The Purple Heart

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.

Christmas Wishes from Egypyt (1934)

Quite an unusual envelope this week… Sent in 1934 from a member of the armed forces based in Egypt, there’s an unusual addition to the envelope. Forwarded from Reading to Brighton to what we can only assume was its final destination in Ealing, the letter bears a quaint reference to the season of good will. We might more often associate whimsical stickers like this to modern post but it clearly has a much longer pedigree. Marked ‘Sealed until Dec XXV’, it must have proved a mighty test of the recipient’s self discipline, arriving as it did in the first week of October!

Below are some of the series of stamps and Christmas seals for letters sent from pre-war Egypt which would have been available in the NAAFI during the mid-late1930`s. 

WWII Memorial Scroll

This week we take a closer look at the Memorial Scrolls sent out to the families of those who died in war.

As per the example last week, this official record of gratitude was sent out during the Great War and as the Second World War began it was proposed (by the Merchant Marine) that this should be continued. The idea was quickly approved but the scrolls were not issued until 1946. It was estimated that it would have taken scribes two years to hand write the names of the nearly 400,000 soldiers killed in combat so again these were printed.

Items like this are commonly sold from £10 and upwards but care must be taken as there is an entirely legitimate trade in modern reprints by companies selling them to families who have lost the original.

Lest We Forget

Even though the ceremony proper is the following day, this Saturday the Market will pay its respects by having a two minutes of its own at 11am. We will be striking a bronze bell to mark the time. This was locally crafted from war debris and presented to a civilian, Mr N R Ground. He was one of the RAF medical personnel which transported prisoners of war from Burma and India.

Fittingly, today we’re focussing on some of the items which marked the passing of British soldiers. And the first of these is a condolence slip signed by Winston Churchill, then Secretary of State for War.

Next, a memorial scroll sent to the next of kin in both wars.

And a bronze memorial plaque grouping. Factors which decide their value include not just the action, rank and unit, but more recently the extent of any corroborative documentation or photographs. It’s worth bearing in mind that these are all unique and you would double the price for a casualty group – as you would officers’ medals. Complete medal groups with supporting documentation can increase the price by a factor of ten.

The rust resistant Iron Cross

Rounding off our short series on Germany’s most iconic military decoration is this fine brass example. These were particularly popular among naval officers who liked its resistance to rust, preserving the decoration’s appearance.

What distinguishes this piece is its practical blade-like fitting on the reverse, intended for easy wear and removal. This is a departure from the conventional pin and hook found on most Iron Cross First Class decorations.

Also noteworthy is the screw-back design, featuring a circular securing disc — a variation that was quite popular among private purchasers. Owing to their appeal among collectors and their considerable value, these types have become the most frequently replicated.

Included with this item is the original LDO-marked box. The LDO, or “Leistungsgemeinschaft der Deutschen Ordenshersteller” (Approved Community of German Medal Manufacturers), was established on 1 March 1941 to ensure the quality and prestige of military awards and decorations were upheld through controlled and licensed manufacturing. During this period, a numbering system was in place, with some makers adding an “L” prefix to their marks.

To purchase such an item, one would need to provide a certificate proving the award had been conferred, adding to the historical value of this distinctive Iron Cross.

Citations – and why they matter

Continuing our look at Germany’s iconic medal, today we have an example of the document explaining why one particular soldier on the Western Front was awarded the Iron Cross, second class.

A citation is a formal, official acknowledgment of a specific act of bravery, distinguished service, or exemplary performance by an individual or a unit. It’s provided in writing and often accompanies a medal or award. The citation gives details about the action or behavior that warranted the recognition. It serves as an enduring record of a person’s or unit’s exceptional service or valor in the face of danger or adversity.

In this particular instance, this one was awarded to musketeer  Heinrich Anhaus of the 4th company  Infantry Regiment 131. As was often the case, it was bestowed on him in the field on 5 October 1917 for his  action on 31 August 1917. Whenever these do turn up, they tend to be quite worn because the soldier would often fold them up and keep them in a pocket. And it’s always worth checking if you have  the commanding officers signature for good measure!

Iron Cross: Part Two

Continuing our look at the single most iconic German medal, today we have an Iron Cross Second Class on the left with the rarer ‘next of kin’ or ‘widow’s ribbon’. This ribbon would have been presented to a family member of a deceased soldier, with its distinction being only in the ribbon itself.

Additionally, there is the Iron Cross First Class, which is a ‘pin back’ and a domed type. This is a privately purchased item that fits snugly to the pocket when worn. This particular example is marked with ‘800’ on the pin, signifying the standard German silver mark.

The final photograph displays the Iron Cross Second Class with both the regular and widow’s ribbons, alongside the full-sized and miniature versions of the Iron Cross. Such miniatures are rare since Germans typically wear them in the form of stickpins or on chains.

Collectors commonly refer to the Iron Cross as either ‘EK’ or ‘EK2’. It should also be noted that, just as with coins, medals should neither be cleaned nor stored long-term in plastic packets.

The Iron Cross: A First Class Clarification

The first of a two part post exploring this iconic German medal.

In this photo the iron cross with the ribbon is a second class and the ribbon only was worn on the uniform. The other is a first class with pin back and would have been worn on the pocket. Both have an iron centre with silver frame and, ideally, all medals should have coin-like definition.

The value of the Iron Cross is largely determined by the maker’s mark, though not all of them have this mark. For the 2nd class, the mark is typically stamped on the ring, while for the first class, it’s either on the back or the pin. Sometimes, you might only find the “800” mark, which represents German silver. During the First World War, letters were used for maker marks. Interestingly, even during the Third Reich, Iron Crosses from the First World War were still produced, and these typically have a number as the maker’s mark.

Vive La Résistance!

Vive indeed! Today we have some original FFI badges awarded for services rendered before June 6, 1944. Once France was liberated, localized groups were established. Individuals who provided evidence of their anti-Nazi or resistance activities could earn the wing/badge. The award was first given to prominent resistance figures to elevate its prestige.

Genuine badges were crafted by the renowned French jeweler, ARTHUS BERTRAND. All authentic badges bear raised markings “A BERTRAND” and “EDIT”, and they are sequentially numbered with small numerals. The “EDIT” mark signifies it was a unique batch of badges, hence “édition”. These badges were die-struck, lugs were then attached, followed by silver plating. The inscriptions were hand-painted in blue, white, and red.

Regrettably, unless a badge is accompanied by its original award receipt, there’s no way to ascertain its original owner or verify if it was ever bestowed. This is because boxes of badges were distributed across different regions. These weren’t issued in consecutive order, and unallocated badges were eventually sold.

Originally, they were affixed with an iron cotter pin. While secure, these pins are challenging to detach and can damage clothing.

If you’re interested in this period, what follows is some useful context for the situation at the time:

The French Resistance was a critical force in opposing German occupation during WWII. But it wasn’t the only one. British and American special forces, like the SAS, OSS, and the SOE, also played vital roles in France. Specifically, the SOE had 93 small teams in France, often comprising an American, a British, and a French operative. Their mission was to support and coordinate with the local Resistance groups.

One notable group was the Corps de Franc de la Montagne Noire (CFMN). They operated independently, getting orders from London. In 1943, under London’s instructions, the CFMN began to amass weapons and manpower in the Montagne Noire region. Henri Sevenet, an SOE agent, collaborated with Roger Mompezat to bolster these efforts. With their guidance, this unit became a potent force, boasting members from 21 different nationalities.

However, it’s essential to distinguish between various resistance fighters. The famed Marquis were guerrilla fighters who initially avoided forced labor for the German war effort. Over time, they transformed into more organized anti-German groups, supporting the Allies with their local knowledge.

Being in the Resistance was a dangerous commitment. Wearing recognizable badges was risky, as the Gestapo and French secret police were highly effective in tracking down and arresting members. Nevertheless, after the D-Day landings in June 1944, sabotage to the German railway system became one of the most successful resistance operations.

The Milice, a pro-German French militia, was particularly detested by the Resistance. They were targeted and eliminated, sometimes with the aid of British agents.

General De Gaul had a challenge on his hands. While many resistance groups were aiding the anti-German cause, not all were under his control. Some were led by the British, Americans, or even non-traditional groups like communists and foreign nationals.

As the tide of war turned in the Allies’ favor, the resistance efforts started to shift. The French Forces of the Interior (FFI) unified many resistance groups under one banner. But political challenges persisted. After the Germans were driven out, General De Gaul integrated many FFI soldiers into the regular French Army.

In the aftermath, the hunt for collaborators intensified. Many were tried and executed for their roles in supporting the German occupiers. As the war moved on and the Allies gained ground, badges, medals, and insignia became a source of pride for the resistance fighters and the French population.

Slipping Past the Censor

This week we’re following up on our Second World War military mail with some from the Great War. Rarely do ones from this period tell us much of what was happening. Often it’s just: date, field post office, officer’s signature and the censor’s mark. The soldier’s name and service number would usually count as a bonus!

However here we’ve got one that slipped past the censor. It gives us a glimpse into the shock which awaited those chaps who’d hitherto had no experience at all of the realities which awaited them. This particular example was sent from the front to a camp in Hatfield. The sender is a rifleman writing to another in a different company but both were part of the 17th Battalion, the London Regiment.

Dear Bert, just a line in answer to your most welcome letter. Thanks for the address, G Garwood got wounded  in the leg. We were in the big battle, I saw plenty of sights i will never forget. Write more next time.  Jim

There’s a note on front with the place name removed. More than likely by the officer that signed it (who looks like E. Chandler?)