I have my grandfather’s medals from WWI in their original brown envelopes, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. The ribbons are pristine, the metal still bright. They will be worn for the first time at this year’s Anzac Day service when I will pin them to my jacket and wear them with pride in his memory.
It seems fitting they should see light of day at this years service marking the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the “Great War For Civilisation 1914-1918”, as it says on the back of the Victory Medal.
All I know of his war service I gleaned from the medals. His name, number, rank and regiment are inscribed around the medal rims. He served in as a gunner in the Royal Artillery. The only other snippet was from my mother who told me he’d been gassed whilst on active duty.
I know a little more of my father’s service in WWII. He served in the Eighth Army in Africa and Italy, and was awarded the 1939-45 Star, The Africa Star, The Italy Star, Defence Medal and War Medal. I believe he had a role in recording the war for the official war diary. The few photos I have include the one above of Montgomery, without beret, taken at field headquarters in the African desert with a captured German commander.
I have a series of box Brownie pictures taken by my Dad and some memorabilia from the campaign as it moved from Africa, across the Straits of Messina, into Italy. His war was over when he was dug out alive having been buried under rubble for four days at Monte Cassino.
As for me, I was a Flight Lieutenant in the WRAF for 12 years. I had one overseas tour in Malta serving as ADC to the last Air Commander Malta before the services withdrew in April 1979.
I take seriously the debt I owe to those who served before me, with me and those who serve now in pursuit of all they hold dear - freedom, family, friends. I will remember them.