Thursday, December 23, 2004

An Interesting Dilemma

There appears to be a growing movement in Canada to ban the sale of veterans' medals.
This is interesting. I'm quite familiar with the emotional trauma that can be associated with the private sale of military decorations. In the United Kingdom, regimental museums and associations often struggle to keep medals awarded for valour - notably the Victoria Cross - in the country and in regimental hands when the families of the recipients decide to sell. The market for such things is fierce and regiments are often reduced to frantically trying to rustle up charity in their attempts to outbid wealthy private collectors (often American or Japanese). Of course there is also a second scenario in which such medals tend to come up for sale - many early VCs were, tragically, sold or pawned during the recipient's lifetime in the face of hard times following retirement from military life (many of the Rorke's Drift VCs awarded to Other Ranks ended up being disposed of out of financial desparation). In this case, the medals may have been floating around the open market for some time.

That said, I'm not sure what to think of this move. On a moral level, I must confess that I would instinctively (perhaps unjustly, motivations are many and varied) look unfavourably on any family that tried to sell on an inherited Victoria Cross. My grandfather served in Africa and Italy with the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry and won a number of minor gallantry awards, never being in line for anything like a VC, and I would lever off my own kneecaps with a soup spoon before I'd even begin to consider the possibility of selling his medals on. But is this a matter for legislation? I'm not so sure. There seems to me to be something fundamentally wrong with the government intervening to tell people that it will be, in effect, illegal for them to dispose of their personal inheritance as they see fit. I'll have to give this one some thought - in the meantime if anyone has any views on the matter, drop me an email and I will update this story accordingly - especially if you can convince me one way or the other!


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