Posted 6 months ago
Tonight is my segue piece from packaging to what I call companions to the Victory Medal – Other medals that usually accompanied the victory medal on the chests of WWI veterans.
Here we have the Victory medal and British War Medal, with the addressed mailing package to Mr. G. H. Cofield, Harborne, Birmingham. Inside the package is a small envelope for each medal. Someone thoughtfully sewed the ribbons into a loop through each medal. The ribbons would have been shipped folded in the package.
Following a wonderful British medal tradition, his service number, rank, name and unit are impressed around the rim. From this we learn he was a private in the Hampshire Regiment, and a visit to the National Archives Online yielded his medal index card, confirming his award of these two medals, and listing him as George H. Cofield, with service in the Royal Berkshire Regiment prior to joining the Hamps. Finding a soldier’s medal index card is always worthwhile, but not always possible. A large portion of the cards were destroyed in the blitz during WWII.
In the case of the UK and Commonwealths, the Victory medal was awarded only to those who served in a theater of the war. The British War Medal was awarded for rendering service during the war, with no requirement for service in the war zone. As a result, recipients of the Victory medal were also authorized the War Medal. This is what I mean by a companion medal. That’s my own term that I made up, lacking for a better one.
While the Victory medal is bronze, the War Medal is silver. In the 1979-80 when silver prices became inflated, rising from $11 to $50 an ounce, and many people sold their “junk silver”. Far too many of these medals, being only 60 years old and relatively common, went into the melting pot, and many victory medals lost their companion pieces. Both of these medals were designed by the same sculptor, a man named William McMillan, himself a combat veteran of WWI. He was over 90 years old when he died as a result of an apparent street mugging, a sad end to a noble life.
The last photo contains a medal Private Cofield didn’t earn. It’s the 1914-1915 British Star, awarded to those who served in a theater of war in those years (There was also a 1914 Star). These three companions were seen together so often, they received the nicknames “Pip, Squeak and Wilfred” after a comic strip of that era. This particular star is impressed to L. NK. Pehlwan of the 46th Punjabis, one of the Empire’s Indian Regiments.