The Canadian Medal Rolls - Distinguished Conduct and Military Medal (1939-45 & 1950-53)
Sidney Allinson is a Victoria-based communications consultant, Canadian
news correspondent for Britain’s The Army Quarterly and Defence, and
author of The Bantams: The Untold Story of World War I.
Alert medal-watchers consider that one of the fastest clues to a military officer’s seasoned background is the inclusion of “MM” or “DCM” behind his name. Since these medals are awarded only to private soldiers or non-commissioned officers, possession of those medals by an officer indicates that he had previously served in the lower ranks with considerable bravery and distinction. More usually, though, the Military Medal and Distinguished Conduct Medal were to be seen decorating the tunics of outstandingly stalwart rankers. For all that, they are not widely understood today. Until recently, even some keen students of military medals tended to dismiss these two awards in favour of more prominent “gongs” like the VC on DSO. However, the rapid growth of medal collecting as a hobby, not to mention the increase in monetary value because of scarcity of all military decorations, has of late greatly increased interest in NCO medals. This has been further enhanced here by specific interest in Canadian recipients of awards for bravery or distinguished service. Such collectors, students, and military historians alike are now well served by Martin Ashton’s The Canadian Medal Rolls — Distinguished Conduct and Military Medal.
The author is already firmly established as an authoritative cataloger through the Charlton Press series of medal collection books. In this one, he provides the first book of its kind to cover thoroughly DCMs and MMs awarded to Canadians in World War II and the Korean War. “The primary reason for writing this book is twofold,” states Ashton. “Firstly, it is meant to be an aid to collectors in verifying medals in their collections. Secondly, it is hoped this volume will increase the awareness of Canadians towards the participation and contributions of the Canadian Army during these two conflicts.” He has perhaps fulfilled his first intention a little more effectively than his second. Disappointingly little detail is given to the circumstances under which the awards were won. Only two typical examples are given of award recommendations. While one can understand that the sheer volume of medals prevents all of the gallantry actions from being described, more space might have been given to providing several accounts. (Space for this could have been made available, perhaps, by dropping the repeatedly cited sentence: “The King has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards in recognition of gallant and distinguished services...”)
However, collectors will certainly be able to benefit from Martin Ashton’s meticulous marshalling of facts. Page after page lists soldiers’ names, ranks, units, dates of awards, and — of key importance — serial numbers of individual medals.
A point mentioned in amendments to the original Warrant for the Military Medal reveals one strangely mean-spirited provision: a male recipient could later “forfeit” his MM if he was later either executed by court martial, dismissed from the service, or sentenced to penal servitude. A woman recipient could have her MM taken back if it was the opinion of the Army Council that she “so conduct herself as to be unworthy of it.”
Whether it be for background reference or specifics, every copy of this useful book owned by medal collectors will be enjoyably well-thumbed.