-Commander Hawker won it. In the navy no deed stands out more conspicuously than that of Lieutenant N.D. Holbrook, who, in command of submarine B11, entered the Dardenelles, in spite of very strong currents, and after diving under five rows of mines torpedoed the Turkish battleship Messudieh, retiring safely despite heavy gunfire and torpedo-boat attacks.

The D.S.O. (Distinguished Service Order), instituted in 1886 by the late Queen Victoria, is awarded only to naval and military officers, but not including Indian native officers, for "individual instances of meritorious or distinguished service in war." VC_MC-bar_trio_medal_group_crop_rd700px.pngThe order is in no sense a sort of second-class Victoria Cross, although the services rewarded are generally rendered in action.

The M.C. (Military Cross) was instituted in 1914 for captains and commissioned officers of lower grade and warrant officers of the King's army for distinguished services in the field, only on recommendation by the Secretary of State for War. The cross is worn immediately after all orders and before all decorations, with the one exception of the Victoria Cross, and recipients are now permitted to use "M.C." after their names.

The D.C.M. (Distinguished Conduct Medal), instituted in 1862, is awarded for distinguished conduct on the field by non-commissioned officers and men. It is the equivalent of the M.C. for commissioned officers.

The D.S.C. (Distinguished Service Cross), originally known as the Conspicuous Service Cross, was instituted in 1901. The title was changed in 1914, when all officers below the rank of lieutenant-Commander were made eligible for the award. It is bestowed in those cases where the services rendered are not considered to warrant the award of the D.S.O.

the D.S.M. (Distinguished Service Medal) was instituted in 1914. It is awarded to chief petty officers, petty officers, and men of the navy, and non-commissioned officers and men of the Royal Marines, in cases were the D.S.O. would be inappropriate—"such men as may at any time show themselves to the fore in action, and set an example of bravery and resource under fire."

There is also the India Distinguished Service Medal, which was instituted in 1907 as a reward for both commissioned and non-commissioned officers of the regular and other forces in India, and may be conferred by the Viceroy. The Order of Merit (India) dates from 1837, and it was for long regarded as the Sepoys' V.C. Some of the Indian officers now fighting for the Empire wear both the V.C. and the Order of Merit, as well as the Order of British India, which is awarded to native officers only for long and honourable service.

The M.M. (Military Medal) is a new decoration. It was instituted by Royal Warrant in April last [1916] for "bravery by non-commissioned officers and men on the field."

Medal for Nurses

For the first time the War Office has recently given full recognition of the heroism of women who have rendered signal service by nursing wounded soldiers within range of the enemy's guns. In august last the names of six women were included in the list of awards of the Military Medal "for bravery in the field." Here are the six: Lady Dorothie Mary Evelyn Feilding (Monro Motor Ambulance); Matron Miss Mabel Mary Tunley, R.R.C., Q.A.I.M.N.S.; Sister Miss Beatrice Alice Allsop, Q.A.I.M.N.S. (R.); Sister Miss Norah Easeby, Q.A.I.M.N.S. (R.); Staff Nurse Miss Ethel Hutchinson, Q.A.I.M.N.S. (R.); Staff Nurse Miss Jean Strachan Whyte, T.F.N.S. Miss Tunley, Miss Whyte, Miss Easeby, and Miss Allsop were wounded, but were "still at duty, July 7, 1916," according to the official statement. Lady Dorothie Fielding, second of the seven daughters of the Earl of Denbigh, was one of the first women of the British peerage to offer her services to her country in any capacity at the front. She has been in the field since September, 1914. She belongs to one of England's fighting families, and King Albert of Belgium has conferred on her the Cross of the Order of Leopold "for Red Cross services rendered on the battlefields of the north since the beginnings of the war." She has also been mentioned in Brigade Orders by the Rear-Admiral commanding the French Marine Fusiliers, with whom she has done much work, for "giving to almost daily the finest example of contempt of danger and devotion to duty"

The Silver Badge

The announcement was recently made that the King had approved the issue of a Silver War Badge for men discharged from the army on account of age or sickness. The badge will go "to officers and men of the British, Indian, and Overseas Forces, who have served at home or abroad since August 4, 1914, and who, on account of age or physical infirmity arising from wounds or sickness caused by military service, have, in the case of officers, retired or relinquished their commissions, or, in the case of men, discharged from the army."

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Monday, 26 December 2016

Going For a V.C.
Topic: Medals

Going For a V.C.

"Military News," The Montreal Gazette, 4 December 1897 (Army and Navy Gazette)

It has recently been suggested that it is the practice nowadays for the British officers on active service to "go for" the Victoria Cross whenever the remotest chance of obtaining it presents itself. Be that as it may the present operations on the northwest frontier of India have already produced quite a respectable little crop of crosses, no less than four officers having already earned the reward, although unfortunately one of them was so severely wounded in the performance of his act that he did not live to actually receive the coveted decoration. The other three were gazetted last week, and we understand that before long some more recipients of the cross will be gazetted.

One medical officer at least has earned the cross by an act of noble gallantry. Of the three officers already decorated, viz., Lieut.-Col. R.B. Adams, Lieut. Viscount Fincastle, and Lieut. E.W. Costello—Lord Fincastle is particularly fortunate in that he was not ordered to the front as a combatant officer, but was permitted to proceed with Sir Bindon Blood's column as war correspondent, and it was even considered doubtful whether, as he was present only in that capacity of a civilian, he would be considered eligible for the V.C., which had alreadt\y ben refused to an ordinary war correspondent.

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The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Thursday, 8 December 2016

Veterans' Medals to Rebuke Nations
Topic: Medals

Veterans' Medals to Rebuke Nations

Will Be Sent to 21 Countries as protest Against Nationalism and Greed

The Montreal Gazette, 8 Dec 1933
(By The Canadian Press)

Stratford, December 7.—Fifteen years after the war which was to end wars, 21 members of the Stratford branch of the Canadian Legion tonight surrendered their victory medals with a request that they be sent to the Finance Ministers of 21 nations—allied and enemy alike—to be melted down into metal "and swallowed with all other rewards of armed conflict in payment of the war costs of the world."

The gesture of the Stratford veterans, they said was taken in protest against the reappearance of forces against which they had fought from 1914 to 1918. A message in English, French and German will accompany each medal it reads:

"Fifteen years ago we laid down our arms, victorious over the forces of greed, nationalism, armament and war. Our victory was rewarded with these victory medals. Today, nationalism flourishes, greed is rampant, armaments menace our homes and war impends. The fruits of our victory have vanished. There remain to us who fought, nothing but our memories, our medals, and the war debts.

"The memories, we shall ever cherish. The victory medals, now empty emblems in defeat, we surrender, one to each combatant nation, to be melted down into metal, and swallowed with all other rewards of armed conflict in payment of the war costs of the world."

The medals will be sent to the Finance Ministers of Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Russia, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Austria, Bulgaria, Rumania, United States, Japan, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Greece, Serbia, and India.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Saturday, 3 December 2016

Royal Visit Prompts Rush for War Medals
Topic: Medals

Royal Visit Prompts Rush for War Medals

The Montreal Gazette, 3 December 1938

Ottawa, December 2.—(CP)—Prospects of the visit to Canada next year of the King and Queen prompted a brisk demand upon the records office of the National Defence Department for war medals. Anticipating they may be invited to take part in functions for Their Majesties, war veterans who had long neglected to claim their badges of service are now doing so in large numbers.

Since the war nearly 80 per cent. of the veterans have claimed and received medals, leaving approximately 50,000 still to be issued.

For those who served in France two medals were issued, the General Service [i.e., the British War Medal] and the Allies Victory Medals. A third is the 1914-15 Star, reserved only for those who served in France prior to December, 1915.

Additional to those service badges, however, a number of decorations are still unclaimed. These embrace some Distinguished Conduct Medals and Military Medals.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Bars to Medals
Topic: Medals

Bars to Medals

The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, Australia, 15 November 1916

It is stated in Army Orders that the King has ben pleased to approve of the following emblems being worn on the ribands of certain decorations and medals, when worn on undress and service dress garments, to denote that the wearer has been awarded a bar or bars to the original decorations or medal for subsequent acts of bravery, or for further distinguished conduct in the field:—

Victoria Cross: A miniature replica of the Cross in bronze; one or more according to the number of bars awarded.

Distinguished Service Order, Military Cross, Distinguished Conduct Medal, and Military Medal: A small silver rose; one or more according to the number of bars awarded.

These emblems do not form part of the decoration or medal, and are not to be worn on the riband when the decoration or medal is worn in original on the full-dress tunic or jacket, or in miniature on the mess jacket.

Two roses or crosses, as the case may be will be supplied with each bar when then original award is made.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Monday, 7 November 2016

War Medals Ready in 1948
Topic: Medals

War Medals Ready in 1948

Over Three Million To be Distributed

Ottawa Citizen, 7 November 1947 By Frank Swanson, Citizen Parliamentary Writer

Canadians who won campaign medals in the last war likely won't get them before late in 1948, according to the Department of Veterans' Affairs which has taken over the huge task of distributing the awards.

There are 11 stars and medals to be awarded and the total number to be handed out when the time comes will run around the staggering figure of 3,356,000, the department reported.

Although thousands are now being stamped out at the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa, only 537,450 of the medals so far have been made. Production on two of the 11 has not yet been started because the Mint is still awaiting official dies from Britain. Production of four of the medals has been completed.

Will Get Set

There will be no distribution of any of the medals until all are completed, the department said. At that time, each recipient will receive a complete set of the medals to which he or she is entitled, all at the same time.

There have been no arrangements yet as to the system that will be used for the medal distribution, but its expected that each veteran will be asked to apply in writing when the time comes, giving his or her present address. Otherwise, it was stated, a great many of the packages will go astray.

Meanwhile DVA and service headquarters united to ask veterans not to write requests for medals or stars yet. They say it will create a huge amount of needless work which will only complicate the eventual distribution of the awards.

Meanwhile, a new card index system bearing the complete war records of all servicemen is being compiled at DVA. This will be used as the basis of awarding the stars and medals. When the applications are finally called for quick reference to the system, it is hoped, will establish whether ot not the serviceman or woman is entitled to the various awards. This will eliminate the necessity of drawing out an otherwise bulky file from the immense collection in possession of the three services.

As for gallantry awards, Canada has nothing to do with them. All the decorations are made in Britain and supplies are sent to Canada as soon as they are available. They are considerably behind at present owing to the shortage of supplies in Britain.

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Dieppe DCM Wins Medal in Africa
Topic: Medals

Dieppe DCM Wins Medal in Africa

Sgt Hickson, Kitchener, First Canadian to Get Two Battle Awards if War

The Montreal Gazette, 9 July 1943

Ottawa, July 8—(CP)—Defence Minister Ralston today announced award of Military Cross to Capt. William Harold Victor Matthews of Milne's Landing, B.C., and the Military medal to Sgt. George Hickson, D.C.M., of Kitchener, Ont., for "Gallant and distinguished service in North Africa.

Hickson, who won the Distinguished Conduct Medal at Dieppe, thus became the first Canadian soldier to win two battle decorations in this war.

Citations covering the North African awards were not made public in today's Army statement. Capt. Matthews and Sgt. Hickson were among the small number of Canadians attached to various British units in North Africa for battle training.

Capt. Matthews, 28, is a member of the Canadian Infantry Corps, and enlisted in a Scottish regiment from British Columbia. He was promoted captain last September 1. His wife, Mrs. Shiela Maxwell Matthews, lives at Milne's Landing, on Vancouver Island.

Sgt. Hickson, also 28, won the D.C.M. at Dieppe when his platoon commander and senior non-commissioned officers became casualties and he led the platoon against strongly-held enemy positions.

Under his direction an enemy gun crew was wiped out, and a six-inch naval gun and two machine guns destroyed before he ordered his party to withdraw. His own personal fighting ability won special attention when accounts of his exploits reached headquarters.

A hydro-electric lineman at Kitchener in civil life, he enlisted with a field company of engineers at London, Ont., in January, 1940. Before the wart he was a corporal in the Scots Fusiliers of Canada, in the Reserve Army. His wife lives at Kitchener.

elipsis graphic

Award Citations

Award citations for Canadian service members of the Second World War can be found at the website of the Directorate of History and Heritage of the Canadian Armed Forces — Canadian Army Overseas Honours and Awards (1939-45).

For those researching awards, an excellent further resource is the "Courage & Service; Second World War Awards to Canadians" CD compiled by John Blatherwick and Hugh Halliday, from Service Publications. The following citations are extracted from "Courage & Service":

Hickson — Distinguished Conduct Medal (Dieppe, 1942)

HICKSON, George Alfred, Lance-Sergeant (A.19407) - Distinguished Conduct Medal - Engineers (7 Field Company) - awarded as per Canada Gazette dated 10 October 1942; confirmed by CARO/3580 dated 2 September 1943, "in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the combined attack on Dieppe". Hydro lineman; enlisted in London, Ontario, 9 January 1940; had served in Scots Fusiliers of Canada since 1932.

Lance-Sergeant Hickson was in charge of a group charged with destroying the main telephone exchange in the Post Office. Finding the fire on the beach too heavy to move directly to his target, he assisted an infantry platoon in mopping up enemy machine gun positions and destroyed a three-inch gun by detonating a three-pound charge on the breech. When the Platoon Commander and most of the senior Non-Commissioned Officers were put out of action, Hickson assumed command and led the platoon to the Casino where strong enemy opposition was nullified. Using explosive he blew his way through the walls to reach a large concrete gun emplacement. Then another charge blew in the steel door killing a gun crew of five. He then destroyed the six-inch naval gun and two machine guns after infantry had cleared the post. Lance-Sergeant Hickson then reorganized his platoon and despite heavy enemy opposition led them into the town as far as the St.Remy church. Unable to find Brigade Headquarters and being without support, he withdrew his party to the Casino. Lance-Sergeant Hickson throughout the day showed determined leadership and high qualities of initiative and was among the last group to evacuate.

Hickson — Military Medal (North Africa, 1943)

HICKSON, George Alfred, Sergeant (A.19407), DCM - Military Medal - awarded as per Canada Gazette dated 10 July 1943 and confirmed by CARO/3580 dated 2 September 1943, "for gallant and distinguished services in North Africa."

On the 8 April 1943 during an attack on Recce Ridge in the area of Medjez el Bab a squadron of infantry tanks was held up owing to the presence of an enemy mine field. Sergeant Hickson promptly organized a detachment of Royal Engineers to clear a gap so that the tanks could advance. Although the section of the mine field was under constant shell and mortar fire this Non-Commissioned Officer moved freely and by his personal example and encouragement to his men was responsible for the clearing of a gap 40 yards wide by lifting over 100 mines in under an hour. It was undoubtedly due to the coolness and efficiency of this Non-Commissioned Officer that the task was completed and the tanks enabled to pass through the minefield and assist the infantry in the capture of the final objective.

Matthews — Military Cross (North Africa, 1943)

MATTHEWS, William Harold Victor, Captain - Military Cross - Infantry (Canadian Scottish Regiment attached British Army) - awarded as per Canada Gazette dated 10 July 1943 and confirmed by CARO/3580 dated 2 September 1943, "for gallant and distinguished services in North Africa." Original citation on H.Q.S. 54-27-94-20, Folio 8. His medals are on display in the Canadian Scottish Regiment in Victoria and include: Military Cross and Bar, Serving Brother Order of St. John, 1939-1945 Star, Africa Star, Italy Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Clasp, 1939-1945 War Medal, United Nations Korea Medal, EIIR Coronation Medal, Centennial Medal, Efficiency Medal and the CD (EIIR).

Captain Matthews has shown a splendid example of leadership and courage while he has been with his battalion. In his patrol work at Hunts Gap he was outstanding and in the battle of Bou Arada on the 22 April he was the only officer left in his company. Under extremely heavy fire he collected them together and with the remains of the other companies consolidated his position on the second objective when a counter attack seemed imminent. All the time the enemy shelled his position but he remained calm and collected and set an example to all.

Matthews — Bar to the Military Cross (Normandy, 1944)

MATTHEWS, William Harold Victor, Captain - Bar to Military Cross - Infantry (Canadian Scottish Regiment) - awarded as per Canada Gazette dated 19 August 1944 and CARO/4819 dated 26 August 1944. Initiated by Lieutenant-Colonel F.N. Cabeldu, Commanding Officer, 1 Canadian Scottish Regiment; approved by 7 Canadian Infantry Brigade on 16 June 1944; endorsed by Major-General R.F.L. Keller, General Officer Commanding, 3 Canadian Division on 21 June 1944 and passed forward on 22 June 1944; supported by Lieutenant-General J.T. Crocker, Commander 1 British Corps on 25 June 1944 and passed forward on 11 July 1944; approved by General H.D.G. Crerar, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, First Canadian Army; approved by Field Marshal B.L. Montgomery, Commander-in-Chief, 21 Army Group.

On 6 June 1944, throughout the assault landing and the advance into the hinterland, Captain Matthews' conduct was an inspiring example to the men of his company. On two occasions when the advance was held up, he led parties of men to clean up centres of resistance, on both occasions under intense machine gun and mortar fire.

On the morning of 8 June 1944, a platoon of the company became pinned down by heavy machine gun fire. With utter disregard to his own safety, Captain Matthews went forward to liaise with Sherman and Honey tanks to procure assistance. Unable to gain the tank commanders attention, he walked around to the front of the firing tanks in full view and under fire of the enemy's guns and pointed out the position to be fired upon.

During the attack on the Royal Winnipeg Rifles position at Putot-en-Basson on 8 June 1944, he was always forward urging and directing until on the final objective he was rendered unconscious by blast.

On regaining consciousness he carried on with his work. His advice, coolness, disregard for personal safety and inspiring leadership saved the situation on many occasions, won praise from all ranks, and were a deciding factor throughout the assault.

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 29 September 2016

50,700 War Medals Still Unclaimed (1931)
Topic: Medals

50,700 War Medals Still Unclaimed

Number Represents About One-Seventh of Those Who Served Overseas

The Montreal Gazette, 31 December 1931
(By the Canadian Press)

Ottawa, December 30.—War medals are still awaiting distribution to 50,700 former members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, or about one-seventh of the personnel who enlisted and proceeded to the front. Recently a general impetus seems to have been given to the demand for these decorations, and distribution has been made at a greater rate than for some considerable time past. Officials feel that the cause may lie in the growing feeling of the veterans that, with the rising generation which was in it infancy during the war asking the well-worn question: "What did you do in the Great War, Daddy," the tokens of service will be sufficient evidence to enlighten the questioners.

Replacements for lost discharge certificates are in great demand by ex-service men. Throughout the years many of these parchments have disappeared from family records, and for very much the same reason substitutes are being sought. In place of a duplicate of the discharge certificate the men are given a "record of service," which for all official purposes has exactly the same value.

With the Great War now fading into the past, veterans are more and more manifesting pride in the services which in the years between 1914 and 1918 they rendered to Canada and to the world.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 10 September 2016 1:32 PM EDT
Thursday, 15 September 2016

Origin of the Victoria Cross
Topic: Medals

Origin of the Victoria Cross

The Age, Melbourne, Australia, 15 September 1928
By: R.K.P.

"For Valour" is the simple inscription for this most prized of all decorations, the Victoria Cross. Fashioned from a piece of bronze weighing but 434 grains, with an intrinsic value of tenpence, it stands as a means of rewarding individual officers and men of the army, navy and air force who might perform some signal act of Valour or devotion to their country in the presence of the enemy. Civilians of both sexes are eligible for its award under certain conditions. Generally the deed which won it is a condensed bald statement reading like a definition in a dictionary. These are always notified in the London "Gazette.' There are, however, many other incidents connected with its history that are not generally known.

"Noble fellows—I own I feel as if they were my own children; my heart beats for them as for my nearest and dearest. One must revere and love such soldiers as these," were the words uttered by Queen Victoria to her uncle, the King of the Belgians, one afternoon in May, 1855, when a number of naval and military Crimean veterans paraded before her to receive the medal bearing clasps for Alma, Inkerman and Balaclava. From that day we learn the Queen began to make plans for the decoration which we now know as the Victoria Cross. The idea of the award was hers, the method of granting it was hers, and the design, which is bold and fitting, we owe to her husband, the Prince Consort.

It is no easy task to evolve a token, worth an insignificant sum, which men prize so highly. This was what she was able to do, and with practically no official assistance. The smallest details were watched over by her. In the first place, for instance, it was suggested that the inscription should be "For the Brave." "No," replied the Queen, "this would lead to the inference that only those are deemed brave who have the Victoria Cross." She preferred "For Valour," and a more fitting inscription could not be found. On 5th February, 1856, the first official intimation dealing with the decoration was issued by the War Office. This was the first royal warrant that brought the cross into being.

The cross is cast in bronze, and on leaving the mould has the appearance of a golden piece. It is then placed in the hands of a highly-skilled workman, who spends many hours chasing the surface. When the detail has been properly set in relief, the piece is coated with a dark lacquer. The earliest crosses were cast in metal obtained from bronze guns taken from the Russians in the Crimea. A particular gun captured at Sebastopol has been used for the purpose, but Chinese guns have supplied the material for the crosses issued during the Great War of 1914-18. The cross when finished is one and half inches overall.

The first distribution of the cross took place on the morning of 26th June, 1857, in Hyde Park, London. The ceremony took less than an hour to perform. At 10 o'clock a Royal Salute was fired, and the Queen, on horseback, rode to the spot selected for the presentation, accompanied by the Prince Consort, the Prince of Wales (afterwards King Edward VII), and other distinguished personages. The Secretary of War held in his hand a list of the heroes—sixty-two in all—and, as he read out the names, one by one, the recipients stepped forward, and the Queen pinned the cross to their breasts.

Although the Cross was not instituted until February, 1856, the Queen decided that the award should be distributed as though it had come into being with the commencement of Russian hostilities. The first award was for an act on 21st June, 1854.

The first naval V.C. hero and the first man to win the cross was Charles David Lucas, a mate on H.M.S. Hecla. During the Crimean War a British Squadron was cruising in the Baltic Sea, and on 21st June, 1854, the Hecla and two other boats shelled the main fort of Bomarsund, but did little damage, as their ammunition was limited, and the buildings were proof against the explosives used in those days. During the engagement the Russian dropped a live shell on the Hecla. It was on the point of exploding, and had it done so the consequences would have been disastrous. Without a moment's hesitation Lucas rushes forward to where it lay, picked it up with his arms, and flung it overboard. His courageous act saved many of his comrades' lives. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, and rose to the rank of rear-admiral, serving his country in later wars.

It is hard to define the first military V.C. holder, as six gallant men performed heroic deeds on the day of the storming of Alma, and no army crosses had been distributed prior to then. Perhaps the senior of the bunch, and the first to receive the cross on his breast by the Queen, was one Robert James Lindsay, who afterwards became Lord Wantage.

The first V.C. hero of the air was Lieutenant W.B. Rhodes-Moorhouse, of the Royal Flying Corps. On 20th April, 1915, he flew to an important junction of Courtrai, and dropped bombs on the railway line near that station. Having accomplished his work, he started on the return journey, but was mortally wounded. Although he must have suffered considerably, he succeeded in flying thirty-five miles to his destination, and there made a report of his operations. The plucky way in which he stuck to his machine and brought it safely back to the British lines evoked the highest admiration, but unfortunately he did not live to receive the cross in person.

Until 1902 there was a rules that no cross was to be forwarded to the relatives of a V.C. hero if the person died during the performance of the gallant deed. At a later date King Edward VII cancelled this, and ruled that in future cases the relatives of a dead hero were to be given the decoration, and that in every case where the cross had been withheld for this reason since the inception in 1856, the relatives could come forward and claim it, when it may be publically presented to the next of kin. The Victoria Cross is, if possible, always presented by the King in person.

Bars are added to the cross for additional acts of bravery. According to the official list of V.C. winners, only one so far has been awarded, the recipient being Arthur Martin-Leake, who gained his decoration during the South African War, where he acted as surgeon-captain to the South African Constabulary. He received the bar at Zonnebeke between 20th October and 8th November, 1914, when he rescued while exposed to constant fire a large number of wounded lying close to the enemy trenches.

Although the award is given for Valour in the presence of the enemy, one case is on record when, in 1858, during the Fenian raid in Canada (sic), Private Timothy O'Hea, of the Rifle Brigade, was awarded the cross for his courageous behaviour in helping to extinguish a fire in an ammunition railway car, the exploit not being in the presence of the enemy.

Many alterations have been made to the original warrant instituting the cross. Civilians are eligible for its award, although during the Indian Mutiny several Government officials received it. The blue ribbon for a naval V.C. is now discontinued, and all recipients, whether army, navy or air services, wear the cross suspended by a crimson ribbon. When the ribbon alone is worn a miniature bronze cross is placed on it, with an additional bronze cross for each bar.

An annuity of £10 is awarded with the cross, and this may be increased to £50 when age or infirmity have impoverished the recipient.

In all 67 crosses have been conferred on Australian soldiers for two campaigns. In the South African war, 1899-1902, five were awarded and 62 for the Great War, 1914-18. A number of these sacrificed their lives for it, and it may be said of them who did not survive to receive it that they died on the field of glory to live forever in the field of fame.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 15 September 2016 12:04 AM EDT
Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Presentation of South Africa Medals
Topic: Medals

Regulations Regarding Presentation of South Africa Medals

St. John Daily Sun, 13 September 1901

Ottawa, Sept. 13.—Ever since the publication of regulations respecting the presentation of the South African Medals, there has been dissatisfaction among the Ottawa men, who are entitled to this recognition. Many of the men are not now members of the militia, but a considerable number are still enrolled in the Ottawa regiments. A meeting was held last evening, at which both classes were represented, about 40 being present. It was then decided to disregard the regulations and parade to receive medals wearing khaki uniform. Their decision soon reached the ear of the military authorities, as a result which the following order was promulgated today:

"Some misapprehension appears to exist as regards the instructions for the dress of those persons who are to receive South African medals from H.R.H. the Duke of Cornwall and York during his tour in Canada. Officers, non-commissioned officers and men serving in units of the active militia must attend in the prescribed uniform of the militia corps to which they belong, in accordance with Canadian regulations. To do otherwise would be an act of gross disrespect to His Royal Highness, of which no Canadian soldier should be guilty. Individuals who have been discharged from any of the special service corps, and who are not now enrolled in Canadian unit, are simply civilian, and as such are not in any way under the orders of the militia department."

The effect of this order is that any man entitled to a medal, not a member of the militia, can appear in any garb he pleases, but as for those belonging to any existing corps, he will have to appear in the uniform of such corps or run a chance of being court martialled.

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 10 September 2016

Medals to 1,000,000 Veterans
Topic: Medals

Will Soon Issue Medals to 1,000,000 Veterans

Ottawa Citizen, 10 September 1949
By the Canadian Press

At long last the stars and medals for service in the Second World War are ready for distribution.

The Veterans Affairs Department announced yesterday that it will begin Oct. 1 mailing the campaign medals and stars to more than 1,000,000 men and women who served in the Canadian armed forces and merchant navy.

Distribition will involve a total of 3,100,000 stars and medals with an additional 524,000 clasps signifying at least 60 days service outside of Canada.

In most cases the veterans will have to write into the department for their medals.

"The reason for this is we do not have up-to-date addresses for thousands of veterans," Veterans Affairs Minister [Milton Fowler] Gregg said.

"There are many thousands who have gone quietly back into civilian life and have not been in contact with the department since their discharge. As a result we must have these applications to have accurate addresses."

Easy to Apply

To make it easy for application, special postage-free cards will be placed in all Canadian post offices. These cards will also be available in all branches of the Canadian Legion.

Merchant seamen and former members of the merchant navy are advised to apply to the Department of Transport at Ottawa, submitting with their application their certificate of discharge. From this, the department will decide what awards they are entitled to, and forward the medals they have earned.

As for members of the permanent force, they'll receive their decorations through the Department of National Defence. Application will not be necessary in their case. Nor will it be necessary for certain reserve units, for which arrangements have already been made.

To Next-Of-Kin

Mr. Gregg said the next-of-kin of deceased veterans will be eligible to receive the stars and medals which would have been awarded to the veteran.

"There will be no necessity for applications from the next-of-kin of veterans who died on active service or as a result of a service connected disability," he said.

"The department has accurate addresses for these people. However, the official next-of-kin of those who have died since discharge of a non-service disability should make application in the same way as the veteran."

All told the department will distribute 11 different stars and medals.

The largest number will be of the War Medal 1939-45 which goes to all members of the forces with 28 days service. A total of 1,060,000 of these have been ordered.

Next is the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, of which 900,000 will be distributed. These go to all who volunteered for active service. To 524,000 of the recipients will go clasps signifying at least 60 days service outside Canada.

Following are other medals and stars to be distributed:

  • Defence Medal, 460,000;
  • 1939-45 Star, 288,000;
  • France and Germany Star, 250,000;
  • Italy Star, 102,000;
  • Atlantic Star, 40,000;
  • Africa Star, 12,000;
  • Pacific Star, 10,825; and
  • Burma Star, 5,200.

In addition, 25,870 clasps to stars will be awarded.

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 10 September 2016 12:36 AM EDT
Friday, 2 September 2016

Nine Ex-Soldiers Awarded M.S.M. (1931)
Topic: Medals

Nine Ex-Soldiers Awarded M.S.M.

Honor Available to Pensioners of Permanent Force Limited to 75

The Montreal Gazette, 18 June 1931

Ottawa, June 17.—The most coveted award available to pensioners of the permanent force of Canada, the Meritorious Service Medal, has been bestowed upon nine ex-soldiers, who fulfilling all the exacting qualifications required, now join the ranks of the 66 other holders of that decoration in the Dominion. Holders of the M.S.M. constitute a "Legion d'Honneur" limited to 75 persons in this country. All must have served 21 years in the permanent force, must have held the rank of sergeant or higher, be in possession of the medal for long service and good conduct, and have been awarded as exemplary character.

Awards of the M.S.M. are made only to fill up the ranks of this "Legion" when it becomes depleted by death. In the case of one of those to whom the award has just been made—Q.M.S. T.J. Pierson, now living at Westcliffe-on-Sea, England, he has waited 19 years. Mr. Pierson was pensioned from the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps in 1912 after 25 years of service.

The other recipients are:—

  • C.Q.M.S. S.A. McLean, Halifax, a veteran of the South African War;
  • C.Q.M.S. K. White, pensioned in 1919 after 25 years' service in the Royal Canadian Garrison Artillery, Halifax;
  • Staff Sergeant H.E. Taylor, pensioned from the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, after 44 years' service in 1928, Dartmouth, N.S.;
  • Sergt. J.E. Gould, Long Creek, N.B., pensioned in 1917 after 25 years' service in the Royal Canadian Regiment;
  • R.Q.M.S. W.J. Connolly, Halifax, discharged after 23 years' service in the R.C.R.;
  • Sergeant-Major B. Coffin, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, Kingston, Ont., pensioned after 23 years' service;
  • Sergeant-Major G.A. Jacques, of Victoria, B.C., pensioned in 1930 from the Lord Strathcona's Horse after 25 years' service;
  • Sergeant-Major H.C. Baldwin, pensioned from the Royal Canadian Dragoons after 22 years' service, Birchcliff, Toronto.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 7 August 2016

The Victoria Cross for Heroes Only (1900)
Topic: Medals

The Victoria Cross for Heroes Only (1900)

How the Most Coveted Decoration in England is Won and How it is Bestowed

The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, 26 January 1900
By Curtis Brown in the St. Louis Globe*#8211;Democrat.

London, Jan. 11.—Lord Roberts of Kandahar, who will arrive at the Cape in a few days to take charge of the biggest British army that ever took the field, is a little man, as everyone knows, and there is not much room left on his coat for additional medals. You can see that for yourself by studying the accompanying picture of him, taken only a few weeks ago. But of all the honors betokened there, and all the others which a genuinely fond public has given him and will shower upon him later if he fulfils their hopes in the Transvaal, the simplest, the least expensive intrinsically, and by far the most democratic, is the one for which, if necessary, you may be sure he would sacrifice all others.

It is the Victoria Cross, the first in the row upon his breast.

Some of the humblest men, socially and financially, in the empire have decorations just like it. But general and private, white man and black, each had the proudest moment of his life when that little bronze cross was laid upon his breast. And Lord Roberts, sailing away to fight on the field where his only son had just been slain, probably was supported in his sense of loss by the consensus of opinion that the action in which the young man lost his life would would have won for him also the Victoria Cross if he had lived.

Lord Roberts won his V.C. in the Indian Mutiny, when only a lieutenant, forty-one years ago, in the course of an action that was unpleasant enough to be named Khodagunge. While the fighting was going on, he saw two of the enemy—Sepoys—making off with the British colors. He was on horseback, and started after them, when they turned on him and aimed their muskets at him. One missed him, the other's gun missed fire, and by that time he was on them, slashing away with his sword. He killed one. The other took to his heels, and the standard was safe. Only a few minutes before the lieutenant had saved the life of one of his men by cutting down a Sepoy who was about to kill him with a bayonet.

Lord Roberts wears nine decorations on his breast on dress occasions, as the illustration shows, and how many more he may have no one feels sure; even the religiously exact army list contents itself with naming five, and then says, breathlessly, "etc., etc."

In the picture one sees the general's six medals in a row, and three others beneath them. Of the medals, following from left to right, the first is the Victoria Cross; the second, the India Mutiny decoration, with three bars, one for Delhi, one for Lucknow, and one for the relief of Lucknow; the third is the Indian medal for 1854, with three claps for Burmah, Umbeylah and Looshai, meaning that this officer has distinguished himself afresh in each of these; the fourth is the Abyssinian medal; the fifth, the Afghan, and the sixth that of Kabul-Kandahar, in recognition of his remarkable march and victorious battle with Ayub Khan. The large decorations beneath are orders—two above and one below. Those above again from left to right, are the Order of the Bath and the Star of India, that below, the Order of the Indian Empire.

Gen. Sir Redvers Buller is another Victoria Cross man. His decoration was granted to him for saving three lives in a retreat after a battle with the Zulus. He was then a captain and a brevet lieutenant colonel. The Zulus were pressing the British troops hard, when an officer's horse was killed and its rider left in fearful danger. Buller galloped back, took the officer up behind him and carried him to a place of safety. Returning, he found a young lieutenant in precisely the same fix, and he did the trick over again. When he got back a trooper's animal had just fallen, exhausted, and for a third time Buller's horse carried a double load, and Buller exposed himself to the enemy to save a comrade although the Zulus were not a hundred yards away.

Sir George White, so long "bottled up" in Ladysmith, won the Victoria Cross under Lord Roberts in Afghanistan, by charging a fortified hill and taking it, backed by only a few men, at this time he was only a major in the famous Gordon Highlanders. They advanced under a racking fire, and on reaching the top of the slope found themselves outnumbered ten to one. Quick as a wink White grabbed a rifle from one of his men and shot the Afghan chief. His followers became demoralized, and the Gordons routed them. Later in the same campaign, on the march to Kandahar Roberts named White a second time in his despatches for having rushed on ahead of his men and captured a gun. He ended by succeeding his superior officer in becoming commander-in-chief in India.

I asked the officer in charge of the medal branch of the war office how a Victoria Cross was obtained after it had been won.

"Why, there isn't as much red tape about it as you would fancy," he said. "The action as a reward for which the cross is given must be performed 'in the presence of the enemy,' and it is desirable that the superior officer of the man who distinguishes himself should have witnessed it. It happens sometimes, however, that no officer is present, and in a case like that the candidate must prove by his companions that he really did do what he asserts that he did. When his immediate superior is satisfied that he ought to be rewarded he writes an account of the business and hands it to the officer in command of the forces and he indorses the papers and sends them on to the war office. Here they are laid before Lord Wolseley, the commander-in-chief, who passes upon them and decides to which applicants the cross shall be given.

"Of course, the cross goes most often to a soldier, sailor or marine, and when it happens that the fortunate man is in England he receives hi medal from the hand of the Queen herself. If he is in the field, however, or on ship board, he receives his decoration from the general or admiral in chief command on the semi-annual inspection day and in the presence of the men who were at the scene of the exploit."

"Then the men who have done brave things do apply personally?"

"Certainly they do. That is in keeping with the spirit of the warrant which the queen first issued in 1856, and which says that he majesty desires that the new decoration should be 'highly prized and eagerly sought after.' In that warrant she said that as the third class Order of the Bath was limited to officers in the higher branches of the service, and as no way then existed to reward heroes adequately for meritorious actions—for army medals of the ordinary kind are given only for long service and exceptional conduct—the Victoria Cross was instituted.

"Sometimes it has happened that several men have done a deed deserving of the cross, without any one of them having distinguished himself above his comrades. In that case the several officers meet and select one officer to be decorated; the non-commissioned officer to be decorated, and the soldiers, marines or seamen also gather an appoint two of their number to receive the crosses.

"Besides the ceremony of presentation in the presence of his comrades," he went on, "the Victoria Cross man has his name mentioned in a general order from the war office, with the particulars of his heroism, and his name also appears in the London Gazette, likewise with an account of what he did, and the original papers are kept sacredly forever afterward. That register is probably the most democratic roll in Great Britain, for upon it the names of nobles and highly placed officers precede and follow those of lowly privates and drummer boys, the one as much honored as the other.

"There have been erasures from that roll, but they can only be made by direct order of the queen, who decides personally all cases where charges are made against V.C. men. Treason, cowardice, felony or other infamous crime are the causes for which a former hero can lose his place in the register. The queen says in her warrant: "We, our heirs and successors shall be the judges of expulsion or restoration."

"Winning a Victoria Cross means a pension of $50 a year from the date of the act for which the cross is bestowed. Then, in cases where the holders of the cross become deserving of it once more, a clasp is added, and each clasp means an increase of $20 a year in the pension. Of course, dishonorable conduct on the part of a V.C. man deprives him of his pension, as well as his place on the register."

The number of crosses bestowed is kept down by a strict observance of the specification which the queen made in her original warrant in 1856, and made emphatic by another in 1881, that the cross should be given not on account of "rank, long service, nor wounds, nor any other service, circumstance or condition save the merit of conspicuous bravery." Politics, said the officer, never is allowed to play a part in the matter.

The queen arranged for the establishment of the cross in 1856, the nineteenth year of her reign, and signified in another royal warrant in 1867 that crosses would be distributed to officers and men who had distinguished themselves in the insurgent wars in New Zealand. In 1857 a second royal warrant had made members of the East India service eligible, and in 1881 came a third warrant, making stronger the phrase "conspicuous bravery," and stating that the warrant was issued as "some doubts had arisen" as to the exact qualification for the cross.

Although no official statement has been made on the subject, it is fair to assume that Lord Wolseley has already decided on a few, at least, of the V.C. winners of the Transvaal war. Winston Churchill has been declared by the public to be deserving of one for his efforts in behalf of the wounded when the armored train was attacked. Trumpeter Sherlock, the boy who shot three Boers with a revolver, and whose example every English boy is dying to emulate—some of them having run away from school with that project in mind—has established a clear claim to one.

More people than he himself will be disappointed if the "bugler boy of Elandslaagte" is not made a V.C. the story of his deed has travelled faster than his name, but he is true to the type of Napoleon's drummer boy who "didn't know how to beat a retreat." Attached to the Gordon Highlanders, who seem always to be prowling around when there is any storming of heights to be done, be it in Europe, Asia or Africa, he and they mounted the slope—at the crest of which the Boers had their stronghold—all cheering lustily and dribing everything before them until they reached the summit, with the Devons, Manchesters and Imperial light horse at their heels, when suddenly a bugle call rang out, "Cease firing! Retreat!" True, it was a Boer trick and a Boer trumpet that was being winded to demoralize the "redcoats," but they didn't know it. The British soldier is a machine, who obeys without thinking, and he did cease firing and was about to retreat when this pint-measure chap jumped into the breach.

"Retreat be damned!" he screamed, and then, lifting his bugle and putting his whole heart into one blow, he sent the "Charge!" rocketing over the hill. Some of the men hear the "swear" and all heard the bugle. They charged, and the Boer line was split and shattered.

It was a drummer who had the honor of being the youngest man who ever wore the Victoria Cross. His name was Michael Magnar, and his chance came at the storming of Magdala, under Lord Napier, in Abyssinia. The path leading to the gate of the fortress was filled with obstacles, and the defenders of the gate were pouring a withering fire over it. Led by the drummer boy, a small party climbed the hill by a circuitous path, forced their way through a breastwork of thorns and engaged the enemy, beating them back. Then the main body of the army advanced and the works were taken. The drummer boy was one of the first to enter.

Then there is Corp. Farmer, whom everyone knows as "Farmer, of Majuba Hill." He was a member of the army hospital corps, and, of course, it was his business to look after Colley's men in that ghastly massacre. Corp. Farmer and his comrades had gathered the wounded men together in a little hollow of the hill, for shelter, but the Boers were pouring bullets in everywhere, and the wounded soldiers were being wounded a second time. Farmer found a white flag and waved it over the little group, when a ball passed through his flag arm. He said, "Never mind, I've got another,"and lifted the flag again in his left hand, when that was shot through, too. Then he fell, only a few yards away from Gen. Colley.

"I've got tired telling the story," he said to me last night, when I asked if he would put it in his own words. He is assistant doorkeeper at the Criterion theatre, and after helping to for the long "cue" (sic) of people that wait outside the pit entrance every night he guards one of the exits.

"It was in February when I was shot," he said, "and I got my cross in August. I was sick in the hospital at Newcastle, though, until the last of May. Yes the queen herself gave me the cross, at Osborne House, in the Isle of Wight. My general went with me, and when we came in the queen said 'This is one of the bravest men I have, isn't he, general?' The general just nodded his head. The queen pinned the cross on my coat and said, 'I am proud of you, and I hope you'll have a long life.' My arm was all bandaged and in splints, and she laid her hand on it and caressed it. I left the cross where she put it until that coat was worn so's I couldn't wear it any longer.

"I'm a modest man," he went on. "Om one of the modestest of men, but I'll say this to you about what I did. Most of the who've won the cross have advanced on ambuscades or fought under a fire that came from they didn't know where. But I tell you I knew. I was shot through both arms by the same man, and I tell you it's hard to stand there and be potted, and then hold up ready to be potted again."

Farmer wears his cross all the time, but is inclined to be critical regarding the world's treatment of him. "I ain't one of the favored few of a wealthy nation," he said. "That Majuba Hill business was all right, and it got a lot of advertising; but there was no money in it. I've had my picture printed, no end of it, and I've got a whole book of newspaper clippings about me. A fellow is singing a song about 'Brave Corporal Farmer of Gory Majuba Hill' at one of the halls, and making money off it; but here I am working nights for 50 cents a night, and that precarious. One of my hands is half paralyzed too."

Everybody knows about him, however, and is more ready to tell his story than he is, and how he left a sweetheart at home in England when he went to the Transvaal, and how she was the proudest girl in the whole country. He married her the day after he came home, and she is his wife now, and cherishes every picture of him and newspaper reference to him even more than he does.

There is another V.C. man employed at the British Museum, and another at the Imperial Institute at Kensington. They won their crosses together, also in saving wounded men, this time from Zulus who surprised the hospital of which they were in charge.

There is only one case in which two brothers have won crosses, the men now being lieutenant generals, K.C.B. Gough is their name. The younger, Hugh Henry Gough, was in command of Hudson's Horse at Lucknow. He led a mighty charge across a swamp, resulting in the capture of two guns; his horse was twice wounded, and his turban cut almost from his head. He virtually won the cross again later on through another breakneck charge, and fought several duels in the course of the battle, finally being wounded by a shot just as he was charging down on the Sepoys armed with bayonets. Before he got the wound that downed him he had two horses shot under him and had been shot through the helmet.

His brother, Sir Charles, went through the Punjo campaign, as a boy of 17. Four times has he merited the cross, originally by saving the life of his fire-eating brother at Khurkowdah, when he killed the two men who were upon him. Three days afterward he led a cavalry charge and fount two men hand-to-hand, killing both of them. A year after, at Shumshabad, he engaged and sabered the leader of the enemy, and a month later he rescued still another officer and sent his opponent to kingdom come.

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Victoria Cross in Pawn (1907)
Topic: Medals

Victoria Cross in Pawn (1907)

Hero Who Won It Found Dying Before It Is Sold

The Carp Review, Carp, Ontario, 3 January 1907
(From the London Mirror.)

After a brief spell of fame it seems to be the predestined fate of the Victoria Cross hero to sink into a position so reduced that it is impossible to find his whereabouts.

Many are the romances, which rate has woven around men who, after a daring feat of arms, have been rewarded by a grateful sovereign with the proudest possession of a soldier. But none of them is more pathetic than that of a distinguished officer whose Victoria Cross was to have been sold next week in a London auction room.

Fifty years ago he performed such feats of heroism in the Crimea that he received a nation's praise and a grateful Queen pinned on his breast the bronze cross that is worth so little and yet is worth so much.

Afterwards he rose to high rank in the army and retired. Ten years ago misfortune overtook him, and as a last resource he raised a few pounds by leaving his beloved cross in a pawn broker's frawer. Then he departed and nothing more was heard of him.

A Victoria Cross is never sold until after the death of the man to whom it has been awarded.

The auctioneers searched the Somerset house registers for days, but the gallant officer's name was not to be found. At last, three days ago, his death was presumed and the cross was advertised for sale. It was to have been sold nest week, but yesterday afternoon, quite by accident, the auctioneers heard that the officer was still alive, although seriously ill.

And so the cross will not be sold. Possibly a friend will recompense the pawn-broker to the extent of its value and send it along to the officer in order that he may see it again before he dies.

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT

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