Our community blogs
I am sad to announce that Mervyn Mitton who has been Senior Moderator and friend to many of us on GMIC for several years passed away on Wednesday. He had been ill for many years, but he never let this get in the way of his passion for Militaria and Police Collectables. His knowledge of British Police history and collectables was immense and his death is a tragic loss to GMIC and the wider collecting world. Mervyn was always very proactive on GMIC and a real driving force behind the scenes amongst the staff. I will miss his old world charm, warmth, generosity and guidance. Yes he could be slighlty cantankerous at times, but that was part of his makeup, an old school English Gentleman a dying breed that are irreplaceable. I will miss him.
Earlier today (5-25-13) I attended the Ft. Lee Military Show for the first time. I had a blast… great show, wonderful location; altogether a very worthy effort by the organizers. I’ll certainly go again next year, and I’ll probably have a table of my own then as well.
I primarily went to hook up with two good friends, Kevin Born (one of the show’s organizers- thanks Kevin!) and Ralph Pickard (author of “Stasi Decorations and Memorabilia, Volumes 1 and 2”), as it has been a couple of years since I saw them last. A wonderful reunion ensued, along with some minor buying and selling on my part. Great way to spend a beautiful Saturday morning and early afternoon.
Insofar as content, most of the vendors dealt in artifacts from multiple countries and the country that had the most items on display/for sale was the US. Wars covered began with WW1, although I did see reunion items from the US Civil War. There were a couple of US vendors who also had a smattering of Third Reich items, and a couple who also had Eastern Bloc awards. Kevin and Ralph’s tables were the only tables displaying East German militaria.
The highlight of the day was Ralph’s sharing two unbelievable groupings he has acquired… and when I say “unbelievable”, well, you can certainly take that to the bank. The first group is that of a Hungarian State Security agent who retired a Colonel in the mid ‘70’s. In this group, Ralph has been able to acquire this gentleman’s awards from his own country, which include awards from both the Rakosi and Kadar periods and the documents that go with them; Bulgarian awards and associated documents; East German MfS (“Stasi”) awards and their documents; Soviet awards and their documents including the highly coveted “Outstanding Member of the MOOP” (in absolutely pristine condition) and KGB 50 Year award badge. Also with this group, is a Hungarian classified award document that, by virtue of it not having a copy distribution number, may be the sole copy of that particular document, and an interesting pass that admitted this gentleman to all secure areas in the event of an emergency- a sort of “get out of jail free” pass. There were other documents, such as his retirement document, as well. Suffice it to say I have never seen a grouping so impressive and so complete… then Ralph showed me the next case.
This next group was that of an Armenian KGB agent (rose to Lt. Colonel) who was posted, for obviously a good little while, in Afghanistan. 24 awards with documents (for all but, I believe, 2 of the awards), including the Soviet Order of Personal Courage, Soviet Order of the Red Star, Afghan Orders of the Red Star (2), Afghan Order of Glory, Afghan Orders of the Star (1st and 3rd Class) and Afghan Medal for Valour… this guy saw more than his fair share of action. I have never this many Afghan awards in one place, let alone with nearly all the documents TO ONE INDIVIDUAL. I know that Ralph took a lot of time (and money) to get these groups together so completely and they really are beyond amazing. Such collections allow you to go past the individual medal, as impressive and desirable as it may be, and actually get an insight into the life and career of the individual who achieved these awards. Genuine history. And, what probably goes without saying is my appreciation to Ralph for sharing this with me. Strike two from the “bucket list”.
A great day.
Garrison: Landau (In der Pfalz)
Established: 1 October 1901
Brigade: 3. Königlich Bayerische Feldartillerie-Brigade
Division: 3. Königlich Bayerische Division
Kaserne 12. bFAR Landau
One of twelve active field artillery regiments of the Bavarian Army, 12. bFAR was formed in October 1901 from the III. Abteilung and the 6. Fahrenden Batterie of the Königlich Bayerisches 2. Feldartillerie-Regiment „Horn“ as well as two newly organized Fahrenden Batterien at Würzburg, Bayern. Prior to mobilization in August 1914, 12. bFAR, was garrisoned at Landau in der Pfalz, in southwestern Germany. The Regiment was subordinate to the 3. Königlich Bayerische Feldartillerie-Brigade / 3. Königlich Bayerische Division.
After mobilization, 12. bFAR remained with the redesignated 3. Bayerische Infanterie-Division throughout the war; thus earning the same campaign credits as the Division. First World War Campaigns 3. Bayerische Infanterie-Division:
The I. Abteilung 12. bFAR was armed with the 7.7cm Feldkanone (FK 96 n/A); II. Abteilung was armed with the 10.5cm leichte Feldhaubitze 98/09. In February 1916, two guns from each of the 1., 2., and 3. Batterie, were given up to form the 21. Feldartillerie-Regiment. In January 1917, 12. bFAR was enlarged with a III. Abteilung. The Stab, 7., 8., and 9. Batterie of the III. Abteilung initially fell under the command of the III. Armeekorps for training. Training was completed at the Truppenübungsplatz Thimougies in Belgium in February 1917 and the new battalion joined the Regiment in the field.
At mobilization, the 3. Bayerische Infanterie-Division was part of Kronprinz Rupprecht von Bayern’s 6. Armee. The 6. Armee was central to the bitter fighting in Alsace-Lorraine during the Battle of the Frontiers at the beginning of the war. Official German reports for August 1914 set casualty figures in the 6. Armee at 34,598, with the number of dead at 11,476. (Herwig) One of those dead was Kanonier Alois Plinganser of 5. Batt. 12. bFAR, who was killed on 24 August 1914. After holding off the French offensive in the south, 6. Armee counter-attacked on 20 August with the objective of capturing terrain south of Nancy, known as the Gap of Charmes. After initial success, the 6. Armee’s attack stalled on 24 August just east of Bayon; the French 1st and 2nd Armies counter-attacked, pushing the line back to its 14 August positions. On 24 August 1914, 12. bFAR and Kanonier Plinganser’s 5. Batterie were located at Remenoville, right in the center the brutal back and forth fighting. Early on 24 August, 3. Bayerische Infanterie-Division was given the task to open the route from Mont to Blainville; 12. bFAR was attached to the 5. b. Infantrie Brigade on the right side of the avenue of attack for this task. By early afternoon, 12. bFAR had taken up a position on Hill 251, north of Blainville, but without the 5. Batterie. The 5. Batt 12. bFAR had been fixed in its previous position by enemy artillery fire and was not able to move until the next morning (the morning of 24 August) when it took up a position south of Lamath. Infantry regiments of the 3. Bayerische Infanterie-Division continued a slow advance from Blainville toward Remenoville, supported by its own artillery, but under heavy counter-fire from French artillery. Progress was made kilometer by kilometer and by 6pm on 24 August, elements of the Division were outside Remenoville. However, during this advance, II. Abteilung 12. bFAR came under heavy French artillery fire near Franconville, a few kilometers north of Remenoville. The heaviest casualties were suffered by 5. Batt 12. bFAR. II. Abteilung 12. bFAR finally arrived at Remenoville by 7pm in the evening. Almost immediately, the German troops at Remenoville came under heavy French artillery fire and infantry attacks. By dawn on 25 August, Remenoville was in flames and the front line between German and French forces was just outside the village. Kanonier Plinganser, however, had not lived to see that dawn.
The Battle of the Charmes Gap, August 1914
Line of German Attack on 24 August
12. bFAR positions Remenoville, 24 August
Line of French Counterattack on 25 August
With the end of the war in November 1918, the III. Abteilung was dissolved, with the 7. Batterie being completely disbanded, the 8. Batterie moving to I. Abteilung, and 9. Batterie moving to II. Abteilung. The Regiment was demobilized at Ebermannstadt on 18 December 1918 and dissolved in January 1919. Elements of the Regiment became part of Frei- or Volkswehr-Batterie Zacherl, later Heyl; later these elements became 3. Batterie Reichswehr-Artillerie-Regiment 23. In August 1921, this unit became 3. Batterie des 7. (Bayerisches) Artillerie-Regiments garrisoned in Würzburg. The tradition of 12. bFAR was taken up in the Wehrmacht by the II. Abteilung des Artillerieregiments 33 in Landau und later by Artillerieregiment 69 in Mannheim.
Kraus, Jürgen. Handbuch der Verbände und Truppen des deutschen Heeres 1914-1918. Teil IX: Feldartillerie. Band 1. Vienna: Verlag Militaria, 2007. Web (Wikipedia Deutschland). 24 August 2014
Herwig, Holger H. The Marne, 1914. New York: Random House. 2009. Print.
“Les batailles de Lorraine.” n.p. n.d. chtimiste.com/batailles1418/lorraine.htm Web. 24 August 2014
“Pierre’s Photo Impressions of the Western Front.” n.p. n.d. pierreswesternfront.punt.nl/content/2012/10/als-lorraine-gap-of-charmes Web. 24 August 2014
The Prussian and spolei. “Kgl. Bayer. 12. Feldartillerie-Regiment info needed.” GMIC.co.uk Web. 24 August 2014
As the UK prepares for HM The Queen's Diamond Jubilee, I've started musing on which milestones various nations commemorate by issuing medals.
In the UK, it is the events relating to the Sovereign's reign: Coronations and Jubilees (along with a few state visits and Durbars, back when foreign travel, even if you happen to be a King, was a very big deal).
In Sweden, another constitutional monarchy, they have a different approach. The milestones they mark with a medal are very personal - significant birthdays of their monarch, weddings and wedding anniversaries... and even funerals. There's nothing about their monarch's connection with the nation. The award of such medals is also more personal: family members and people who organise or attend celebrations for whatever milestone is being marked being the only recipients.
Norway does both: there are birthday AND reign anniversary medals! Medals were issued to mark King Haakon VII's Coronation (1906), Silver Jubilee (1933), Gold Jubilee (1955) and his 70th birthday. Thailand too marks a mixture of State and personal milestones in their Royal Family's lives with the issue of medals - adding such occasions as the investiture of a Crown Prince to the expected coronations, jubilees and birthdays; along with one to mark 'The Longest Reign' in 1988.
As well as a fine memorial of Royal history, these series of medals give a fascinating insight as to the role of the monarchy in different countries around the world... and probably scope for a whole book not just a blog entry!
When you live , or, work in an old town or city, it is easy to overlook historical buildings and
This happened when I was first posted to Bethnal Green Police Station. The area was a mixture -
tall, ugly concrete blocks of flats - typical for the the late 1960's. Rows of old terraced houses
and and tenement blocks - built-in the 1880's to try and improve the area and cover the shame
and bad publicity that Jack the Ripper's murders had caused. There were also many small and medium sized factories and workshops.
Walking - or, driving in a car on duty, it was easy to see just the people and the streets - however,
once I was on night duty I had the opportunities to really see what made-up this 2000 year old
area of continuous occupation. There will be other occasions when I will be able to go into detail -
however, as an example, there was a short cross street between Brick Lane and Commercial Street
named Fournier Street. Basically, it was a row of joined houses dating back to the 18th Century and
in the style of the 17th Century. Most of them were derelict.
During the time of King Charles 2nd - who was restored to the British Throne in 1660 - his French
counterpart was the 'Sun King' - Louis X1V (14th). Following the urging of Cardinal Richelieu, he
barred the Hugeonots - or, Protestants - from practising their Religion and they were forced to flee
overseas. Many to Britain. My Mother's family name was Bozier - a Hugeonot descendent.
The French silk weaving industry really depended on their skill, and when they left it fell into decline. Their loss was England's gain - the area the silk weavers chose to live was the same Fournier Street in London's East End. Many of the old houses have now been renovated and are
shown as they used to be - workrooms on the ground floor - living accomodation above. There
are several museums and it is an area worth a visit.
General View of Fournier Street
Inside of one of the houses - the marks on the beams were for silk weaving machines
Map of the area - Sever's House is now restored for the public.
THE MECHANICS OF A 1960'S POLICE STATION
I can only talk about the running of a Police Station in the 1960's/70's. I would think little had
changed over the previous 100 years - and, quite frankly, if a system works why keep making
changes. This seem to be the prevailing attitude today - change for the sake of change - or,
is it just me getting old ?
'HB' or Bethnal Green Police Station, was not the Divisional Station - however, because of the large
population in the district it had a complement of some 200 Police and civilian staff.
The commander of the Station was a Chief Superintendent (equiv. to a Lt.Col. in the Army). He
was assisted by a Superintendent.
The CID (Criminal Investigation Department) numbered about 25/30 - under a Det. Inspector.
There was a Process Dept., under an Inspector for dealing with Summonses. When you reported
someone for an offence, the paperwork was reviewed in this Dept. to ensure there was enough
evidence to go to Court. When you made a direct Arrest the Sergeant dealing with the Charge also, had the responsibility of ensuring that it was a legitimate arrest - with the evidence to prove
the Act the arrest was made under.
The Station also had a detachment of Special Constabulary - who at that time were only allowed
2 hours duty a week. I remember one old Special who was an Estate Agent. When on duty he
parked his Rolls Royce in a side street.
We had a fully staffed canteen and after 8p.m. we had facilities in the sitting area to make tea
and light meals.
The uniformed Branch numbered some 120 men - split into 3 Divisions or, Reliefs. These were
identified as 'A' "B' and 'C' Reliefs - each under an Inspector and two sergts.. The system was
changed some time ago, however, the above had existed for very many years.
A 9 week cycle was followed. Early Turn was 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.. Late Turn was 2p.m. to 10 p.m.
and Night Duty - 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.. You did 6 weeks of alternate Early and Late Turn and then
3 weeks continuous Night Duty.
You paraded 15 minutes early to be told what was happening, receive special duties and who was wanted. You also Paraded Appointments . This was to show you had your whistle, truncheon and report books.
You have to remember that Police are a disciplined Force and subject to the Rules laid down by
Parliament and your Commissioner or, Chief Constable. For example - you don't decide which variation of uniform you will wear - Dress of the Day is shown in Force Orders.
With holidays, sickness, time off and Court appearances the Relief rarely paraded more than twenty men - and sometimes much lower. Just meant we worked harder.
Hopefully, this brief outline will give you an idea of the set-up. With so many people with-in the Station you really worked with your own Relief - and the men on the other shifts. I was on 'B' Relief. Being so dependent on your colleagues for help in an emergency, you tended to become close friends - on and off duty. Although, as often happens you tended to have your own group.
When I finished learning Beats with Jock, my Relief was about to start on 3 weeks of Nights. This
meant I would be Patrolling my assigned area - or, Beat - on my own. Being the East End, away from main roads the back streets were poorly lit.
Let me say right now - you don't know the meaning of ' Being on your Own ' until you have
patrolled for the first time at night - and on a freezing February night....
Radios had only recently been introduced - and we did not have enough to go around. I'm fairly
sure that friends I had made, had ensured I had one that first night. They were Swedish Stornos
and quite powerful. The unit went in your back left pocket and the microphone was fed up to
your tunic or, greatcoat lapel. You could hear all station calls and if you wanted to speak you
pressed a button on the top. Messages went to our Reserve Room or, Communications Room. This
was manned by two PC's and an elderley , retired PC, manned the switchboard.
We were supposed to return by midnight for refreshments - but, in the dark back streets I got
hopelessly lost. It got to about 12.30a.m. and I knew I was a long way from the Station and knew
that people would be wondering where I was. I didn't want to use the radio - I knew I would
never hear the last of getting lost..........
The decision was made for me - I was looking in my A-Z wondering where the 'hell' I was, when
4 drunk yobos found me !
They were very cautious at first - then got 'cheeky'. I wasn't nervous of them - perhaps a little
intimidated. There were 4 of them and I only stood 5' 8". I decided that I'd better call in for
directions - doing so, it slipped out that I was having a little trouble.
Before I could turn round 5 Police cars and the van - plus some 20 police had arrived to see "what I
was 'up to' " The whole canteen had turned out. Very embarrasing - but I knew then that I had
The yobs got a quick lesson in having respect for their local Police - and I got lots of different
lectures in letting people give assistance when it is needed.
I learned a lot from that incident - and of course - with time and experience you become a more
confident person. However, like all of the Services - Military and Civilian - you have to learn that you are part of a team.
Next time - a few more incidents. Some years ago I was asked to write for a local Radio Station,
some humerous memories. Having recently found them in the move from the shop, I will add one
to each future post.
HUMOUR IN UNIFORM
One of the duties of a London Policeman is Reserve Duty. This is where , once in a while, you
man the communications room and make sure that there are always a few uniformed men around the Station.
One quiet Sunday afternoon I had 'pulled' this duty and was thankful as it was a cold, wet afternoon in winter. About 3 p.m. the Duty Sgt. called me into the Front Office, where there were two men who
were covered in mud. They said that in the morning they had been clearing a site (they were building workers) and had found two large iron objects. Thinking to sell them for scrap they had loaded them onto their open flatbed lorry. When they had gone for a drink someone said they looked like bombs and to bring them to the Police.
Needless to say I was very grateful !! One look told me that they appeared to be large shells or, even bombs without fins. Beating a retreat wouldn't have helped - if they had gone-up so
would half the East End of London - I tried Bribery ! Take them to Commercial Street police station I said - they won't take so long to deal with them !! Not likely - they wern't moving an inch
and expected me to deal with them. Eventually we managed to get them into a corner of the station yard and covered them with sandbags - the London Police have always been good at immediate action to to re-assure the public !
The 'bloody' workmen left and we had to evacuate the Station and the surrounding area until the
bomb squad came to take them away.
YES ! They were live and very unstable - had to be detonated in a nearby park. They were 1st
World War 8 inch Naval shells. Heaven alone knows what thay were doing in the East End of London ?
A couple of years ago - in Durban, I was asked to value and identify a deceased estate with militaria. The friend who was with me spotted a mortar bomb and picked it up - ' look', he said
'it's a Chinese one. Oh my God, it's live with it's detonator and it's sweating '.
We retreated very quickly and the SAP bomb squad had to detonate it. Please, please - no-one bring me any more shells or, bombs.
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When Nick first mentioned that he was setting up a Blog for members to post personal militaria related material - I
thought - 'whatever for - this is what GMIC does every day'.
Well, I've given it serious consideration - have read other contributions, which I enjoyed, and have now decided on a subject. I am wondering if it will be interesting enough for members to want to visit regularly - however, like all things in life - if you don't make an effort - you will never know.
- Read more...
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Being a paperwork collector one of the reasons I collect the citations is for the signatures on them and as such have to trawl through books, websites and personally compiled files to find examples to provide a comparison. From what I know there are currently 3 dedicated threads/sections to signatures on the web, those being the one on Axis History, one on Dokumentenforum and the third on World War Militaria. Unfortunately the last one is a quiet forum and as such has a very limited number of people adding their examples (but has still been viewed over 10,000 times) while the one on AHF does have a tendency to stagnate and as good as it is it isn't all encompassing.
With such things in mind what are the views of members here to setting up a Pinned thread in the German Third Reich Document Section for the posting of recognised German signatures to build up and provide a database of such like for current and future collectors and not just restricted to Divisional Commanders or Luftwaffe Aces, or just military for that matter? The signatures could be members of all the various paramilitary & civil organisations, members of the 'Valkyrie' plot, as well as officers down to the Kompanie level - basically an all encompassing thread. We have all types of collectors here: TN, Polizei, Feldgendarmerie, OT, HV etc so the potential for building up a great database covering all such signatures is there.
Signatures could be from award citations, soldbucher, wehrpasse, ausweis, war time letters etc although I would shy away from post-war letters and photos due to the change of signatures due to age and the difficulty in corroborating them - but that is just a personal opinion and if the majority view it differently then so be it. All I would stipulate are threefold:
1) the person posting the signature must be the owner of the item and definitely no scans from books.
2) the signature should be shown in context (i.e. an image of the whole document is shown or at least partially shown to enable a date, location &/or authorising unit to be seen, with the owner's watermark on it somewhere obviously)
3) items published are NOT up for discussion in the thread - the idea is to build up a database rather then a discussion. If members have doubts about any that are posted then a PM to the Moderator with their views can be passed and regulated that way (or maybe an entry via this blog).
Basically if you have a signature on some paperwork and know who it belongs to then post it with some amplifying information on the signer, however basic, to build up a comprehensive database.
So with that in mind, please let me have your views and opinions.
Well, my enthusiasm totally overrides my ability to get these badges organised. It's such a big job and I get a little lost just trying to sort through them. Although I have been quiet here, I have been noting a lot of posts and have identified a few of my pieces just from others' photos......so thankyou!
I'm also reading "Tobruk" by Peter Fitzsimons. It's heavy reading....very interesting, but I read in bed at night, generally crime novels that you don't have to pay too much attention to, but THIS book!! I find that I have to reread the previous page every time I pick it up. I just don't want to miss anything and I'm taking notes as I go so I can try and match up some photos to the events. So, while I can knock over a cheap thriller in a few nights, this one is taking a lot of time. I've learned a lot though.
I will tell you a funny story, a little embarassing, but it will give you an idea of exactly how much of a beginner I am at this military stuff (some might even say I'm a real girl!)... So, I'm going through the badges one night, putting aside ones that have words on them so I can google.. I come across one that is just one word, curved like a badge that goes on a sleeve (I have Harry's Australian one so I'm thinking I know what I'm doing here). Anyway, this one says "LESTINIAN"..... I'm thinking French...it sounds French right? So I Google....nothing. I go to Google translate....nothing. Now I'm getting frustrated. It seems it should be the easiest one of all to find, but no, nothing! So I give up on that one, I'll deal with that later, maybe post it on GMIC....
Then, I'm browsing a few days later, and I see a post, with a picture, and it hits me..... I look at the badge again, taking a close look at the end, right before the "L"...two little nubs.....
Yep, that's right, I'm sure you guessed it..... It's "PALESTINIAN"..... the "PA" has just broken off !!!
So, be warned (again)... I'm new to this !!
Here are a couple more of Harry's photos, just a few random ones from the album.
Kind regards to you all
Tuesday I thought I was going to buy a Finnish Liberty Cross 3rd Class 1918 , a real scarce award
Ok , since I didn´t want to raise the price before the last day I stayed cool and planned to give my bid on the way to Finland where I was going on a business trip tuesday-thursday .
Yep , the cell phone died in the wrong moment and then I was on the plane , no connection and so on........
It went for 180 Euros wich was way too low .....
Lessons learned ? If you want it - Buy it , bid early , bid high and stay at home at your computer
Nice weekend all
Some of you may remember my situation with my Mom. Due to health reasons I moved her from Austin, Texas to West Richland, Washington on May 28th. She has a house now with my daughter living with her as a primary care giver. We had not been able to finalize the sale of her house in Austin so that has been hanging over us for the last 4 months.
Well-Saturday (10/22) I fly to Austin to close on the house on the 26th and THEN, get to have my RAV 4 back! Of course, I then have a week or so to drive back to Washington (but just think of the opportunities to collect more "stuff" along the way as well.
Just wanted to share. Hope I can get a few more shots to enter before the contest closes.
Have a GREAT weekend folks
God Bless (and thanks for your continued prayers for me and my Mom [she is doing much better])
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Over on another forum, the cry usually goes up three weeks before the actual date of the medal auction: "The catalogue is online!"
The first thing one does, if one happens to live in Canada, is check the five-hour time difference between here and the UK, to make sure that most of the British collectors are safely in bed and won't be using up all the website's bandwidth.
Then the apprehension starts: What will they have up this time? Will there be anything for me on there? What if there's *too much* for me on there this time? Do I have enough money in the Fund to pick up something shiny?
I open the search function on the catalogue and enter my terms. Then I click and wait. The list of items within my interests shows up and I start scrolling down. That's nice; so is that ... then one particular listing catches my eye.
I know those medals. I've seen them before. Not just once, but twice, offered for sale from various medal dealers. Every time I've gotten the money together to snag them, they end up being sold, only to reappear a few months later in another shop window. The price, oddly enough, has stayed somewhat constant, allowing for time, inflation, and expenses.
There's nothing wrong with the set, or so I think. Those medals which are named are named properly. Those which aren't are authentic. The pictures all appear to be of the same medals, just taken in different environments, showing the whims of the individuals to photograph them in their own way. The dealers are reputable, as is the auction house.
I've got a canny bid in on this set and would like to win it. But even if I don't, I have a feeling I'll be seeing them again shortly...
But why do they keep coming back?
I've seen this happen before, with Rex Cosh's set of 10. They went through two or three auction houses and a dealer before I snagged them. I've seen it with some other sets. One dealer sells to another, who sells the set. Then they appear a year or two later on E-bay, only to wind up across the pond in the UK, for sale again from yet another dealer, now all nicely mounted together rather than loose.
What keeps some sets in the purgatory of cycling around and around?
As time passes I find things that were considered common place have changed while I was distracted by life in general. At one time I would question why I was here and what my purpose for being was. In other words, I was questioning my existence and place in the universe. This, of course, was a deep philosophical question. Today as I age I find the question remains the same but seems to arise every time I enter another room. Now no longer a deep philosophical question it has become a matter of, “I know that I was looking for something when I entered the office, but I’ll be dammed if I can remember what it was.” The other day I returned from picking up some groceries and said something regarding the cashier to the effect that “the girl at the store was checking me out and...” In the early part of my life this beginning of the statement might have raised an eyebrow by my wife as to why a girl was checking me out. Now days such accidental double meaning statements go unnoticed as she knows no “girl” in her right mind would bother to “check me out”. In a way today is a lot less stressful albeit much harder on my male ego. On Family Day (a holiday here in Ontario in February) I walked into the living room and simply inquired as to what the day’s weather was like. A conversation starter; nothing more. Four of the six daughters and sons-in-law took out their
I-phones and announced the state of the present weather even though a glance out of the front window would have given them the same information; how things have changed. I am definitely not a big fan of change, finding comfort in the familiar, and the linear.
When I was a youth I liked to visit the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) as often as possible. There I could lose myself in row upon row of displayed items from Archaeopteryx to Zacanthoides, Archeology to Zoology. Fossils and dinosaurs displayed row upon row all ever so neat and carefully labeled. The Ancient Roman section had tables in two rows on which was displayed hundreds if not thousands of coins mounted on slanted bases and covered with what would best be described as long glass tent-shaped panes of glass in frames which resembled table mounted green houses. Again row after row all neatly labeled. I used to like the section with animals all prepared to the highest level of the art of taxidermy and the Indigenous Peoples exhibit displayed with their tools and in a setting that looked like their camp sites. I’m sure these were artistically made mannequins though I told my brother that they were indeed real stuffed people. To this I added that I saw a sign stating that they were looking for an example of a “little brother” to stuff and I had entered his name as a candidate. I recall this led to several sleepless nights for him and my mother, and no end of satisfaction for me. My poor mother; I must have been an intolerable child.
This was my world, at least when I could arrange to be there as it was several hours from the town where I was doomed to reside. It’s located in a cultural wasteland where academia was routed out and burned at the stake for the witchcraft it was. Of course this was simply the observations of a child to his surroundings. As an adult, looking back through the haze of time, I realize that no one actually routed out academia to burn at the stake; they would have much more likely thrown the concept into a burlap bag and drowned it in the river followed by crazed dancing around a huge bonfire.
However I do digress; a privilege claimed by and reserved for the elderly.
A number of years had passed from my last visit to the ROM caused by marriage and raising a family and other less worthwhile activities. When I once again paid a visit to my former sanctuary the place had undergone a transformation. I suppose that I should have not been surprised as I too have not remained the same person I had been decades before. In place of the neat rows placed in displays one room adjoining another in a manner not unlike some series of above ground catacombs was something I was not prepared to see. It now looked like a department store-front with displays akin to the talents of a window dresser. In one large case there was exhibited medieval armour alongside an example of textiles from the Ming Dynasty, on the floor of the display rested a large skull of a carnivore from the Cretaceous Period and to add insult to injury a pair of muskets rested against the skull. If Father Time had cleaned out his basement then this could very well be the dumpster into which he was depositing his junk.
It was evident that what has happened is that they are now catering to a different target audience. Being situated on the campus of the University of Toronto they most likely were geared in the past to the academia of the University both staff and students. Now they are aiming at a wider market and with that new direction they need to entertain as much and possibly more than just educate. I don’t have a real problem with this except at times I think the museums have gone from the idea of the grey haired old professor haunting the galleries to Sponge Bob Square Pants leading the children in a song about passing wind.
I suppose this had to come to pass considering the government cut backs in every facet of society where they used to fund these organizations. The bottom line is now foremost, through necessity; accountants and bean counters before curators. Are these organizations really turning into profit mongers I pondered and if so, what effect do they have on today’s youth.
My last visit to the ROM, after my initial shock, didn’t seem as much like an alien environment as it had initially. Perhaps it was change itself that was bothering me, clouding my perception and rational. While in the paleontology section my wife and I witnessed something that nearly brought me to tears of elation. There a little girl with her parents was looking at a display of trilobites when she said, “Look, a Greenops boothi and there’s a Phacops rana. Did you know that in Latin rana means frog?” I wanted to ask if this kid might be up for adoption! Perhaps things hadn’t changed all that much after all. There were still little nerds in attendance and the old geezers haunting the galleries were still there, except now that old geezer it was me. So the need to pay attention to the bottom line has caused museums to be profit mongers through necessity but still educators through desire. While the asymmetrical displays of specimens and the seeming helter skelter of topics made more sense this time, when I got home I went straight to the study, made some more labels and realigned my medals into even straighter lines than before. Museums may still be places of education and surrounded by chaos but my world remains regimented and linear.
Somehow there is comfort in that.
I'm sorry but having pressed our man at work as to whether the real names could be published, his Granny (the Widow of the Author), has changed her mind and would rather that nothing be published. I've therefore honoured her new wishes and have deleted everything.
Really sorry guys but that's that
Best and all
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Enhancing Your Collection
It’s been a while since I have written and since we last talked I have moved my study and with it the Home Office into new surroundings; same address just a new and better location. This involved new cabinets and displays so it was a lengthy process. In addition to this I decided to retire from public service and the past six months has been spent attempting to wrap up my projects. Although to get them all completed would take another two years as new road connections through forests are limited by budget and in our country a short construction season. Still all has finally come to pass with a few more touches to the study and the unfinished work projects in the capable hands of my replacement I am free to do what I want to do with rest of my life.
Reading the posts on the GMIC lately I noticed one by Robin talking about the addition of a new Crimea Medal, I’m still envious, and in addition to this the addition of a cigarette card of this medal featuring the same bar. I believe Mervyn mentioned that some members are adding cap badges and other insignia to their medals and medal groups. This is something I have been doing for some time now and I wanted to talk about this interesting augmentation to medal collections as well as other military collectables.
Below is one drawer of medals where I have added the cap badges to the medals
I find myself; or rather catch myself, boring family and friends with my collections and constant droning on about history and this battle and that battle and how the breakdown of diplomacy led to one conflict or another. Most of my medal collection is housed in shallow drawers and if there is one thing I’ve noticed is that the average person’s eyes will start to glaze over after the third, and if I’m lucky, the forth drawer of what is perceived as one medal or group of medals after another with little to no differences. In fact I too start to think that there is a certain monotony about a sizable collection of just about anything after a while. If you are at all like me this “monotony” somehow imparts a warm feeling of comfort and security, as does the knowledge that I am a student, of sorts, of history and how these artefacts are in concert with the events they commemorate.
For most of us, we collect for ourselves and not for others, nor do we seek to garner praise for our efforts from the few upon whom we may bestow the honour of viewing our treasures. I suppose that is somewhat a joke in the average person’s opinion as many would think even an hour going over someone’s collection, their passion as it were, to be a total waste of time. However, they are simply members of the great unwashed masses so let’s not give them any more consideration here.
I’ve seen several collections where the owner has framed their collection, breaking the medals up into specific themes or a grouping to one recipient. For the most part I really like this, however in my case; wall space is and always has been at a premium. Framed documents and larger photos have always taken precedence in allotting wall space so medals were placed in shallow drawers out of necessity as much as anything else.
In this blog I am speaking more about additional items to enhance the experience for someone viewing a collection and even to make it more interesting for the collectors themselves. Some of those additional items could be the cigarette cards mentioned earlier which could be of a soldier in uniform as much as the particular medal. My Bahawalpur collection has a cigarette card featuring a soldier from that country in full uniform, which I think is quite interesting. In addition to this I have added a post card commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1st Bahawalpur Regiment, 1834-1934, and their battle honours.
Other additions to collectables, that comes to mind; could be the addition of nipple, or hammer protectors to a black powder rifle or musket, or an authentic muzzle plug for the same type of weapon. A small word of caution here; it might be best not to make the announcement around the water cooler, in the office, that you are awaiting a shipment of vintage nipple protectors. Nasty rumors could be forthcoming. Of course rifle slings either authentic or reproductions dresses up a rifle or musket quite nicely. A discussion on reproductions, “to use or not to use”, is a topic for another time.
Examples of additional items for a musket are shown below. The nipple protector and muzzle plug are on an 1853 Enfield and the sling is an original on a Pattern 1842 Brunswick Rifle marked as belonging to the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR).
Swords too have accessories such as wrist straps and sword knots that can be added. Sadly my Japanese sword collection has no such accessories, yet, but who knows, perhaps in the future. The only one with any such strap is missing the all important knot.
The British sword shown below, with original leather sword knot, is the Pattern 1895 Infantry Officer’s Sword displaying the cipher of King George V.
As always I hope this short dissertation will give the reader pause to think about alternatives to simply adding yet another item to the collection and enhance the specimens you already have.