Medals, militaria, award and decorations

Medal Collecting and Research, the Beginning

As a collector of British postage stamps dating from 1840, until I lost interest in them when they became as boring as the wallpaper you buy to decorate your house.  I then concentrated on the earlier stamps collecting all of the penny red plates including plate 225 but excepting 77, and all of the wonderful variety of watermarks.  This was achieved until I got involved into the scarcer varieties and the prices being asked for them was astronomical, so I decided to collect something else, but what?

About 1986 I decided that collecting one of every British campaign medal starting with the Waterloo medal of 1815 was the thing to do.  I started my collection with a nice Waterloo medal, I did not realise that the medals from the Waterloo onwards were generally named to the recipient along with other information such as his number, rank and Regiment and mine was named to Joseph Marsden, Gunner, Royal Foot Artillery.

Waterloo Medal Obverse Waterloo medal

I now realised that this played a significant role in the way a medal was priced.  Medals to Line Regiments were more expensive, generally, than to Corps Regiments and if it was to an officer, again this increased the premium you would expect to pay.

On a visit to my sister in law in York I found a very interesting shop named Ryedale Militaria, amongst other things they sold they seemed to specialise in medals.  I popped in and had a look through what was on offer and brought one or two items from him.  On another visit I called in and looked to see if there was anything of interest to me.

I came across a trio from the First World War named on the 14/15 Star named to 857 A W Bennett Pte. 14th Battalion Royal Warwk's. Regt. and on his War and Victory medals Lt. RAF.  I was intrigued by this as I was born in Birmingham and of course that is in Warwickshire more so when I found that with the medals was some paperwork, not a lot, and some photographs of him and aeroplanes.
The one thing that caught my eye was the address on a postcard of him in uniform outside a YMCA tent.  The address was just around the corner from where I was born in Birmingham, so I purchased the group more out of curiosity than anything else.

As my parents were still living in Birmingham at the time, on one of my visits there I called round at the address in the Bearwood area to see if the house address was still there, yes it was!  So out of curiosity I knocked on the door to see if they remembered the Bennett family?  They did not but suggested the family next door, so I tried them and yes they remembered the Bennett family in fact he knew there was a niece and he would look up her 'phone number, which he did.
In the meantime I had looked into the background of W A Bennett and knew some of his history, so when I phoned his niece and she invited my wife and I over to visit her I could tell her where and how I had obtained her uncle's medals. When we visited her on the hall table was the exact framed photograph of Bennett that I got when I purchased his medals.  I then told her how the medals came on the market, when Bennett died everything was left to his wife, when she died as they had no children everything was left to her sister and husband.  As they had no children to pass them on to they offered them to the RAF Museum.  The Museum were delighted as the paperwork included everything connected with his time in the forces - log book, pay-book, training notes, transfer papers, etc.

bennett trio A W Bennett
14/15star, War and Victory medals

They gratefully took all of the paperwork but said to keep the medals as they had enough of those, to me this was a criminal act to separate the items, but that is the philosophy of some museums.  The medals were then sold to Foreman's of Piccadilly and that is how I explained to her they came on to the market.  The money that they received along with other items of Bennett was donated to the Star and Garter Hospital for limbless ex-servicemen.
The niece was well pleased with this explanation and told me she had a photograph album with some photo's in, would I like them?  I had them copied for her and gave her back the copies I had had made to make the album back to normal.  That's how I got hooked on medal research!

On another trip to York I called in again Ryedale Militaria to see what else he had to offer, nothing this time but would I like to see a group he had obtained for a client?  Yes I said so he showed me a group consisting of a Military Cross, an Air Force Cross the WW1 trio and miniatures and ribbon bars that showed he was entitled to the Territorial Decoration and another decoration that I did not recognise.  Also with the group were his RFC and RAF wings. I was intrigued with this group so I said to him if your client does not want it, I did.  I gave him my sister in laws telephone number, sure enough later that night he phoned me to say that the group was available, would I be interested?  Yes I was and this is how I got involved in the Hejaz, but that story you can follow up on the Hejaz section of my web site.

Top of page