Posted 10 years ago
The central image in this Volunteer Combatant's plaque is a replica of the Belgian WWI Volunteer Combatant's Medal, which was awarded for service during the war years 1914-1918. Designed by distinguished Belgian artist and sculptor “Eugène J. de Bremaecker, the bronze medal is scarce, and the copper plaque is very rare. This plaque comes from the private collection of Sir William Simpson, O.B.E., Retired RAF Wing Commander. It is the only one he has ever seen in his 15 years of collecting Belgian medals. (1)
The Volunteer Combatant's MEDAL was instituted on 17 June 1930. It was awarded to Belgian or foreign civilians who served as volunteers in WWI. Medical personnel who served two years in non-occupied Belgium and youth who had fled occupied Belgium qualified for the medal. Other recipients had to serve in a combat unit in a "danger zone". Various terms of service were established based upon the age of the volunteer combatant. The obverse features a circular bronze medallion that is surmounted by a tiara/elliptical-shaped crest. The design in the obverse medallion features two heads - one represents the volunteer of the Belgian war of independence (1830's), and the other a WWI combatant. The 'crest' features a royal crown on laurel branches. The ribbon on which it medal is hung is a solid dark blue. The medal is signed and dated "Eugene de Bremaecker 1914". (2)
The MEDAL reverse features the WWI dates, "1914-1918", and the words "VOLUNTARIIS PATRIA MEMOR". Now, I am puzzled. "Voluntariis" is both the plural ablative and the plural dative case for the second declension noun "voluntarius". "Voluntarie" is the singular vocative case of the word, and "voluntarii" is the plural vocative case. I mention this because www.medal-medaille.com translates this as "Volunteer, the Country Remembers", and I would expect the singular vocative case under this translation. I am ashamed to say that I shall have to ask one of my Latin scholar friends for assistance here. Curiously, www.medal-medaille.com states that there are two versions of the medal, and the more frequent has "volontariis" instead of "volu...". This is very interesting, because there are no cases of voluntarius in which the letter "o" appears twice. (3) You can view an image of one currently at auction on eBay.
The one-sided PLAQUE is executed in copper. The exterior shape reminds me of a flat-bottom window with a pointed arch. Plaque features the same two heads as the medal, circumscribed by a medallion. The same elliptical tiara shape with laurel branches and royal crown that appears atop the MEDAL appears atop the plaque, too. However, the heads of the plaque are poised directly above a hemi-circular wreath of laurel that extends upwards and which terminates at about the level of the volunteers’ nose bridge. Plaque is signed “Eug J de Bremaecker” in a highly stylized font; there is no date mark. "VOLUNTARIIS PATRIA MEMOR" does not appear on the plaque. Plaque dimensions: Height 5 and ¼ inches, width 4 and ¼ inches.
I AM VERY EAGER FOR ASSISTANCE WITH ANY OF THE FOLLOWING.
The date of issue of plaque.
Circumstances of its issue.
Criteria for recipients.
Correct translation from Latin of "VOLUNTARIIS PATRIA MEMOR", and any account of the MEDAL issued with "VOLONTARIIS".
What purpose this plaque served, and whether it could have been mounted in a base of some sort. There are marks on the base that are perhaps consistent with its having been inserted in a base.
Any information whatsoever, speculative or solid – even whimsical or goofy – would be greatly appreciated.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
(1) Description acquired from Sir William Simpson, O.B.E., Retired RAF Wing Commander, Dec. 2011. The great majority of information I have provided comes from Sir William Simpson’s written text.
(2) I cannot read the signature or date on the medal. I report the spelling that was recorded in the referenced ebay auction.
(3) www.medal-medaille.com, “Medal for Volunteer Combatants (Médaille du Combattant Volontaire / Medaille van de Vrijwillige Strijder), 1914-1918”, http://www.medal-medaille.com/sold/product_info.php?products_id=3246, accessed 29 Aug 2012.
“Eugène J. de Bremaecker », unsigned Wikipedia article, http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eug%C3%A8ne_J._de_Bremaecker, accessed 29 Aug 2012. Article features a fine bust of King Albert I of Belgium, the warrior king of WWI. Wiki also has a page featuring images of the artist’s works; however, I do not have permission to post a link to same image page.