“Re-open Sesame!”

At long last, we can open our doors again to the collecting public. We’ve had to put new steps in place for everybody’s safety (see last week’s post) but the main thing is that trading will resume from tomorrow Saturday 11 July. The usual cosmopolitan mix of stamps, coins, postcards, militaria and ephemera will be on sale so why not come down and see what our traders have rooted out during lockdown. Regular or first-timer, young or old, expert or amateur….we look forward to seeing you!

Open from July 11

It seems like it’s been forever but we’re really pleased to announce that the Market will reopen next Saturday July 11. Of course, some changes are necessary to make sure that we’re keeping everybody safe and your cooperation with these measures is appreciated. In summary, these are:

  • all dealers and visitors will be subject to a temperature test with a non-contact infra-red sensor. Anyone failing this test will be asked to return home and self-isolate
  • a one way system will be in place requiring visitors to enter by the Villiers Street entrance (by Costa Coffee) and follow the marked circular route around the stalls. Floor stickers and a wall map will be used to clarify this
  • the number of visitors inside the market must be controlled so members of staff communicating via walkie talkie will be stationed at both the entrance and exit to manage this
  • visitors may not arrive before 7am and must leave at 3pm
  • a one metre social distancing protocol will apply in all areas
  • all visitors must wear a suitable face covering

Although these measures are clearly inconvenient, this is the only way that the market can reopen as things stand at the moment. When restrictions ease, we will review them immediately.

To assist with enforcement, Dougal, the market dog, has been appraised of the new regulations and promoted to Head of Security (extra biscuits).

Market Update

Although market operations remain suspended for now, we are keen to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so. A comprehensive risk assessment has been submitted to our landlord showing how we propose to manage this. If this is accepted, we hope to reopen at some point between mid July and early August.

We’re really looking forward to seeing everyone again after what has been a very trying time so thank you all for your patience. Keep safe and we hope to see you soon.

The Black Cat Division

Originally formed in WWI but gaining fame in the Burma Campaign 1942-45 when it was continually in action, the 17th Indian Division also enjoyed the distinction of being known as the Black Cats. Their original formation sign had been a lightning bolt but changed to this design in mid-1942. The British Indian Army already numbered some 200,000 men at the outbreak of the war. By the end of the war it had grown to 2.5 million, still the largest volunteer army in history.

Unit formation sign patches are a very affordable way of becoming a militaria collector as they start at about £10. Most come in forward facing pairs but contemporary photographs show that soldiers sometimes wore mismatched pairs or a single one on a bush hat. Generally, it is best to focus on a particular theatre or campaign such as Normandy or the Far East. Interest in patches continues to grow and they often crop up on programmes like Antiques Roadshow.

Designated Drivers

These three original British Army patches signify that the wearer is a qualified driver. All bear a steering wheel design but the earliest (top) bears the letters IC (“Internal Combustion”) since some vehicles were still ox/horse drawn at this period. By the 1940’s a star had replaced the letters with a king’s crown signifying that the wearer was in fact a drving instructor.

Like all specialist trades in the Army, such patches were worn on the lower left arm. To save officers the trouble of having to ask though, qualified drivers would usually wear their chin strap tucked up behind the cap’s badge.

During the temporary closure of the market, we have decided to continue posting every fortnight on our blog – beginning with a series on patch collecting.

Operation Temporarily Suspended

Regrettably, Charing Cross Collectors Market is temporarily suspending operations in line with government advice on managing the Covid-19 pandemic. We must prioritise the health and safety of our dealers, our customers and, indeed, the general public. We will of course monitor the situation closely and only open again when we feel it is safe to do so. This will be announced on our blog and all our social media channels. In the meantime, please look after yourselves everyone, follow all the relevant NHS guidance and we’ll see you again soon.

Foreign Awards

Completing our brief overview of the six major types of medals is a look at France’s croix de guerre. Although it has no direct equivalent in the UK medal hierarchy, it falls somewhere between the Military Medal and Mentioned in Dispatches. Also issued by the Belgian government, it was awarded in both world wars and French examples are dated on the reverse by means of a fitted disc.

Interestingly, this was awarded by both the British and collaborationist Vichy regime during WWII. As ever, sold as part of a group with relevant documentation identifying the recipient add at least £50 to the value of the piece (and possibly even many hundreds depending on the action) but single original medals can be bought from just £15.

The 369th in action at Séchault in France, 29 September 1918

Famous recipients include the writer Samuel Beckett, several daring SOE agents like Violette Szabo and Yvonne Baseden and the mainly African American 396th Infantry Regiment, known as the Harlem Hellfighters, for their tremendous valour in the Great War.

Unofficial Medals

WWI tribute medal

Although they obviously don’t attract as much interest as official medals awarded by the sovereign, ‘tribute’ medals like this one are nevertheless an important part of the historical record. The earliest ones were struck after some of Britain’s nineteenth century wars but they were issued in great numbers following World War I. Many towns and even villages had a committee which raised funds to send Christmas gifts and treats to soldiers in the trenches. When the war ended the leftover money was often used to buy a permanent mark of gratitude for returning soldiers – and even the widows of those who didn’t. There was no standard design for these so the range is very wide but the town crest will usually give a location at least. Unfortunately, many bear nothing which could indicate who the recipient was.

However, the tribute medal shown here is rather different. In the first instance, it was paid for by a private individual, Mrs Cunliffe-Owen. In 1914 she had been instrumental in raising the 24th (Service) and 2nd (Sportsman’s) Battalions in London. They trained in Romford, Essex. Her signature is on the back of the medal (dated 1915) and the man’s service number (2656) allows us to trace his war record. Private George Joseph Burge of Portsmouth of the 24th Battalion Royal Fusiliers was later awarded the Military Medal for bravery in 1918 before being killed in action just a month before the armistice.

Introducing the New Items page!

We’ve just added a new page called “New Items” which you can find here, or along the top navigation bar.

This page which be updated every week with new items that will be at the market that week. The New Items page will also have the previous week’s special items listed so you can check with the trader if they are still trading that item.

South Hailsville School Agate Road, Canning Town, London – September 1940

Michael and James Burroughs from ‘Anything Military’ are exhibiting a bronze hand bell from Agate Road School at the market this week. Measuring approximately 10cmx10cm

The dockside school suffered the biggest single loss of life in the Docklands when over 600 children died in the bombing of the docks in September 1940. This event was kept out of the news for 70 years because,at the time, it was decided not to evacuate the dockside community of Silvertown and North Woolwich as it was decided that it would be bad for morale. Evacuation was eventually carried out in secret after this tragic event.