Of all the sites the Curatorial Services oversee at least two cover the history of World War II; the Air Raid Shelters and Stockport Story Museum. We have a number of collection objects here in relation to that time, mostly with a Stockport provenance. (Click HERE for more information on why its important for an object to have a relevant background.)
However, while exploring this part of the collection via Modes this week I came across a few objects that looked familiar and have huge relevance in my life and I had never even been to Stockport until 2010!
These medals were awarded to men who served in the war during 1939 and 1945. They were delivered in a small box and came enclosed with an information sheet stating how many medals the recipient had earned and information to identify the individual medals. Both of which are also in the collection.
The medals are:
War Medal 1939-45; awarded to those who served during World War Two; complete with original ribbon of blue, white and red colour; medal is of silver coloured metal and circular in shape; The obverse bears the profile of George VI and reverse depicts a lion standing over the body of a two-headed griffin.
Defence Medal 1939-45; campaign medal of the British Commonwealth awarded for service during The Second World War; complete with original ribbon of orange, green and black colour; medal is of silver coloured metal and circular in shape; The obverse bears the profile of George VI and reverse depicts the royal crown over an oak tree flanked by lions.
Italy Star Medal; Awarded for operational service (on land) in Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Pantelleria, the Aegean area and Dodecanese Islands, and Elba at any time between the 11th of June 1943 and the 8th of May 1945; Complete with original ribbon coloured white and green to represent the colours of the Italian flag; medal is of bronze coloured metal in the shape of a six pointed star; The obverse bears the royal cypher of George VI, a crown and the inscription ‘The Italy Star.’
1939-45 Star; Awarded for operational service between the 3rd of September 1939 and the 2nd of September 1945; Complete with original ribbon of navy blue, red and light blue colour to represent the three branches of the armed services; medal is of bronze coloured metal in the shape of a six pointed star; The obverse bears the royal cypher of George VI, a crown and the inscription ‘The 1939-1945 Star’.
And the Atlantic Star medal; Awarded for six months service afloat, in the Atlantic or in Home Waters, within the period of the 3rd of September 1939 to the 8th May 1945; Complete with original ribbon coloured shaded blue, white and green to represent the colours of the Atlantic Ocean; medal is of bronze coloured metal in the shape of a six pointed star; The obverse bears the royal cypher of George VI, a crown and the inscription ‘The Atlantic Star’.
The gentleman who received these medals served in the Royal Navy from 1940 to 1945. He was posted to Lowestoft on North Sea minesweeping patrols with particular emphasis on the Thames estuary. He was later posted to Liverpool to perform the same job. Following this he spent time in Egypt, Cyprus and Italy where he was involved in a humanitarian mission to aid starving women and children. He was demobilised in November 1945 and returned to his life in Offerton, Stockport.
These medals were familiar to me as I have these same medals in a frame on my bedroom wall and a box enclosing the information sheet! They belonged to my Grandad.
Born in 1918, Wilfred Lane joined the Army in his early 20’s and served until peace was declared. At first he was stationed at a base in Ashton, not far from where he lived but went on to travel to Italy, Austria and Reykjavik; where a very harrowing story of him having some teeth removed occurred.
Upon returning home to his wife, Joyce, they moved in to a large house mere meters away from where they had met (on the roof of the Town Hall) during a Blackout and raised a family of four daughters; one of them obviously being my mother.
When I came along and began to learn about World War II at school I had a thousand questions for my Grandad and I wanted to see his medals. He answered my childish, naive questions such as ‘did you ever meet Hitler?’ and ‘was everything black and white?’ but he couldn’t show me his medals, because he had none.
To receive your medals you had to send off papers and documents and they would be then sent back to you after it was established which you were entitled to. He had just never got round to it and didn’t quite see the point now he was older. Of course I pestered and pleaded with him until he sent off his information and awaited their arrival.
In early 1999 my Grandad died and he left this small box to me; a box not unlike the one in the collection. Inside the box was his medals and a note. The medals he received were the 1939 – 45 Star, the Italy Star, the Defence Medal and the War Medal 1939 – 45. He didn’t have an Atlantic Star as he never served at sea. The note read ‘These belong to Lauren. From Grandad.’
In the following years when I was at my Nanna’s house I would get the medals out and we would talk about her experiences during the war and about my Grandad. This allowed us to re-live memories of him through these objects. Following my Nanna’s death two years ago they still serve the same purpose but now I can recall my memories of them both, of afternoons spent talking with them both and the memories, stories and experiences they shared with me.
Now I can access these memories through the collection. When I saw these objects in an instant I was transported back to the times my Nanna told me what she got up to while my Grandad was stationed away and the stories that he brought back with him; like the time he claims he was solely responsible for capturing a group of men from the enemy side!
This is why collections are important, this wont just happen for me, with this object, it can happen to anyone via anything. People cherish memories and these connections and being able to relate your life to a collections item is invaluable. Being able to learn new things is just as important as being able to share what you know and what you have experienced.
This is my story, but what other stories could these medals tell for countless other people…