An Investigation into Medals & Coins

war medal

Abyssinian War Medal, 1869

The Abyssinian War Medal was awarded to those involved in a 1867-1868 expedition to Abyssinia to secure the release of British labourers sent to the country at the request of King Theodore, but imprisoned on their arrival along with other British representatives. Though 43,000 men were involved in the campaign (only 14,683 being soldiers) and vastly outnumbered, total casualties were only 2 killed and 27 wounded, and the King committed suicide when the city of Magdala fell to the British.
This medal was awarded to Able Bodied Seaman T. Simpkin, whose vessel, HMS Spiteful, despite only being a paddle-steamer single-handedly quelled piracy in the Arabian Gulf during the campaign, in a month’s cruise in 1868 in which she captured 6 vessels and rescued 200 slaves. Simpkin was presumably part of this effort, and Lester Watson purchased the medal awarded for it at some point before 1928.
The Museum is glad to acknowledge the help of Mr G. M. Stein with the history of this medal.

bronze medal

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Medaille Commomorative des Dardanelles, 1926 (Great War)

After Germany’s diplomacy successfully induced Ottoman Turkey to join the Great War on Germany’s side in late 1914, a substantial naval force was amassed by the Allies against Turkey. Key to its operations was control of the Dardanelles Strait between the Aegean Sea and Sea of Marmora.
A large naval force was assembled to open the Straits, but heavy losses necessitated a change of plan to an infantry assault over land on the Gallipolli Peninsula to take control of the Straits. A force principally composed of Australian and New Zealand troops, supported with British home units and French marines, was landed and held on on the Peninsula for ten dogged months, mounting numerous ineffective offensives while naval support dwindled. Turkish resistance on all fronts proved more solid than had been anticipated and the troops were finally withdrawn in October 1915 when Bulgaria joined the war on the German side. Those who remained in the theatre became part of the Arme d’Orient at Thessalonika, for which they were awarded a separate decoration.
French troops who survived combat in the Dardanelles, in which French forces took nearly as many casualties as the Australians, were in 1926 awarded this medal. The piece is unnamed, and the identity of its recipient thus unknown. Lester Watson purchased it at some point before 1928.


Silver Cross (Canadian Memorial or Widow’s Cross), awarded in memory of Pvt. C. Smith, 1914-1919

Silver Cross (Canadian Memorial or Widow’s Cross), 1914-1919

The Silver Cross, now known as the Canadian Memorial Cross since the introduction of a similar award by New Zealand in 1960, was instituted in 1914, and was issued to the mother and/or widow of any Canadian serviceman killed in action during the Great War of 1914-1918. The initial award was concluded in 1919, but a new version struck in 1940 for Second World War service deaths and it has remained on issue since that time. In 2006, indeed, the first award was made to a widower in memory of his wife, who had been killed in combat in Aghanistan.
This cross was awarded to the next-of-kin of Private C. Smith, of the Royal Canadian Army. As the cross bears the monogram of George V, his fatal service must have been during the Great War, but no more is known. Lester Watson acquired the cross at some point before 1928.

victoria cross

Victoria Cross, awarded to Sgt. E. J. Mott, 1917

Victoria Cross, 1917 (Great War)

The Victoria Cross is the highest award for gallantry that can be made by the United Kingdom. Instituted in 1856 to recognise deeds done in the Crimean War, reportedly at the suggestion of Prince Albert, the new medal was to be given “for valour”. Even today this simple statement justifies the medal’s award. The first medals were legendarily struck from bronze from the captured Russian guns of Sebastopol, although it is now believed that the metal came from older Chinese cannon that were found in the Arsenal in 1857. (These weapons may however have been captured from the Russians during the Crimean campaign.) The design was entrusted to the London jewellers’ firm of C. F. Hancock & Sons, Holborn, and it is there that the Victoria Cross is still made when it is awarded today.
The fighting on the Somme during the Great War of 1914-1918 is still regarded with horror as one of the greatest bloodbaths ever permitted during modern combat. British casualties at Ypres and on the Somme from 1915 to 1918 outnumbered the entire British casualty list for the whole of the Second World War. Despite the questionable strategy of the Battle, however, this was obviously a place and time where opportunities for deeds of heroism were rife, and thus many medals were awarded during this campaign. This is one of them.
On 27 January 1917 the 1st Battalion of the Border Regiment, in company with the 1st Royal Enniskillen Fusiliers had orders to attack a section of the enemy position south of Le Transloy, known as Landwehr Trench. An artillery barrage of 96 eighteen-pounder guns, with support from 30 Australian howitzers, preceded the attack which began at 5:30 a.m. along a 750-yard front. By 7:00 a.m 117 prisoners had been taken and the first and second objectives had been captured with light casualties. Consolidation on the flank however proved difficult because of the frozen ground, enemy shelling and pernicious sniping. It was here that Sergeant Edward J. Mott became the Border Regiment’s first VC of the War. The citation from the London Gazette for 9 March 1917 records his actions as follows: `No. 9887 Sergeant Edward Mott, 1st Bn Border Regiment. For most conspicuous gallantry and initiative when in attack, the company to which he belonged was held up at a strong point by machine gun fire. Although wounded in the eye Sergeant Mott made a rush for the gun and after a fierce struggle seized the gunner and took him prisoner, capturing the gun. It was due to the dash of the non-commissioned officer that the left flank succeeded.’
This medal forms part of what Lester Watson’s catalogue lists as Group 2, and its provenance is discussed in the page for that group.



coins 2


Taken in The Commercial Rooms (Wetherspoons) in Bristol, I thought this was beneficia l research for my BAMS project and I found it inspiring to observe closely and read. I took this photograph before leaving.

Investigating various war medals, medals of honour and coins is beneficial towards developing my concept and designs for the live brief of BAMS. By furthering my investigations, I am building a clearer understanding of how each side of a coin or medal correlate to each other. This will aid my developmental stage immensely, as a better understanding of the relationship between each side of the medal will speed up my progress of starting to design an outcome.

I am planning a trip to one of the local museums in Bristol for Friday, to further develop my investigation into the process of medal and coin-making. I am positive by creating an extensive research portfolio, will help increase the inspiration and ideas for this live brief. I aim to start designing my concept before August is out.


BAMS: Investigation.

Before I start my investigation into topics that pique my interest, I have been investigating the BAMS website for inspiration. Below are previous medals that stood out to me and feel inspired by:

Not a Day without a Line By: Peters, Camilla and Wood, Rob, 2005 Medium: bronze, alabaster and white ink Size: 80 x 122mm Cast by: constructed by the artists Issue: The Medal, no. 48 (Spring 2006) Edition: 20
bams 2
To Forgive the Unforgivable By: Stephen Morris, 2003 Medium: cast bronze Size: 89 x 69mm Cast by: Silas Tonks Issue: The Medal, no. 43 (2003) Edition: 32
bams 3
To Forgive the Unforgivable By: Stephen Morris, 2003 Medium: cast bronze Size: 89 x 69mm Cast by: Silas Tonks Issue: The Medal, no. 43 (2003) Edition: 32
bams 5
Past and Present £124.00 By: Rob Wood, 2001 Medium: bronze, steel and magnets Size: 78mm Cast by: the artist Edition: 40
bams 4
Past and Present £124.00 By: Rob Wood, 2001 Medium: bronze, steel and magnets Size: 78mm Cast by: the artist Edition: 40
bams 6
Alas By: Deborah Sadler, 1994 Medium: cast bronze Size: 112 x 84mm Cast by: Bronze Age Issue: The Medal, no. 25 (1994) Edition: 10

I have invested time into my summer coursework for the live brief of BAMS and I have been mapping out general ideas for themes that I would like to incorporate into my BAMS medal.


These topics are my starting line. I am going to consider each topic of interest, create a research file for each of the topics and progress from there. At the moment, I am already working on a research file for Galaxy and Sea with Voyagers. I am investigating the relationship between galaxy and sea, and the use of nocturnal instruments to navigate waters by starlight.

The Finalisation of Outcomes.

Applying titles to mount board for Exhibition.

The titles of my work have been carefully chosen and once printed out, I set to applying them to mount board, ready to exhibit my work for my deadline today at 4pm. This was the halfway stage, as I was finalising the titles and moving onto my assessment form and artist statement. All of these are now successfully and neatly applied to mount board and in place.

hitler 2

When I was investigating World War 2 headlines for my Lazertran experimentation, I thought of this visual aesthetic to incorporate into my work and started sketching out a layout for a newspaper article.

hitler 4

After experimenting with the layout, using blue tac to ‘pin’ images to the black drop, I started to play around with different titles, events and topics that were present during the 1939-1945 timeframe, primarily focusing on the middle point before WW2 ended.

field board
The Inside Layout of Display Board for Field.
field board 2
Arduino, Breadboard and Power Supply.
field board 2
Layout of Neopixels

field board 3

The arduino is set up, supplied with a power-supply and works with the interactive features as planned, written in the programming and coding. I thoroughly enjoyed setting this up, as it has finally been finalised and no longer a stress for me (the programming took large quantities of time). I am exceedingly pleased with this outcome and it has demonstrated a development of new acquired skill-sets and concepts for myself as a maker.

Finalising Outcome for Field.

moonstone 2moonstone

My coding for the arduino is finished and does work. All that’s left now is to go down to FabLab Monday morning to get LP’s help on setting the arduino back up as Aidan Taylor isn’t available to help. Once this is done, I just have to use conductive paint to trigger the capacitive sensor and trigger lighting. Then I have to mount the arduino and bread board into the underneath of the board which will be their home. Everything will be out of sight and will look sleek.

The display board, made from scratch, was painted white but I have decided to use black vinyl to put over the top for a more sleek, professional finish. The black was an incorporation to the design; as the sensory toy looks quite spaceship like, I decided to go with the theme of it and have a sort of galaxy feel to the display board. The black is also a nice contrast to the lights from the trigger sensor.

Not much is left to do once the arduinos set up to go and this won’t take no time at all to assemble everything.

Finalising Outcomes for Subject.

With my deadline nearing, I have been finalising my outcomes for Subject. Following on from my last post, the poppies have had two layers of a PVA-solution and two coats of a primary, block red.

By adding extra to my mounted hands, the body of work has become stronger. I have decided to display them this way, to visually communicate the uniform of a soldier; lined up in rows. Also, the position of the poppies represents the lined graves of soldiers who sadly lost their lives.

All of my pieces now have titles and they have been adjusted onto mount-board for exhibit. Nothing else needs finalising, as my main piece is complete and just needs reconstructing on Monday afternoon ready for deadline and my abstract, smaller piece Winds of Change is still the same. There is debate in my head on whether or not I will be pulling this piece from exhibition as it is the weaker sculpture out of my 4. I will make this decision by Monday morning.

BAMS: An Introduction.

Welcome to BAMS


British Art Medal Society

The British Art Medal Society has commissioned medals from many distinguished contemporary sculptors, including Lynn Chadwick, Nigel Hall, John Maine, Paul Neagu and Michael Sandle; gun and glass engravers such as Malcolm Appleby and Ronald Pennell; medallists and coin designers such as Ron Dutton, Robert Elderton and Michael Rizzello; jewellers such as Kevin Coates, Jacqueline Stieger and Fred Rich; the cartoonist Ronald Searle and the poet, gardener and moralist Ian Hamilton Finlay.

The medals are sold, to members only, at very little more than the cost of production and in this way the British Art Medal Society has made it possible to buy original sculpture by a wide range of contemporary artists extremely cheaply. The medals are also sold to non-members, at higher prices.

Each issue is limited to a maximum of 100, usually depending on the number sold, and is open for 18 months, after which the edition is declared. Past issues have varied from about 10 to 100.

The British Art Medal Society is non profit making, run by its members through an elected committee and linked to a charity, the British Art Medal Trust.

Besides commissioning contemporary medals it issues a journal The Medal, published twice yearly and containing illustrated articles on historical and contemporary medals, organises regular meetings and conferences, and gives advice to individuals or companies who wish to commission medals.

Giving and Receiving, the BAMS President’s Medal designed by Danuta Solowiej, has been awarded since 2009, and the Marsh Award for the Encouragement of Medallic Art since 2011. A list of recipients to date can be found here.


As a tradition for Artist, Designer; Maker students, I am being encouraged by my tutors to participate in BAMS next academic year and have been set summer coursework. I am very eager about BAMS as it is one of the elements I am most excited to dip my toes into next year in second year.

I am looking forward to the element of working in bronze, silver and pewter. I have worked in Pewter before and thoroughly enjoyed the process, but I am itching to cast in bronze and silver, which will be a new experience for me. I am excited about beginning my investigation into my concept for my piece and my personal goal over the summer is to begin sketching, designing and making.

Level 5 Field Fayre

Term 1:

Disobedient Objects

Project Leader: Paul Granjon

Disobedient Objects was the title of an exhibition in the V&A in September 2014. The exhibition examined the powerful role of objects in movements for social change. It demonstrated how political activism drives a wealth of design ingenuity and collective creativity that defy standard definitions of art and design.

This Field project will combine a reflection on the disruptive potential of objects. The notion of disobedience will be explored in two main strands:

  • as a stance against authority, where the object or its use challenges established order and power structures, facilitates expression of protest, contributes to social change or disseminates ideas.
  • as a feature of the objects, where the function and functionality is not what would be expected from the object, the gadget rebels, the connected gizmo is irreverent.

The disobedient objects in the V&A exhibition share a DIY aesthetic, they were often made in urgency on a shoestring budget, compensating low-tech quality with high inventiveness. Similarly, the objects that will be constructed during the field project will be largely made from recycled and cheap materials, with a “quick and dirty” approach.

Paul Granjon and Jon Pigott both make active objects using a combination of techniques that include programmable electronics. Although not a compulsory aspect of the project, you will be supported to use DIY electronics and open source coding using the Arduino (a non-commercial, community-driven set of technologies designed for people from all backgrounds, not only for engineers).


The sessions will mostly take place in the FabLab where you will be able to access laser cutting, 3D printing and other digital manufacturing technologies.


Overall we will encourage upcycling, recycling, lateral thinking, reverse engineering and dirty hands.

Expected Outcomes/Deliverables:

The participants in this project will work in small teams and make one or more disobedient objects that will be demonstrated at the end. First they will be asked to identify a situation that needs addressing, an imbalance that needs balancing, a voice that needs to be amplified, a force that needs to be resisted, a design thet needs to be laughed at. They will imagine, design and build an object, set, or device to put things right or break things even more using a wide range of hand-made technologies ranging from gaffer tape to programmable LEDs to crisp wrappers to servo motors.

Throughout the project an open, critical, sharing and questioning attitude will be required. Participants must be prepared to work in small groups (4 to 5 students). Technical demonstrators will provide fabrication and programming support throughout. A series of short thematic lectures will delivered by the academic staff. You will be encouraged and supported to include Arduino and open source programmable electronics in your object. You will be equally encouraged to used found and recycled/upcycled materials and adhoc construction techniques.


The Sustainable Artisan

Project Leader: Huw Williams

This project will focus on the use of sustainable materials in the design and production of  artefacts for the domestic context, this will  include furniture, lighting, storage etc

Focusing on a mixture of contemporary and traditional hand making processes students will develop a skill set, working with tools, equipment, increasing their tacit knowledge of  materials and processes and their understanding on how these impact the environment

These skills will be made relevant to professional contexts and there will be an emphasis on applying knowledge to  practice as a professional furniture designer maker. This project would be supported by studio visit to practitioners and also investigate existing markets for such skills and products.

Also available through the medium of Welsh

Expected Outcomes/Deliverables:

Working prototypes and artefacts of a professional quality.


Term 2:

Art & The Conscious Mind

Project Leader: Professor Rob Pepperell

This project will consider the links between the nature of art and the human mind, in particular the conscious mind. Using examples from several creative fields, the course will investigate some key debates in contemporary science and philosophy about the function and operation of the mind, the place of consciousness in the world, and how creative practitioners can contribute to these debates. Key topics to be covered include perception (especially visual perception), awareness and self-awareness, the location of consciousness, how reality is understood and represented, and how artists and designers have modified and manipulated our minds.


The project will be delivered through a series of presentations and workshops, and will include practical activities designed to elicit creative responses to the issues being discussed. Practical activities will include workshops on mindfulness and Eastern theories of consciousness, immersive technologies and artworks, and how design objects can affect our states of mind, including through humour.


Expected Outcomes:

  • A wide understanding of contemporary and historical debates about the human mind
  • A deep understanding of how artists have interpreted and affected the human mind
  • Practical experience of different conscious states
  • Practical work based on the students’ interests and the ideas presented


The Grand British Tour

Project Leader: Duncan Ayscough

The Grand British Tour is an opportunity to visit some of the the most renowned museums of Britain and work with their collections to create your own cabinet of curiosities – a Wunderkammer.


The project will be launched with a series of lectures, seminars and workshops exploring ways to engage creatively with museum collections.


This will be followed by a series of museum visits you will generate research, ideas and inspiration for further development. While documenting a range of artefacts, you will be invited to focus on three from each collection that have particular significance for you.


Possible museum visits may include, Pitt Rivers, Ashmolean, Welcomme Trust, Courtauld Institute, Wallace Institute, Fitzwilliam, Kettles Yard, Hanley Museum Stoke-on-Trent, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, York City Art Gallery, Manchester City Art Gallery, and Whitworth Gallery Manchester.


The work will be developed through group tutorials and directed towards subject specific project development.

Expected Outcomes/Deliverables:

  • A body of research work pre and post visits.
  • A reflective blog.
  • Clearly articulated project proposal related to subject area appropriately evidenced in presentation.



Important information! This project involves a study visit which will be of an additional cost to students:

• Location: Locations around the UK
• Duration: approximately 2 x 2/3 nights
• Estimated cost to students: £100 (+ daily subsistence)

NB. the cost above is an estimate only and may be subject to change.


These Level 5 modules are the ones that primarily interested me from the Field Fayre. I found this beneficial as I got to speak directly to the people who ran each module and feel I can make a fully educated decision.

My main choices are:
Term 1 – Disobedient Objects
Term 2 – Art and the Conscious Mind

My secondary choices are:
Term 1: The Sustainable Artisan
Term 2: The Grand British Tour

I am thoroughly interested in my main choices, because for Term 1, I want a more hands-on project that involves Arduinos and a practical, physical outcome. Also, this module looked a great deal of fun and after dabbling this year into the basics of Arduinos and Capacitive Sensors, I am intrigued to branch out into this area a bit more.

For Term 2, I am very interested in a more theoretical, philosophical and physics based module. I feel this choice would be highly beneficial, as it would help develop critical, theoretical, spiritual, philosophical and physics based way of thinking, and would help support Dissertation Proposal and Constellation.

My secondary choices do not appeal to me as much as my first choices, but, it is always good to have a backup plan as there’s no guarantee a module I wanted would be picked up for next year if numbers are low.