I say “the plan continues” but it’s not quite as simple as that. The original post I had in mind was going to discuss how things had changed since October 2014, but that sort of post can easily turn depressing if you strike the wrong tone. Or be too boring and introspective. Well, the first two tries turned out that way. In the manner of such things, their existence has been erased and their pixels scattered to the four winds . . .
Instead, I will revert to one of my specialist subjects. This is the Tribute Medal given to the servicemen and women of Sacriston, a mining village in County Durham on their return from the war.
I bought it on eBay a few days ago as I don’t have a specimen and the research has already been quite interesting. According to the research I did last night there were 760 people who served in the war, including at least five women. Of these 104 died. The medals were given out in a series of dinners at the local Institute. I have traced two lists of recipients in the papers, and am trying to find others – there is mention of a plan to hold five or six dinners.
As usual, there is no reward for the people who kept the country running during the absence of the soldiers, including miners, nurses, munitions workers and the Women’s Land Army.
Over the years I have developed a formula for calculating the approximate size of issue of tribute medals. If I can find out how many people were killed from a village I can calculate the approximate total of people who served. It’s not very precise but I usually multiply by seven to get the low end of the issue. In this case that would have been 728, so it was close. It’s just a way of working out comparative rarity – telling me if I’m ever likely to find one.
One thing to note is the excellence of the design and production. Corners were not cut with the production of this medallion and it is made from silver. It is made by Walker & Hall, who were makers of high quality silver goods, and it is marked as sterling silver.
They are also named, which doesn’t always happen. The nearby town of Ashington gave a smaller silver fob, and left it blank for the recipient to engrave their own name. So, after forty years of looking, I still haven’t found a named example.
Finally, note the dates – 1914-19. The war, we tend to think, ended on 11th November 1918. It didn’t. We were still fighting in Russia until the end of 1919, having originally become involved after the revolution when we tried to prevent resources falling into the hands of the Germans. It wasn’t the best organised of interventions and nobody really took a grip of organising it. The fighting finished in the autumn of 1919 and all British personnel were withdrawn. Czechs, French, Americans, Greeks, Japanese, Chinese, British, Canadian, even Australians, all ended up fighting there, as did many others., so I hope you’ll excuse me if I don’t even attempt to describe it. Over 900 British troops were killed when they should have been safe at home.
I have a pair of medals in my collection to a coal miner from Yorkshire. He was called up in the summer of 1918, when the war was almost over, and sent to Russia, where he served for a year and then came home. I can’t imagine he was happy. I know a lot of mothers weren’t, because the papers of 1919 are full of letters from mothers wanting to know why their sons are still in danger in Russia when the war is supposedly over.
That’s it then, the first post of the next 1,000 and the second day of my new plan. Day three indicates that I must “Probably write an informative piece about world peace. Though possibly not that informative, and possibly a different subject.”
After struggling for a subject tonight, I’m not sure whether I may have set the next bar a little high.