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French Médaille d'Honneur des Chemins de Fer


Michael Johnson
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An interesting medal. There have been four issues of this medal. The medals illustrated are from the second (silver) and third (vermeil) issues. Many of the second issue were awarded during 1939-45 - definitely not a good time to be working on continental railways.

The silver medal was awarded for 25 years' service, or for acts of courage or devotion to duty. It was also awarded to those forced to retire due to injuries.

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Edited by Michael Johnson
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Ohhhh... good golly.... what were they thinking...

This goes with my thought that the French WW1 victory medal looks as if 2 hands are grabbing victories boobies from behind...

This cannot be a coicidence, I bet the same guy did the design for both and spent many, many hours laughing about it...

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Nice medals Michael, :beer:

First it was "Skull" now this.....I wonder if all is well in the Boonzaier mansion... :P;)

Well, there's Skullduggery in both of them. I suspect that Chris's time in La L?gion has something to do with it. All that cafard from sitting in desert forts, and too much sun and absinthe.

Edited by Michael Johnson
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  • 1 month later...

This one was still missing in this thread, the 4th type depicting the TGV on its reverse. Three classes are supposed to exist : bronze, silver and gilt. However, the one here sports a gilt palm on its ribbon and I have no information on what that means (an additional number of years of service perhaps ?) - anyone have an idea ?

Cheers,

Hendrik.

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This one was still missing in this thread, the 4th type depicting the TGV on its reverse. Three classes are supposed to exist : bronze, silver and gilt. However, the one here sports a gilt palm on its ribbon and I have no information on what that means (an additional number of years of service perhaps ?) - anyone have an idea ?

Perhaps by analogy to the M?daille d'Honneur du Travail, it is an addition to the M?daille d'Or. The website doesn't mention a palme, but it is there in the photo of the classe d'or:

http://france-phaleristique.com/chemfer4tar.htm

I think maybe it is to help distinguish between the vermeil (gilt) and or (gold) classes.

Edited by Michael Johnson
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The second issue was awarded 12 ao?t 1939 - 5 juin 1953, so only 14 years, and only two classses (Or was created March 28, 1977). So I would guess that every recipient, practically speaking, would have had wartime service.

I wonder if the cheminots who were shot by the Germans, or died in Germany after deportation were awarded the medal after Liberation.

Unfortunately I have yet to find a complete roll of SNCF war dead. http://www.memorial-genweb.org/html/fr/index.php3 does have some SNCF memorials, but not for all regions yet.

I have found names that match a couple of my medals on other memorials, but have no way of knowing if they are the same men or not.

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I think maybe it is to help distinguish between the vermeil (gilt) and or (gold) classes.

Hello Michael,

To my knowledge there's no "gold" class, the 1st class of this medal is gilt only which is also confirmed in the text on the France Phaleristique website (and I can vouch for the one with the palm on its ribbon not being gold ... unfortunately perhaps) :P .

I quite agree that recipients of the 2nd type would have seen service in wartime but ignore whether posthumous awards would have been made ... interesting point ! Somehow, I doubt it and feel a deportation or resistance medal would have been more likely to have been sent to the next-of-kin. Still, it needs to be confirmed.

Cheers,

Hendrik

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Hello Michael,

To my knowledge there's no "gold" class, the 1st class of this medal is gilt only which is also confirmed in the text on the France Phaleristique website (and I can vouch for the one with the palm on its ribbon not being gold ... unfortunately perhaps) :P .

I quite agree that recipients of the 2nd type would have seen service in wartime but ignore whether posthumous awards would have been made ... interesting point ! Somehow, I doubt it and feel a deportation or resistance medal would have been more likely to have been sent to the next-of-kin. Still, it needs to be confirmed.

Cheers,

Hendrik

Hendrik, I used those terms to distinguish between the Second and First classes. It would probably be more precise to use "silver-gilt" and "gilt" for the two classes.

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  • 6 years later...

The second issue was awarded 12 ao?t 1939 - 5 juin 1953, so only 14 years, and only two classses (Or was created March 28, 1977). So I would guess that every recipient, practically speaking, would have had wartime service.

I wonder if the cheminots who were shot by the Germans, or died in Germany after deportation were awarded the medal after Liberation.

Unfortunately I have yet to find a complete roll of SNCF war dead. http://www.memorial-genweb.org/html/fr/index.php3 does have some SNCF memorials, but not for all regions yet.

I have found names that match a couple of my medals on other memorials, but have no way of knowing if they are the same men or not.

Thanks to a friend in France here are some memorial plaques in French railway stations. I have Nebinger's medal in my collection.

Edited by Michael Johnson
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  • 8 years later...
Posted (edited)

Charles Nebinger was mortally wounded on the job May 22, 1940, during the German invasion of France, at Montereau, Seine-et-Marne.  Born in 1896, he probably had Great War service, either in the Army or with the railway (SNCF).

 

From the May 31, 1940 L'Informateur de Sine-et--Marne: « Source gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliothèque nationale de France » ou « Source gallica.bnf.fr / BnF ».

 

Michael

Nebinger death.JPG

Edited by Michael Johnson
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  • 2 weeks later...

His medal is dated 1943, which I will assume is the date it was awarded.  Since my cousin Alexandre Verzieux's CdG was not awarded until 1943 although he was killed the same month as Nebinger, I'm fairly sure that this is the same man.  Nebinger isn't a common name. 

On 31/10/2006 at 10:50, Hendrik said:

 

Hello Michael,

 

I quite agree that recipients of the 2nd type would have seen service in wartime but ignore whether posthumous awards would have been made ... interesting point ! Somehow, I doubt it and feel a deportation or resistance medal would have been more likely to have been sent to the next-of-kin. Still, it needs to be confirmed.

 

Cheers,

 

Hendrik

 

 

 

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  • Michael Johnson changed the title to French Médaille d'Honneur des Chemins de Fer
  • 1 month later...
Posted (edited)

My latest acquisition is a "silver" issue named to "A. Honette 1944".

 

Armand Jules Honette was born in 1896, in Nord department, France.  In the First World War he joined the 16th Chasseurs à Pied, and was severely wounded April 16, 1917 at Berry-au-Bac, in the Chemin des Dames offensive. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre with silver star. He was granted a permanent pension of 60%.  He then joined the French Railway, SNCF.  (Movie fans may remember the 2011 film Hugo, where Sacha Baron Cohen plays the Stationmaster, who has an artificial leg from his war service.)

 

In 1944 he was working at Douai, Nord.  On August 11, 1944, in support of the invasion, at 3 p.m. squadrons from the R.A.F. and R.A.A.F bombed the Douai railway system.  Over 300 civilians were killed, as other areas of the city were hit, including 85 cheminots.  They are commemorated by a plaque in the Douai railway station. Three weeks later, Douai would be liberated.

 

I found a newspaper report from 1950, reporting the posthumous award of the Médaille des Cheminots to 20 railway men and women - 8 in "gold" and 12 in "silver".  Honnette is listed for a "gold" medal.  Most of them were killed in the August 11th bombing. There are several possible explanations for the discrepancy in grades of his medal:

a. Honnette had already been awarded the silver medal, so he was given gold

b. The newspaper got it wrong

c. He was issued the wrong medal.

 

The medal is properly named with period engraving.

 

Michael

Edited by Michael Johnson
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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

What I love about this medal is that it is named.

 

If it is the second issue 1939-53, then it almost certain that the man had First War service.  The matricules I have looked at mention whether a man had joined the SNCF, as of course that affected his availability for military service.

 

I have just purchased a 1950 dated vermeil (i.e. 35 years' service) medal to a man who was awarded the Croix  de Guerre with Corps d'Armée level citation, won at Verdun October 24, 1916 with the 401e R.I.

 

Michael

Edited by Michael Johnson
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Posted (edited)

Latest find - a 1946-dated silver to E. COINTO.  Born 1900, he missed the First War, but was serving in the 621st Pioneer Regiment in 1940.  He was a prisoner of war at Stalag XVII until 1945.

https://www.ebay.ca/itm/373712193708?hash=item5702fb88ac:g:4B8AAOSwSO5hN2kS

 

Cost?  Just over $10 Canadian including postage.

archives_FRAD075RM_D4R1_2182_0088_D.jpg

Edited by Michael Johnson
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  • 4 weeks later...
Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, azyeoman said:

Do you ever see these in groups rather than individual awards?

I think I may have seen one lot of medals, including this one, that could have been an entire man's entitlement.  But obviously, given that this medal would be the only named one in the group, and the diplomes/certificates missing, it would be very hard to be sure.

 

There are some similarities with the Imperial Service Medal.  The ISM, though, is a retirement award (minimum 25 years' service), while the French medal though it can be awarded for merit, is generally for long service (25-30 years for the lowest class, depending on you job classification).  This often means that they don't get worn.

 

Michael

Edited by Michael Johnson
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