“Theirs not to reason why” …
Posted by Big John on April 18, 2011
It’s not often that I let you into my private life, so I thought that you might like to know about one of my hobbies. I collect Victorian medals, although I doubt if ‘proper’ medal collectors would count me among their number, for most of my medals have been ‘rescued’ rather than collected. Collecting top quality medals can be a very expensive business, so I prefer to acquire ones which have ‘had a hard life’ and restore them, as near as possible, to their original condition.
I’ve always been interested in the Victorian era and in particular the military campaigns of the period and the men who fought in them. That’s why I’m not too bothered about the condition of the medals I find, as much as I am interested in researching the history of the men to whom they were awarded, and this starts with the soldier’s name and other details impressed or engraved on the edge of the medal.
The photograph shows a medal that I purchased recently which had been made into a “widow’s brooch”: a common practice in Victorian times. It had been awarded to a soldier from a Scottish Highland regiment for his service during the Indian Mutiny of 1857-1858 (Also known as India’s First War of Independance). Further research showed that this man was a survivor of the sinking of H.M.S. Birkenhead in 1852, when the tradition of … “Women and children first” … was established. He also received the 1853 South Africa Medal for serving in the Kaffir Wars which were fought against the Xhosa people.
My collection includes medals from the Crimean War of 1854 – 1856 (You know, Florence Nightingale, The Charge of the Light Brigade and all that stuff.) .. the Zulu War of 1877 - 1879 (remember the movie) .. and .. the Afghan War (Yes, that’s right, we never learn !) of 1878 - 1880.
The restored Indian Mutiny Medal is now the centrepiece of this display.