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mortimer's Blog

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Flawed presumption


mortimer

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From time to time I use the GWF professionally, as do many of my co workers, we all find it a boon to research. I'm the first to admit I certainly don't know all the answers & there are MANY people on the GWF have a knowledge of the conflagration that is second to none.

SADLY I find, from time to time, resistance, when other members of the GWF discover I collect medals, usually evident from my question. I suppose I could say my grandfather was Gunner 'so in so' & pretend I'm after a bit of info on his unit etc but my conscience wouldn't allow it. To many, the medal collector, in general, is little better then a thief. That is very sad. True there are unscrupulous 'collectors'. But most are facinated by the man & history behind the medals & why they were awarded. I try to add as much research to a man/medal I can & if It turns out later that I dispose of the medal, not for the first time back to the family, my heart is cheered.

What the uninitiated should remember is that medals left veterans for MANY reasons, usually economic. At one stage in the 1920's Manchester pawn brokers refused to accept pledged medals. It is a little known fact that only around 10% of WW1 medal issued still exist! If it had not been for collectors this figure would now be even less! Many of the base metal medals were thrown away after being rejected by the 'pop shop'. Ever wonder why one can see an MM/BWM for sale minus Star/Victory medal - the former two were often bought by a collector. After the Great War parades of rightly disgruntled veterans could be seen, some wearing the pawn ticket where their medals should be, a source of national guilt, some land fit for a hero 'eh. There are at least two sides to every story. I work with the public every day & nine times out of ten they admit the family no longer have their relatives 'gongs'. I always advise them to advertise on one of the various medal reuniting sites on the net.

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pauldesmondwhite

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Thanks, Mortimer, for "coming out" as a collector.

Though not one myself (my Dad is, in a small way), I'm very well aware of the stigma you mention. But the fact is that medals etc come on the market for lots of reasons, not least because the "family" wants to clear out inherited "junk" or just wants to make a few bob from Gramps' old stuff.

Given the rise in family history interest, there is always a chance that one day close (or more distant) relatives would be only too glad to recover a discarded item. Like you, I'd be delighted to be an agent for reunion.

You may like to take a crumb of comfort from the idea that collectors have a special role to play in historical research. I rather think that they sometimes spot interesting patterns or exceptions that trigger debate in forums like this - occasionally unearthing forgotten knowledge.

All of us here live somewhat in the past. If you like, we feed on past acts of glory, ignominy, heroism, cowardice, devotion, exploitation, good fortune and ill luck. They made history. Others wrote it. We contemplate, argue and just now and again revise it.

Just one issue, if you'll forgive? I'm more interested in the woman than the man!

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