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Chivalry and valour

PUBLISHED: 06:55 27 October 2014 | UPDATED: 06:55 27 October 2014

James Hawkins of the Gold Shop, Diss' own medals from when he was in the Grenadier Guards. From left, Order of St John of Jerusalem; GSM with NI clasp; two from Bosnia; Jubilee medal; the accumulated service medal; and the long service good conduct medal. Picture: Denise Bradley

James Hawkins of the Gold Shop, Diss' own medals from when he was in the Grenadier Guards. From left, Order of St John of Jerusalem; GSM with NI clasp; two from Bosnia; Jubilee medal; the accumulated service medal; and the long service good conduct medal. Picture: Denise Bradley

copyright: Archant 2014

Having served 26 years in one of the country's most prestigious regiments I developed a keen interest in the history of medals and the fascinating stories that run parallel with the recipients. I'd never consider myself an expert but I do have extensive background knowledge in militaria.

Medals are awarded and worn in order of various categories: Orders and decorations, medals for gallantry and distinguished conduct, campaign medals and stars, commemorative medals and medals for efficiency and good conduct.

The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest military decoration awarded for valour and it is awarded to members of the armed forces of the Commonwealth and previous British Empire territories. It is first in the order of precedence (to wear) in the United Kingdom honours system. The Order of the Garter is the most senior and the oldest British Order of Chivalry and was founded by Edward III in 1348.

To identify and mark the bravery of soldiers in numerous battles, campaign medals were awarded to all who participated. The Military General Service Medal 1793-1814 commemorates the campaigns and battles of the British Army between 1801 and 1814 and is regarded as the first identified campaign medal issued.

With many land ark anniversaries looming, collecting militaria has never been so popular. These include this year’s 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. Next year witnesses the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo (1815), marking the end to Napoleon’s rule in Europe.

It was here that the First Regiment of Foot Guards again gained notoriety and became the only British Regiment to obtain its title directly through their role in a battle. The First Guards routed the French elite Imperial Guard on Mercers’ Ridge and took the bearskin cap as a souvenir. Obtaining the title The First or Grenadier Regiment of Foot Guards.

Next year also witnesses the 150th anniversary of the Crimea War. Many fierce battles took place with the British forces vastly outnumbered. There were five main battles – Alma, Balaklava, Inkerman, Sebastopol and Azoff.

Collecting militaria and medals has never been so popular. Researching the history of medals can be very time-consuming but in the same breath very rewarding when linking a name with a remarkable story of courage, perseverance and endeavour. Medal prices can be as low as a few pounds, with a Victoria Cross group as much as a couple of hundred thousand pounds.

For free valuations on all medals, contact James in the Gold Shop, Diss.

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