Medals of Honour
Guy Shepherd reflects on legacy, family and jewels of war
Article by Guy Shepherd
As a jeweller, I am constantly barraged by wonderful moments of romance and happiness, such as births, marriages, engagements, anniversaries, birthdays or work promotions. The personable nature that GUY&MAX encompasses means that we can celebrate each occasion accordingly. What I find fascinating is that jewellery is used as a medal of remembrance for the many types of magnificent moments that give us pride. This observation was brought home to me personally last week in the most humbling way.
Whether as a national or as a visitor, the poppy exhibit at the Tower of London, moved everybody. The enormity of our nation’s loss between 1914-1918 was starkly displayed. Countries such as France, Germany and Russia lost considerably more. We must never forget.
The stories, and therefore legacies, of many millions of brave people will be lost as time goes by. However, the most extraordinary acts of bravery are marked with the presentation of medals of honour, the jewels of war. Stories live on with these lasting metal tributes. Over the next four years, plaques will be laid for all the First World War Victoria Cross recipients, in their local communities, as part of our nation’s hundred year remembrance programme. It is the highest honour for extraordinary bravery in the British Armed forces.
On 24 November 1914, my great uncle, Frank Alexander de Pass, displayed this level of heroism for King and Country, before losing his life the following day attempting the same feat again. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. He was the first Jewish recipient of the award. He was the first Indian Army recipient of the award.
One hundred years later, members of the British Army, Indian Army, Bevis Marks synagogue and his family assembled outside the Ministry of Defence to reflect on Frank’s life. It was truly one of the most awe inspiring events I can remember. Heart felt reminiscences from professional, religious and private archives were accompanied by the pomp of fanfare, flag and uniform.
My family have continued soldiering and there were an impressive splash of military honours upon the two generations since. Max and I are Digital Goldsmiths. The irony did not bypass us and we reflected on the subject of legacy and as we walked back to our own boutique, past war offices, the Prime Minister’s house, Horse Guards, the park, the St James’ clubs and palaces, before the shops of Jermyn Street and Piccadilly and arrival in our little Bohemia, Shepherd Market.
It was this extraordinary experience which moved me to make this connection. In times of war and hardship we adorn ourselves with medals of honour. In times of peace and prosperity we lavish ourselves with jewels of celebration. One is reliant on the other. Without the acts of extraordinary bravery by people like my great uncle in the First World War, then those in subsequent wars, we would not have been able to enjoy the liberties and relative peace that we have lived in since. We now award our medals of honour for bravery in child birth, success in relationships or strength in commerce but let us always remember those that gave us these freedoms.