Museum's medals of honour

Simon Cook

Simon Cook

First published in Forces focus by

THE question of what to do with medals left in the family is one that often perplexes people, so I sought advice from Simon Cook, curator of the Wardrobe Museum in the Close.

The Wardrobe, the regimental museum of the Royal Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment, has an impressive collection of medals and I asked Simon for his advice to families.

“If families do not want to keep medals,” he said. “Then the first place they should go is the regimental museum with which the holder served.

Museums will have different policies on that – our policy is that we will gratefully receive all medals that we are offered.”

“We will take any medals from the Royal Berkshire or Wiltshire Regiment, but not Yeomanry. We then refurbish them.

“We are very lucky here; we have a group from the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS).

“They are headed by national chairman Jill Makepeace- Warne, who lives in Salisbury, and every week they come to the museum to clean and, if necessary, re-ribbon the medals.”

The museum keeps the medals in store, but relatives are welcome to come and see them, and when museum exhibits are changed, appropriate medals that tell a story will be displayed.

What should you do as a retired member of HM Forces when planning the disposal of your estate? The one thing that you must do is to be absolutely certain that you signify in your will what is to happen to your honours, awards and medals.

“I have seen enough here to know that this can become quite emotive,” said Simon.

“It must be quite clear in your will where you want your medals to go to. In an the ideal world, you should talk to the person and check that they want them.

“If more than one person in the family wants them and you have not said where you want them to go, or you have said where they are to go but the person is not interested, then there is a problem.”

Generally the advice is that medal groups should not be split; if more than one person wants them there are options.

There will often be a set of miniature medals which can go to another person, or replica medals can be bought (Soldier Magazine carries advertisements every month) and given to other recipients.

I asked Simon about the sales of medals, including gallantry awards, from recent conflicts.

He said: “Our policy is that we will not pay for medals; we will accept the donation of a medal, with very few exceptions.

“We have seven of the eight Victoria Crosses awarded to soldiers from the Royal Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiments.”

Finally, please talk to your museum, even if only to seek advice about mounting and preserving your medal group.

The Wardrobe will reopen on February 4, so why not pop along and see the history of your county regiment.

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