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Wearing an Ancestor's Medals Mega-thread

mariomike

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Overwatch Downunder said:
On a 11 Nov cold morning a German WWII Vet, now living in Canada went to the Cenotaph in the 'Peg wearing his original field cap.
All about c.1980 or so.
Regards,
OWDU

There was a similar incident reported in Lethbridge, Alberta in 1986.
 

dangerboy

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If you want to get really obscure consider this case from World War 1.

Pte Harry Cochrane PPCLI was captured 2 Jun 1916 during the fighting in Sanctuary Wood. While working at the Bayreuth military hospital he saved the life of a German three year old child from drowning and was awarded the Bavarian Cross of Military Merit (Third Clasp) for his actions. Tragically he died from pneumonia in a French hospital on 28 Dec 19181

I do not think anyone would have questioned him wearing his medal.

1With the Patricia's in Flanders 1914-1918 Then & Now by Stephen K. Newman
 

IntlBr

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geo said:
Not always...

If you talk to the people of Dresden or Hamburg, they don't really see us that way.

If you talk to the people of Hiroshimo or Nagasaki, they don't really see the Americans as liberators.

And to go a step further, many people in Estonia considered Germany/the Nazis to be liberators from the Soviets.  This is reflected in the many, many Estonian men who signed up en mass and voluntarily for service in elite German units like the Waffen SS - to fight off the Soviet invader.

This is the stuff that I love about history, the nitty-gritty of historical perspectives!
 

TimBit

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Overwatch Downunder said:
What if they were SS?

OWDU

True. Some (most) SS did some bad stuff... but I think they were a product of their time, their nationality and their regime.

Ever heard of the Amritsar massacre and Geneal Dyer? 1526 civilian casualties in a matter of minutes. Yet he got to retire in his country home in England. That was in 1919. What I'm saying is, he did what he thought was right at the time.

Looking back it seems monstrous, but in his system of values obviously it was right. I'm not a SS or nazi apologist at all. I'm just saying, some of them obviously thought what they were doing was right too. Maybe later in life they would feel downright shitty about it... and go to the cenotaph to try and make peace with themselves and former enemies?

Just a thought really...
 

geo

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If you visit some small villages of the German alps, you might find citzens who truly believe that most of all the terrible things done during the Nazi regime was carried out by a few deranged souls.  Ditto for the Japanese who still do not recognize their nation's responsibility for the rape of Nanking.
 

Michael OLeary

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geo said:
If you visit some small villages of the German alps, you might find citzens who truly believe that most of all the terrible things done during the Nazi regime was carried out by a few deranged souls.  Ditto for the Japanese who still do not recognize their nation's responsibility for the rape of Nanking.

Isn't that same logic applicable to the Airborne Regiment?  Sweeping condemnation is harder to apply the closer it gets to home.
 

geo

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Absolutely.

There was nothing wrong with the Airborne Regiment.  It might have needed a bit of a shake-up - but there was no need for a full and complete shutdown.  We tossed into the dumpster expertise that will never be recovered.
 

Michael OLeary

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At the risk of dragging this tangent thread off on another, and well-beaten, one

These two statements are mutually exclusive:

geo said:
There was nothing wrong with the Airborne Regiment.

geo said:
  It might have needed a bit of a shake-up -

Secondly,

geo said:
  We tossed into the dumpster expertise that will never be recovered.

Didn't that experience actually go back to the units members were posted to? 

 

geo

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statements that are mutually exclusive?
so what of it.
The flushing away of the CAR was a politicaly expedient solution to a perceived embarassment - the wrongs of a handful of soldiers should not be blown out of proportion.

All units need a shakeup once in a while.  Just because the unit is due for one does not mean that there is anything major that is wrong with it.

I can understand the French government's decision to disband the 1st REP for having joined an insurection but, the CAR did not deserve the attention and treatment that it got.
 

Michael OLeary

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geo said:
statements that are mutually exclusive?
so what of it.

Sorry, I forgot you don't feel there's any requirement for your posts to make sense.

geo said:
The flushing away of the CAR was a politicaly expedient solution to a perceived embarassment - the wrongs of a handful of soldiers should not be blown out of proportion.

A perceived embarrassment?  "Peacekeeper beats civilian captive to death" - how, exactly, can that only be "perceived" as an embarrassing event?

geo said:
All units need a shakeup once in a while.  Just because the unit is due for one does not mean that there is anything major that is wrong with it.

Hmmm, so the culture of the unit, with hazings, the burning of a jeep in protest over "perceived" expectations of following regulations, orders allowing the shooting of suspected thieves between the "flip-flops and loin-cloth", the beating of a bound teenager to death, all that had nothing to do with it ....  nope, no trends to indicate the possibility of any major problems there. 

geo said:
I can understand the French government's decision to disband the 1st REP for having joined an insurection but, the CAR did not deserve the attention and treatment that it got.

That's one opinion.
 

Burrows

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mariomike said:
Canadians were liberators.
Posting a oneliner doesn't make anything true.  War is war.  Not every German in WW2 was a "Murderous Hun, Death Camp Commandant" and you can sure as hell bet that every Canadian wasn't a "Benevolent Liberator, Superhero and Saviour".  To assume such about a topic such as this just demonstrates naivety to a high degree.  While every side wants to believe they're the good side - let's get serious.  Bad things happen on both sides.

Personally, if there was a Wermacht vet standing beside me on remembrance day wearing an Iron Cross First Class, I wouldn't treat him any different than someone who had a VC.  Just because someone is valiant on the opposing side, doesn't make what they did any less brave.  If Hitler walked around giving people VCs, I'm sure we'd have an issue with that as well.

Medals are earned - provided they weren't earned in the wrong way, I have no issue with someone wearing medals of the enemy.
 

OpieRWestmrR

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Overwatch Downunder said:
What if they were SS?

OWDU

Yes, that's what I'm havering over. At a Canadian remembrance it would be a big ask, and I think it would be appropriate for Canadian veterans to object. An SS man's ancestor wearing decorations in Canada would be an affront, given the political nature of that organisation.

NOT an exact parallel: My great uncle was a Lancaster tail gunner and I honour his memory, but if I lived in Germany I would not be so insensitive as to invite myself to a German ceremony of remembrance wearing his decorations.

The model for the positive side of this coin is the annual Gallipoli observance which goes forward with surprisingly little controversy (that I can recall). Obviously, the people who attend are ancestors of the men who fought there, on both sides.
 

mariomike

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OpieRWestmrR said:
My great uncle was a Lancaster tail gunner and I honour his memory, but if I lived in Germany I would not be so insensitive as to invite myself to a German ceremony of remembrance wearing his decorations.

I said something similar:
Reply #16 on: March 15, 2009, 19:09:41
 

AJFitzpatrick

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OpieRWestmrR said:
... snip...

The model for the positive side of this coin is the annual Gallipoli observance which goes forward with surprisingly little controversy (that I can recall). Obviously, the people who attend are ancestors of the men who fought there, on both sides.

One could argue this has a lot to do with the fact that neither the Australians, the New Zealanders or the Turks instigated the battle.

- I realize that there were also English, Welsh, Scots, Irish, Newfoundlanders at Gallipoli, but the observation of Gallipoli does not seem to happen in those countries/provinces -
 

2551

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In my opinion, people in Canada should be allowed to wear their ancestors "medals" on remembrance day, on the right side.  That the wearer happens to be a cadet , or wearing a uniform, is neither here nor there - the distinction between the left and right side would make it immediately apparent to those who know that they are not the recipients.

Given the emotion apparent in some of the posts, there are those with very strong objections to allowing this, and I wonder who it is they are protecting, and why they think protection is required? 

In my opinion, those who actually won the "medals" would not object to this - certainly my father would not have.  I have several uncles who have their share of medals - when I asked them, they had no objections.  In fact, their first reaction was more likely to be "why does anyone care?", and their second was "go ahead if it is important to you".

A lot of the posts question the motives of those who want to wear the medals.  That is a go nowhere effort - we would all like to think that those doing it were driven by the highest of morals, but that is not possible.  There will always be some who are "posers".  At the end of the day, how much damage could they do, and who are they harming?

In our efforts to stop the "posers", should we ban the practice outright?  It would be, no, it is a real shame that those medals have been relegated to "shadow boxes" or the attic, never to be seen again.  Is that where a Victoria Cross belongs, or a Distinguished Conduct Medal?

Some have suggested that there are other ways to remember those who have been awarded.  I invite you to go to the Governor Generals website.  The Governor Generals office is responsible for the award of decorations and honours (amongst other things). I was there not too long ago, trying to find information about a recipient (and a friend of mine) of a British Empire Medal.  It was not to be.  They only provide information about decorations under the "new" system.  The only carryover from the former system is the Victoria Cross, and information is available about them.  But what about the others? 

Many people have donated their fathers/relatives medals to the Canadian War Museum, as a way to preserve them, and probably to have them displayed.  Recently I was in contact with the museum about this.  The simple fact is that they do not have the room to display all of the medals they have.

I leave you with these questions:

I wonder who among you would object if a relative of a VC recipient was to wear it on Rembrance Day?

Who would object if the lady who lost all those sons was to wear those medals at the next Remembrance Day?

Who would object if the son of that friend of mine wore his dad's medals next remembrance day?





 

mariomike

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In the crowd, all sorts of people wear all sorts of medals. The media focus their cameras on those with the most.
It's only the people in the marchpast who are inspected by those in charge.
 

tomahawk6

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If you earned the medal wear it. If you didnt ,put in a nice display case.
 

PanaEng

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Good post 2551.

And t answer your questions:
I wouldn't x 3.
I have encouraged my scouts and cubs to wear their ancestors medals - properly (on the right) and with pride - during the Remembrance  Day ceremonies.

chimo,
Frank
 

redleafjumper

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"If you earned the medal wear it. If you didnt, put in a nice display case."

Exactly - who am I to wear medals that I have not earned?  My grandfather earned his at Ypres and Vimy and his medals properly reside in a respectful place.
I show them to my children and explain what they were for; likewise when they ask about mine or those of others I provide them with a clear explanation.  It is all about history and respect.

The common point that I see in this thread is that everyone agrees with the need to show proper respect.  The difference is that what some see as showing respect, others see as disrespectful or perhaps as excessive pride, or in the worst case unabashed ego or bravado.  The Canadian practice is not to wear medals that have not been earned and I personally support that tradition.  As my friend Wesley has pointed out, the Australian tradition is different and well received - it just isn't something that I personally find appealling. 

Cheers,

 
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