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Collecting the Periphery Part 2

Brian Wolfe



Collecting the Periphery Part 2

Have you ever started a project only to realize that perhaps to do it justice you probably shouldn’t have started it in the first place?

This is not exactly what has happened to my plan to discuss collecting medals outside of the usual parameters of military and Mervin has pointed out, and rightly so, that this was a huge undertaking. The vast array of non-military medals is daunting to say the least. Therefore this will not be a treatise or my opus magnum on the subject but just an overview and perhaps it will serve to get people thinking about alternative medal collecting and study.

In the first installment we discussed the Red Cross and similar organizations which included the Western Hemisphere as well as Japan, I neglected to mention the German Red Cross Medals and I regret doing so now, but it’s a little too late at this stage. To continue on along the lines of those who care for others, in particular the nursing profession, the first one that comes to mind is the Voluntary Medical Service Medal, instituted in 1932 and awarded for 15 years of service, with a bar for each additional 5 years of service. This is a medal I have as yet to add to my collection though I intend to do so some day. The obverse features a veiled bust of a woman holding an oil lamp. This, I have read, is a stylized representation of Florence Nightingale. The reverse features the crosses of Geneva and St. Andrew. To my knowledge these were always issued unnamed. The ribbon is red with yellow and white stripes.

I have, in my collection, a medal in the form of a Maltese cross named to M. Mc Leavy, with distinction, for proficiency in mental nursing, from the Royal Medico-Psychological Association. It is a bronze cross which hangs from a dark blue ribbon. We know this medal dates after 1926 as that was when it received its Royal Charter and before 1971 when a Supplemental Charter accorded the Association the status of the “Royal College of Psychiatrist”. As many of the medals we have, and will, discuss during the length of this series many of the so-called periphery specimens are tied closely with the military or as in the above example as result from armed conflict.

Another medal from my own collection is the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service Long Service Medal instituted in 1961 and issued unnamed. This was issued for 15 years of service with a bar for an additional 15 years of service. This round medal is of cupro-nickel with the interlocking initials VWS within an ivy wreath. The medal in my collection predates 1966 when the WVS acquired the Royal title of WRVS. The reverse has three flowering plants and around the outside circumference is inscribed “Service Beyond Self”. The ribbon is dark green with twin white stripes towards the end and broad red edges. The medal is issued in a dark green fitted box with “Women’s Voluntary Service Medal” in gold impressed on the top of the box lid. I like to collect my medals in their fitted boxes when possible and these can be picked up later if you happen along a medal on its own without a box. I will discuss finding boxes for your medals in Part 3 along with a few a caveat or two to help you along.

The last group of medals I will touch on in this installment are the life saving medals. The United Kingdom, like Japan is surrounded by water and of course this leads to the need to rescue unfortunate souls from its grip. The need for rescue from any body of water is arguably greater than most incidents on dry land, including fire rescue. I say this not to belittle the efforts of the Fire Suppression Services and I myself have served in my younger days with a fire department. I have also served in a small municipality on the shores of Lake Erie (one of the Great Lakes) and we used to average four to five deaths among the summer tourists due to drowning every year. During my five years with the fire department we never lost a soul, or needed to save one for that matter.

The number of different medals for life saving in the UK is quite varied. One of my favourite in this genre, though not a life saving medal but a swimming proficiency medal, is the Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society’s Swimming Medal. It was instituted in 1885 and is very ornate. I’ll quote the description from the Medals Yearbook, “ This extremely ornate medal has a twin dolphin suspender and a free form. (Obverse) a wreath surmounted by crossed oars and a trident, with a lifebelt at the centre enclosing the Liver Bird emblem on a shield; (reverse) plain, engraved with the recipient’s name and details. The medal comes in silver or bronze and the ribbon has five equal bars, three blue and two white. This is one medal I would love to have in the collection some day, however, as they say, so many medals so little time.

Japan too had life saving medals and badges. In my collection reside two of the Imperial Sea Disaster Rescue Association badges. The activities of the Russian Lifeboat Association were observed by Count Kiyotaka Kuroda while he was touring Europe in 1888. This led to the founding of an organization in 1889 which became the Greater Imperial Sea Disaster Rescue Association, which later dropped the word “Greater”. The two badges in my collection are the Full Member’s Badge and the Honorary Member’s Badge. These are both basically the same design, being a frontal view of a lifeboat within a life saving ring with an anchor behind the badge. The Full Member’s badge is silver with a red field within the life saving ring which the Honorary Member’s badge is gold and a blue field within the life saving ring. These both come in fitted boxes. There are three classes of Merit Medals. They feature a shipwreck scene surrounded by a life saving ring. The third class is entirely silver, the second class features the suspender and life saving ring in gilt with the centre in silver and the first class is entirely in gilt. These are all suspended from a light blue ribbon with yellow stripes.

In the next installment, Collecting the Periphery Part 3, I will touch on some of the different service awards such as the British Imperial Service Medals as an example.


Wikipedia: Royal College of Psychiatrist
In the Name of a Living God, Paul L. Murphy & Steven L. Ackley
Medal Yearbook 2004, Token Publishing
Reference to specimens – Author’s collection


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I thought I had added a comment - apparantly not !

This sort of research Brian, is invaluable for a Forum of GMIC's status.
It gives members' ideas on what is worth collecting and delves into fields
away from the standard.

I hope members' are taking the trouble to read - very few forums go into
subject matter like this. Mervyn

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