The Meaning of Medals

National Army Museum Video, London, England

The Old Wooden Box

The old hinged wooden box belonged to their father and grandfather. It sat upon a shelf in his room where he read the newspaper and scribbled a few notes, the reminders of the day.  A few times a year Grampa might take the box down and ferret about the mementos from another time, but Grampa was gone now. As they opened the closet door to sort through his things, they looked upon the box differently and so this time the family took the box down and laid its treasures out upon the desk. The treasures included a few bits of paper, a newspaper article with his name and picture, some tatty bits of ribbon, a few badges and pins, postcards and letters, souvenirs that meant much too him.

As the family unfolded the handkerchief embroidered with the name of a Belgian town they found three loose medals. A star with swords dated 1915, a blackened silver medal with a horse and rider and with a man’s head who turned out to be a British King and another medal suspended from a rainbow styled ribbon with a winged figure they thought was perhaps an angel. The medals were unmounted, worn some decades ago, but with the passage of time Grampa had left them for his family to rediscover.

As his daughter and grandchildren took turns looking at the bits of metal and paper they realized through these few bits and pieces their connection to their family’s Great War.

A white metal badge with a cross and the number 16 on it and with a crown above and a scroll below marked “Deas Gu Cath”. Everyone seemed so very, very quiet as they read the withered bits of paper that told his story. As they passed the medals around they realized Grampa’s names were engraved on them. These really were his and despite Grampa being gone they realized that these few little treasures were helping them with his passing.

Today they often recount that day of rediscovery, and their treasured Dad and Grampa. For today upon the living room wall a shadowbox with his re-ribboned medals, mounted as worn, together with his badge, and picture…and for those who look closely at the frame, one other treasure from the bottom of the old wooden box, the wartime photo locket they found with Mom (Grandma), and Dad (Grampa) together again.

A Canadian Scottish officer wearing a Great War trio.

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was captivated by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Over time Paul became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography, narration and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was inspired when he learned Weir visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. "Gallipoli", the film, led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii, Gallipoli, North Macedonia and Salonika. When Paul first watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests was a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, Paul believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


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