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Rhodesia Legion of Merit Grand Commander breast star


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Here's an interesting one from sub-Saharan Africa - the breast star of the Grand Commander of the Legion of Merit of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in southern Africa. The star is 4" (10cm) across; silver-gilt and green enamel, and mounted with 8 match-head-sized emeralds from the Belingwe mines in the south of the country. I can't think off-hand of any other 20th century decorations that specifically incorporate emeralds as part of their design, although I'm sure I've seen some. Iranian or other Middle Eastern, maybe?

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This was the highest grade of membership, and was only awarded twice under the Rhodesian regime, most recently to Prime Minister Ian Smith in 1979, although it appears that the Zimbabwean government has kept the same design for its own Legion of Merit - at any rate, President Mugabe sports an identical star.

I used a photo of this star on the cover of a book earlier this year and it came out beautifully - a really striking image. The bird in the middle is of course the Zimbabwe bird, the national symbol of Zimbabwe, of which a number of carved versions dating from the 14th century were carried away from the Great Zimbabwe site by Victorian treasure-hunters.

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BTW, what kind of book did you write?

Matthijs.

The book's a nominal roll of Rhodesian awards from their inception up to 1981, when they were replaced by the award system of the Republic of Zimbabwe.

I was partly correct about Iran, I think: the only other relatively recent decorations I've found with emeralds, apart from this one and the Persian one, are a modern Ethiopian dynastic order and the Mahendra Mala Manapadvi from Nepal.

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Another attractive award. What was the critera for the award?

It is pretty, isn't it?

This was awarded for "outstanding service to Rhodesia". In practice it was awarded only to Prime Minister Ian Smith and his close ally and first President of Rhodesia, Clifford Dupont. There was theoretically a Military Division, but no Military awards were ever made.

The next grade down, Grand Officer of the Legion of Merit, was also awarded for "outstanding service to Rhodesia". It had a breast star almost identical in design, but without the emeralds. It was awarded to just 29 recipients - almost all of whom were politicians in Smith's Rhodesian Front party. Just one Military award at this grade, to Lt.-Gen. Peter Walls, who commanded the Rhodesian security forces.

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Hi Ed,

It's just the stories in the news about repression of political opponents of the ruling party, the rigging of elections, very strict censorship of the media, etc.

Here's the CIA's assessment:

"Robert MUGABE, the nation's first prime minister, has been the country's only ruler (as president since 1987) and has dominated the country's political system since independence. His chaotic land redistribution campaign, which began in 2000, caused an exodus of white farmers, crippled the economy, and ushered in widespread shortages of basic commodities. Ignoring international condemnation, MUGABE rigged the 2002 presidential election to ensure his reelection. Opposition and labor strikes in 2003 were unsuccessful in pressuring MUGABE to retire early; security forces continued their brutal repression of regime opponents. The ruling ZANU-PF party used fraud and intimidation to win a two-thirds majority in the March 2005 parliamentary election, allowing it to amend the constitution at will and recreate the Senate, which had been abolished in the late 1980s. In April 2005, Harare embarked on Operation Restore Order, ostensibly an urban rationalization program, which resulted in the destruction of the homes or businesses of 700,000 mostly poor supporters of the opposition, according to UN estimates."

Such a shame, because it is one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited (Victoria Falls, need i say more?)

Sorry if this is off-topic,

Matthijs.

:off topic:

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If you can post a pic of the reverse that would be great, too! Are there any makers marks on there?

Matthijs.

Hi Matthis, here's a pic of the reverse; two very stiff pins soldered on at 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock with silver solder (one has come off). No makers' marks visible.

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There are maybe only two or three companies that could have made it in Zimbabwe - I immediately think of Matthews, who made a lot of medallions and some of the earlier cap badges, and Reuteler, who did a lot of manufacturing for the government: cap badges, handcuffs etc. - so it might well have been put together overseas.

The Rhodesian version is obsolete, and hasn't been awarded since a handful of Military Division awards were made in June 1980, two months after majority rule. The Rhodesian Legion of Merit was replaced by an almost identical award in October 1981 (Zimbabwe Order of Merit; also five grades).

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  • 6 months later...
  • 3 years later...

I assume that the pins there are very impractical for wearing? Is this a collectors copy? I know there were collectors sets in circulation after the fall....

This is a collectors copy that was made before the end of the war. The originals of the breast badges are hallmarked and the pin system is totally different to what is shown here. The Grand Officer of the Legion of Merit (G.L.M.) was also made from solid silver as was the one above that, the Grand Commander of the Legion of Merit (G.C.L.M.). The Grand Commander of the Legion of Merit (G.C.L.M.) however was gold plated on solid silver.

The Grand Master of the Legion of Merit (G.M.L.M.) breast star was made from gold. This was awarded to sitting President's only and when the individuals presidency ended he was awarded a Grand Commander of the Legion of Merit (G.C.L.M.) and the award of The Grand Master of the Legion of Merit (G.M.L.M.) stayed with the Office of president of Rhodesia. I hope that all makes sense.

However the original breast badges are very rare and one hardly sees one on the market. I have seen the reverse of a genuine breast badge for a Grand Officer of the Legion of Merit (G.L.M.)(Civil), that is how I know what the reverse looks like. The front of the breast badge is also much better looking than the collectors copies.

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  • 1 month later...

This is a collectors copy that was made before the end of the war. The originals of the breast badges are hallmarked and the pin system is totally different to what is shown here. The Grand Officer of the Legion of Merit (G.L.M.) was also made from solid silver as was the one above that, the Grand Commander of the Legion of Merit (G.C.L.M.). The Grand Commander of the Legion of Merit (G.C.L.M.) however was gold plated on solid silver.

The Grand Master of the Legion of Merit (G.M.L.M.) breast star was made from gold. This was awarded to sitting President's only and when the individuals presidency ended he was awarded a Grand Commander of the Legion of Merit (G.C.L.M.) and the award of The Grand Master of the Legion of Merit (G.M.L.M.) stayed with the Office of president of Rhodesia. I hope that all makes sense.

However the original breast badges are very rare and one hardly sees one on the market. I have seen the reverse of a genuine breast badge for a Grand Officer of the Legion of Merit (G.L.M.)(Civil), that is how I know what the reverse looks like. The front of the breast badge is also much better looking than the collectors copies.

I have heard that Ron Reid-Daly and Peter Wallis have passed... What a loss. The RLI is one of my favorite subjects I have slowly collected what I could .. still looking for a Rhodie jump wings and RLI collar dogs to frame up with my poster...

Doc Wilson

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Seeing this post for the first time - there are a number of very nice sets of Rhodesian medals and awards - copies and well mounted in a mahogany case with four drawers. The point I want to make is that the copy GLM is set with Emeralds which are genuine and some of a good quality. So, should you have a set - and quite a number were made - remember they are real.....

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Other than the GSM and DSM there seem to be more"Specimen" medals or "copy" than real ones.

these unissued medals seem to have become accepted by collectors as time has gone by.

Real manufactures can still make fakes. I think it is important to remember what we as collectors

buy into is not so much the "metal" of a medal, but it's provenance and history. I have alot of Rhodie

Specimins as such, they are reminiscent of a period, but have non of the balls of a real attributable medal or group.

It may be a bit purist, but it is that connection to history, being able to own a part of time

or battles we were never part of.

Now I'm getting way to sentimental about stuff. I'll just shut up and stare at my photo album.

Long live Fort Victoria.

Strapper

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Other than the GSM and DSM there seem to be more"Specimen" medals or "copy" than real ones.

these unissued medals seem to have become accepted by collectors as time has gone by.

Real manufactures can still make fakes. I think it is important to remember what we as collectors

buy into is not so much the "metal" of a medal, but it's provenance and history. I have alot of Rhodie

Specimins as such, they are reminiscent of a period, but have non of the balls of a real attributable medal or group.

It may be a bit purist, but it is that connection to history, being able to own a part of time

or battles we were never part of.

Now I'm getting way to sentimental about stuff. I'll just shut up and stare at my photo album.

Long live Fort Victoria.

Strapper

I understand .... and well put

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  • 10 years later...

I believe that this is the solid (18ct) gold Grand Master of the Legion of Merit (GMLM) breast badge. There are documents which show that it belonged to the office of the President of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, Josiah Zion Gumede. The badge was made by Matthews Manufacturing.

Big Image (Badge, Front).jpg

Big Image (Badge, Back).jpg

Big Image (Badge, Hallmarks).jpg

Big Image (Gumede).jpg

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Welcome to the GMIC and the African forum!  Always glad to have more folks interested in thsi under studied, under valued field!

 

That is a very interesting fastening system.  More usually found on cap badges and such, rather than the long prongs meant to go into thread loops or a pin fastening.

 

You mention that there are documents identifying the owner.  I'm curious as to how this came onto the market.  No slur implied at all, but many of the European and British honours and awards now specifcally request that the item be returned to the awarding authority on the death of the recipient.  Any info. gratefully received. :)

 

Thanks for sharing this lovely item!

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Hello Gentlemen,

 

Here js the Ian Smith Prime Minister of Rhodesia Grand Commander of Legion of Merit, in its original case of issue.

 

It's not mine, but I share the photo with you, to show the original case of issue.

 

Only 5 GCLM were awarded, all in the Civil Division.

 

Prime Minister of Rhodeia : Ian Smith

 

President of Rhodesia : Clifford Dupont

 

President of Rhodesia : John Wrathall

 

Principal Secretary to Cabinett : Gerald Clarke

 

President of Zimbabwe Rhodesia : Josiah Zion Gumede

 

The great collector , and Ambassador H.E. Antonio Spada owned one, there is at least 2 that are currently in South Africa, including the one to Josiah Gumede

 

Regards to all.

 

    Emmanuel

Rhodesia Grand Commander Order Legion of Merit GCLM Order Legion of Merit to President Ian Smuts.JPG

Rhodesia Grand Commander Order Legion of Merit GCLM Order Legion of Merit Case of Issue to President Ian Smuts.JPG

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Hello Gentlemen,

 

Because all of you deserve to see, these amazing insignia..., in February 2019, a GLM breast star of Legion of Merit of Rhodesia ( Grand Officer Legion of Merit : G.L.M. ); was auctioned in London. I attended the auction, but I was not able to purchase the GLM breast star, however I took photo.

 

Regards to all.

 

     Emmanuel

Rhodesia GLM.jpg

Edited by heusy68
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