Tag Archives: Sassoon

The most famous medal in the world

There are probably several contenders for this title. For the purposes of this post I will suggest that the most famous medal in the world is Siegfried Sassoon’s Military Cross. There’s a lot written about Sassoon’s decorations – some people claiming he won a bar to his MC, and others that he was recommended for a DSO and even a VC. Be that as it may, he was given an MC, and, according to the legend, he threw it in the Mersey when he decided to make his protest against the continuation of the war.

I haven’t seen the film Regeneration but I’m told that Sassoon tears the medal from his tunic and throws it in the water.

It’s a good story, though it isn’t true. That’s the trouble with legends, and as they say in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

The novel Regeneration is quite clear that it’s only the tunic ribbon that gets thrown away and in Memoirs of an Infantry Officer Sassoon says:

I ripped the M. C. ribbon off my tunic and threw it into the mouth of the Mersey. Weighted with significance though this action was, it would have felt more conclusive had the ribbon been heavier. As it was, the poor little thing fell weakly on to the water and floated away as though aware of its own futility.

So, what did happen to the medal?

It finally came to light in 2007 when a member of the family went through a trunk in the attic and found the MC in its case, along with an ID disc, a revolver and “some poetry medals”. It was put up for auction “on behalf of the family” with an estimate of £25,000 (about 100 times more than an MC without the Sassoon connection at the time).

However, it seems that not all the family agreed and it was withdrawn from the sale, later turning up with his Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in the Museum of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

In case you find it off-putting to discuss fame and bravery in terms of cash, don’t. As an ex-antiques dealer I can tell you nobody else does. In fact, many of the recipients sell their own medals. As the links show, Sassoon wasn’t much bothered about his medals, and apparently told the family to sell them.

He never bothered to claim his campaign medals, which were eventually claimed by his son. They were duly put up for auction with his CBE and made £4,375 despite the fact he was dead before the campaign medals were issued so they had no personal link to him. Again, this would be about 100 times more than you’d normally expect.

If you think that’s a lot, how about his hockey medal? It was sold with the final contents of Heytesbury House (after the building itself had been sold) and then sold again in 2012 for £880.

I could go on. In fact I’ve probably gone on too long anyway.

There are plenty of catalogues of around relating to sales of Sassoon’s property (he seems to have had a lot of stuff) if you search for them, including his Point to Point Cups and hunting coats – Wooley and Wallis 27th October 2010 if you’re interested. (I just had a look through their last militaria sale and see they recently sold Lord Kitchener’s tea cosy for £600).

Just one final note – when Cambridge University bought his papers, seven boxes of them, they paid £1.25 million. That really is a lot of money for the sort of stuff Julia makes me throw away.

 

Memoirs of a Book-Buying Man

I was a bit sluggish this morning, and ended up watching Saturday Kitchen. It featured the most over-the-top recipe I recall seeing. It was presented by John Torode this morning. I’ve no doubt he’s a good chef, but he’s not in my list of top presenters. Looking on the bright side, at least he didn’t have Greg Wallace with him. I still haven’t forgiven Wallace for the vegeburger recipe in this book. The book is a bit of a fraud really – it’s a spin-off from his series and it has his picture on the cover but it’s actually written by someone else.

Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man arrived this morning and I made a start. It’s easy reading and fifty pages soon slid by. It’s about 15 years since I last read it and I’m looking forwards to it. Fortunately Julia was out when it arrived.

After that I took a trip to the garden centre with one of the neighbours to help her pick up eight growbags and a bag of farmyard manure. It was a lovely day, and nice to be out in the open air, though it’s frustrating to see the lack of seeds and tools in what is essentially a massive garden-themed gift shop. It seems to be the way of things these days.

Fortunately I didn’t need any seeds or tools today so I just poked about in the plants and looked some Swedish Fire Logs. I’ve never seen them before though they have been around since Swedish troops used them in the Thirty Years War. That’s about 400 years ago. It seems unlikely they just thought of it then, I suspect that they knew about it way before that, but the image of soldiers camping in the snow with cloaks and plumed hats is probably more commercial than the thought of a smelly woodcutter hunched round a burning log.

After that I struggled round Sainsbury’s shopping for the evening. It didn’t quite go according to plan because there’s a group of House Sparrows in the corner of the car park. It’s very restful watching sparrows dust bathing.

The second unplanned aspect was the slipping of my leg bag as I walked round the shop becoming gradually more and more uncomfortable. Finally I had to make a temporary adjustment in the car park. It provided some relief, and restored my capacity to walk, but it could have led to all sorts of unfortunate consequences if I’d been observed.

That’s about it for now.  Time for more George Sherston.