…and every Saturday! As the final market of 2023 arrives, we’ll be stepping into the new year with a smile as broad as this fellow. He’s obviously delighted to have ‘copped a Blighty’ in time to enjoy the festive season with his loved ones in 1916. The rakish civvy suit is rather at odds with his officer’s cap but we’ll let the artist off as Anne Rochester was better known for illustrating children’s books!
It’s especially sad at Christmas time to reflect on the conflict still going on around the world but we can only hope that 2024 will bring better times. And that’s a good opportunity to remember this incident from the Great War.
In the winter of 1914 a remarkable event known as the Christmas Truce unfolded on the Western Front. On Christmas Eve, amidst the desolation of the trenches, an unexpected harmony emerged as soldiers from opposing sides began singing carols, bridging the divide with familiar melodies. This spontaneous act of goodwill culminated in troops venturing into no-man’s land, a place previously marred by conflict. There, they shared an extraordinary moment of peace, exchanging gifts, stories, and photographs, transcending language barriers with gestures of fraternity.
The highlight of this truce was an impromptu football match between the British and German soldiers. On a makeshift pitch in the frozen, scarred battlefield, they played a joyful, rule-free game, momentarily casting aside the horrors of war. Although not widespread along the entire front, this event symbolized the enduring human spirit and the possibility of camaraderie amidst chaos. The Christmas Truce of 1914 remains a poignant reminder of hope and unity in the darkest of times.
In a follow up to last week’s post, today we focus on the Turkish Crimea War Medal (British issue), shown here on the right, which holds its own unique tale of loss and history. British servicemen were intended to receive their own medals, but fate intervened when the ship carrying 22,000 British medals was tragically lost at sea. As a result, the soldiers were presented with one of three versions, the most prevalent being the Sardinian type.
What distinguishes these medals is the symbolic positioning of the Turkish flag, placed prominently to the left of the British ensign on all variants, a design choice that cements the alliance between the nations during the conflict. Additionally, each version carries a distinct inscription in the exergue: “Crimea 1855” signifies the British issue showcased here, while the French and Sardinians have their own language variations.
For the budding medal collector, the Four-Bar Crimea War Medal represents not just a piece of history but a lesson in the nuances of military memorabilia. Awarded to British forces for their valour in the Crimean War (1853-1856), this medal is very distinctive, particularly when it features the maximum four clasps – Alma, Balaklava, Inkerman, and Sebastopol, each denoting involvement in critical battles.
A unique aspect of these medals is the variation in the ‘ALMA’ bar, attributed to the fact that some clasps were produced by French manufacturers and subsequently issued to British recipients. This detail is common and does not detract from the medal’s authenticity; rather, it adds a layer of interest for collectors.
Initially issued unnamed, recipients could later have their medals inscribed with their names. This engraving could be done professionally or, in some instances, regimentally impressed. For collectors, the value increases significantly for pieces with regimental impressions due to their official and traceable nature.
When collecting, be mindful of the naming. Unnamed medals may have been privately named. While this personalises the item, from a collector’s standpoint, the regimentally impressed naming holds more historical value and is a sought-after feature. Each medal tells a story, and the depth of that story can be partly inferred from these intricate details.
Another iconic medal today. In the realm of military collectibles, the Purple Heart holds a special place, symbolizing bravery and sacrifice. The medal’s journey from its inception in 1922 to its current design reflects significant historical shifts.
The early medals, with their gold finish and purple glass enamel heart, evolved during World War II to a more practical purple celluloid center due to mass production needs. Notably, WWII versions feature a sewn-down medal bar, while later ones have a slot fitting for the ribbon.
One of many recipients, the medal shown here was Arthur Wayland Clemmer, a U.S. Army Warrant Officer from Kanawha, West Virginia. Clemmer’s service number, 35211203, marks his unique place in military history. Awarded the Purple Heart for a wound sustained in service, Clemmer’s story adds a human dimension to the medal’s legacy. Born in 1917 and passing in 1984, his life encapsulated the experiences of many soldiers of his era.
For collectors, the nuances of the Purple Heart, such as naming conventions (hand-engraved in early versions, later machine-engraved) and manufacturing details (some medals numbered for production tracking), are of great interest. Additionally, multiple awards are denoted by bronze oak leaf clusters on the ribbon.
Arthur Clemmer’s Purple Heart is not just a medal; it’s a tangible piece of history, connecting collectors to the personal stories of those who served. It stands as a tribute to individual courage and a collective memory of sacrifice.