During the First World War countless thousands of men and women saw active service in the allied armed forces. As a way of recognising this service the allied governments awarded victory medals. Those who served on the battlefields, in the air, on the sea and behind the lines received a medal common to all, a “Victory Medal,” as it was called. The medal was awarded to officers and other ranks alike; a medal emphasizing the unity of the allies and commemorating victory.
Since the allied forces were comprised of many countries with no common language, it was decided that each nation produce its own Victory Medal. One of them is in my possession. Suspended from a double rainbow ribbon, the medal reads: “The Great War for Civilization 1914-1919. On the obverse side is a figure described as “Winged Victory.”
This medal was awarded to my father for his service in the war. For years it was kept in a metal box in my rec room and would probably still be stored away but for a nephew who collected military badges and medals. He inquired abut my father’s war medals and this led to a search for the box and discovery of four medals on faded ribbons.
Later my nephew sent me new ribbons – duplicates of the originals – so the medals could be properly mounted and displayed. He sent along as well an article on medals of the Crown. This told me my father’s allied victory medal was produced by the Royal Mint and was engraved by a Canadian, W. McMillan. The medal was struck in bronze and gilded. As was pointed out in the article, the medal was hastily produced and of poor quality.
I was surprised by the cheapness of the medal. Given the importance of the occasion, it would seem no cost would be spared to produce the medals. Apparently the allied governments squabbled over the cost of issuing a joint medal and the Canadian government came up with its own design.
One of the medals I found in the box was issued by the British government and it had my father’s name on it. This puzzled me at first; then I recalled my father telling me he enlisted in a British unit at the start of the war and later transferred to a Canadian division. This medal either supports what he told me, or as a member of the Canadian Army he was entitled to it.
The two other medals in the box marked my father’s participation in World War Two when he served at Camp Aldershot. One was the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, also tarnished by time and cheaply produced; the other appears to be the Word War Two version of the British war medal.
All those medals are treasured today. I look upon them as reminders of a time when ordinary people like my father answered the call to serve his country.