01/09/2022 General News
Oscar Crocker says that it’s not just medals from the historic conflicts of the past which are finding buyers in the saleroom
From Trooping the Colour and the military pomp of the Jubilee celebrations to nightly TV images of the awful war in Ukraine, our connection with the Armed Forces remains as strong as ever – something which is reflected in the continued interest in all things military in the saleroom, and especially military medals.
For many people, the first reaction when it comes to medals is to think back to conflicts from ling ago: the First and Second World Wars, Victorian Imperial Wars such as Crimea and the Boer War, or even further back to the Napoleonic Wars.
However, medals from more recent conflicts have been rising in value and desirability in the past few years, and are becoming increasingly sought-after.
Since the end of World War II, 7,190 UK armed forces personnel have died as a result of operations in medal-earning theatres. The largest post-war loss of life amongst UK armed forces in one operation was the 1,442 who died in the Malayan Emergency of 1948-1960.
But there have been plenty of other conflicts: Borneo, Korea, Northern Ireland, Suez, The Falklands, Bosnia/Yugoslavia, The two Gulf Wars, Cyprus, Iraq, Afghanistan... Sadly the list keeps growing.
Many of these conflicts took place during the time of National Service. From January 1949 until its abolition in 1960, healthy males aged between 17 and 21 had to complete 18 months in the Armed Forces, after which they remained on the reserve list for four years – and plenty of these national servicemen saw active service in war zones.
My grandfather was one of them. He served in the Suez Crisis as part of the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, and was one of the recipients of the ‘Suez Clasp’
For collectors, medals from the 1950-53 Korean War are particularly desirable, especially those awarded to members of the 1st Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment who fought during the Battle of Imjin river.
The most common medal awarded post war in the British army was the General Service medal. Alongside this, 14 different clasps were given for participation in various conflicts and war zones. Certain of these clasps, such as ‘Mine Clearance – Gulf of Suez’ and ‘Lebanon’ are as rare as hen’s teeth and are highly sought-after by collectors. Although these conflicts are relatively recent, these rare medals can fetch thousands at auction.
The General Service medal was replaced in 2007 with the Operational Service medal, with Afghanistan and Iraq being the most recent campaigns for which these were awarded. Collectors will pay hundreds for some examples of these, even though these conflicts are extremely recent, with decorations given to members of armoured and cavalry medals most in demand.
The fact that medals have been given for so many conflicts since the end of the Second World War speaks volumes about the continued parlous state of our world. The fact that these recent medals are becoming as sought-after as more historic medals shows the esteem in which these more recent heroes are held by collectors.