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The year is 1927 firmly placed between global wars. Things were going pretty well, the Great Depression was ahead, the Great War was history. A lot of cigarette cards had been produced to reflect the publics 'interest' in war during the war years but it was this year that Players, War Decorations and Medals was produced.

A 90 card series making it unique amongst the Players issues. It is not comprehensive by any means, only 'winners' medals are in evidence for example.

The reverse of the cards gives a listing of the conditions they were awarded and also the people allowed to be awarded them. You not only had to be seen to be doing the right thing but you had to be the right sort of person doing the right thing. There is, as always, a goodly quantity of information but it would have been nice if it had included a brief description of what the ribbon colours symbolised etc.

The cards show medal and ribbon (no bars) against a plain white background. It would have been nice if the background had represented the colour of the tunic they would be worn against. This would have had the happy property of not making the cards so darn difficult to find in 'clean' condition 80 years later. It is however a very colourful set of cards and is good for framing, although not all 90 in one frame unless you are thinking of clearing a lot of wall space (on a good solid brick wall as well).

originally intended for award for diplomatic services only

I am not going to decry any single medal awarded for genuine bravery, that is not my place and I would hope it is no-ones place to do that. I am not going to moan about the medals given out to people that turned up to fight (or those that did not for that matter). As I mentioned earlier, to get a medal for bravery, as long as you are the right person being brave and seen by the right person then you had a chance of getting a medal.

The set kicks off in fine style with The Victoria Cross. More cards have been produced about this medal than any other medal and that is as it should be, no more to say.

There then follows a number of 'Orders' which look very important and colourful as compared with the VC.

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Great Britain should get a mention (not only because of the snigger value of the name) but because it was instituted by Henry IV in 1309 making it pretty darn old.

Apart from this one though medals seem to be rather a construct of Georgian England and after.

Card three, The Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George, founded 1818 originally intended for award for diplomatic services only. It does look pretty.

Within the first ten of the series there are four with the words, British Empire within the name. Actually three, the other is The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire. The others tend to be known as C.B.E, O.B.E, M.B.E nowadays and get added onto the names of entertainers and milkmen. The wording 'important services rendered to the Empire at home, in India, and in the Dominions and Colonies' appears on the reverse of the card. Times change but the medals are just as pretty.

Card ten is the Distinguished Service Cross (you get to put D.S.C after you name with that one). Awarded to naval and marine officers below the relative rank of Lieut.-Commander for meritorious or distinguished services and so it goes on proving there are different degrees of bravery afterall based on a bewildering array of how 'senior' you happen to be.

It takes till card 20 before the first of the 'turning up' medals appears in the set, 'The 1914 Star.' The reverse of the card gives the details of who was eligible. 'Given to all officers and men of the British and Indian Expeditionary Forces, including nursing sisters, sisters, civilian medical practiconers, and others employed with military hospitals which actually served in France or Belgium on the establishment of a unit between August 5th 1914 and November 22 1914. Officers and men of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Naval Reserves, and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, who served on the establishment of a unit landed for shore services in France or Belgium, between the same dates, received the Star.'

Glad that has been made clear. Imagine the conversation:

Small boy, 'Daddy, Daddy, what did you do in the War?'

Daddy O.B.E : 'I made the rules up about who got medals and who didn't.'

What happened after 22 November 1914, well you got the 1914-15 Star and you really do not want to know who qualified for that one, it defies thought.

Before I wave good-bye to the British medals card 29 needs a mention. The medal for Succour to British Prisoners of War. Approved in 1922 it was given to persons of an Allied nationality who rendered assistance to British soldiers behind enemy lines. Nice to see they got some credit. I doubt there was a special medal to citizens of the 'enemy' that happened to give 'Succour to British Prisoners of War' in which case it is a darn bad show they were not at least eligible for the award. Perhaps I am being a bit too idealistic (for once). The award came in Silver and Bronze.

Details from Card 30
The Medal of Honour (Army) U.S.A
Instituted 1862. Originally a five-pointed star, in bronze, with a medallion in the centre, on which Minerva was represented, warding off Discord, suspended from a trophy of arms, surmounted by an eagle. The President is authorised to present in the name of Congress a Medal of Honour to each person who, while an officer, or enlisted man of the Army, shall hereafter, in action involving actual conflict with an enemy, distinguish himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty. The Medal is worn round the neck.

The next nation that gets a mention is the USofA, card 30, The Medal of Honour, instituted 1862.

It is followed by the Navy version. In fact 7 medals from the US find their way into this set ending with the Victory Medal which fulfilled a similar function to the British version although going one better in the admin stakes it was awarded along with 35 clasps. Obviously there was an even bigger army of people determining who got what in the States.

The medals of Belgium appear next. Now I do not want to get into any great discussion about the size of the Belgium army but lets just say a goodly number of these medals can be found adorning the chest of allied soldiers (Note 'adorning the chest' is a phrase which might not be entirely accurate as there are various reasons why and why not you can wear a medal which again is something for the bureaucrats). Card 40, The King Albert Medal was awarded to those that showed special devotion in the feeding of the Belgians in the area occupied by the enemy. By card 45, it is the Belgium version of the Victory medal on display, they were on the winning side too.

Card 30, The Medal of Honour (Army) USA

Next is France and again they had a darn rough time of it in both conflicts. Still 'Allo 'Allo was a really funny British comedy about the occupation of France, so it wasn't all bad afterall. The German accents so comical and the English man speaking in pigeon French and getting his worms mixed up. Laugh, I didn't know when to start. That's enough of Franklyn the shrivelled up prude I think for one day.

Italian medals are also in evidence in the set. It is good to see these medals as the countries record in World War One can easily be overshadowed by the actions of World War Two. In fact almost everything they have done since the Roman Empire seems can be written off in some people's minds by their actions in World War Two but that is to re-write the history books in a very biased manner. It is also good to see there is a place for the The Della Saluta Medal, which was awarded for services rendered by volunteers in connection with the outbreak of contagious diseases and for others how helped in the field of public health. Card 62, The Della Sanita, was awarded for services rendered in the pursuit of Public Hygiene. Something of a surprise and a welcome one, lets not think of what you did to get it though, just in case.

Roumania must have some of the most elaborate of decorations although Serbia does a pretty good job, most illustrated were for being brave but card 70, The Order of St Sava, was instituted in 1883 by King Milan 1 for services rendered in the field of science, arts and letters. Turns out a lot of allied military types were awarded it for relief work.

Card 72 shows Britain is not the only country to turn rout into glorious defeat. The Serbians have a medal, The Serbian Retreat Medal to mark the retreat of the Serbian Army across Albania in the winter of 1915.

The set nears its completion with the medals of Japan, including the Victory medal of course.

So there you have it, a set which does its best to demonstrate the diversity of medals handed out in the Allied countries of the Great War.

Regardless of the reason for being awarded any of these medals anyone that obtained one by honest means should have a pride in them. I suppose at the time it would not have been a very popular move to show the 'enemies' medals but looking back it seems a shame particularly as history teaches us there is no such thing as a friendly or enemy country given a long term perspective.