Military medal mounting is usually undertaken by the regimental tailor. However, once a serviceman leaves the service he has no recourse but to visit a military tailor. I’ve always had an interest in medals and during my service I spent much of my free time working with our unit tailor, where I was fortunate enough to learn this part of his trade.
Medal mounting for wear is achieved in two ways, by Swing Mount or Court Mount. This is regulated by military procedures for each of the services, although they differ very little. The British Army, for instance, uses PS12(A) of the Army Dress Regulations (All Ranks), Part 13 – Instructions for the wearing of Insignia of Orders, Decorations and Medals.
Such regulations lay out how both full size and miniature medals should be worn, in what order, length of ribbon, size of ribbon bar or brooch, maximum overlap and medal alignment.
Swing mounting is the original way of suspending medals. This method has been in use from the 1600’s but came to an end for officers during the reign of Queen Victoria. She found the noise of clanking medals both distracting and annoying and so ordered that another way of securing them should be found, hence Court Mounting.
Swing mount secures the regulated length of ribbon by sewing from the brooch bar fixing, to the medal itself. It allows the medals to swing freely as the body moves. There are two options of swing mount which, again stipulated in the appropriate regulation, depends wholly on the number of medals being worn. The number of medals, up to six, must be worn side by side exposing all of the ribbon and medal. Anything over six medals in number and the second option is invoked where all of the medals are then overlapped at regular and measured intervals, usually to a maximum of nine medals, after that it’s another brooch bar!
As with anything, there are some pros and cons with swing mounts. The pros are that the medals themselves are much easier to clean in this configuration, can be easily stored and it’s easier to change ribbons should it be necessary and they are quicker to mount. The cons are that they are less likely to stay as arranged and they clank’ together. This causes wear and damage over time to the medal, ribbons can become creased and require ironing and ribbon wear at the brooch bar eventually occurs.
As described above this method of medal mounting came at the behest of Queen Victoria for all of her senior staff officers. Over the years since then, roughly since the 1970’s it has become an option for all ranks and is the current preferred method.
Court mount is based around a double backing of buckram. This is a hessian cloth soaked in similar glue to PVA and allowed to harden, forming a very rigid but sewable board around 3 mm thick once doubled. The buckram is covered on one face with a black cotton cloth which wraps around the buckram at each end. The first layer of ribbon is attached to the opposite side to the black cloth. The ribbon bearing the medal is then attached at the top of the buckram at the back. The medal is sewn through the back ribbon and buckram to secure it from movement. A backboard is then made, again from buckram but which is very thin and onto it is sewn the brooch. The brooch side of the backboard is covered with black cotton cloth with only the pin and hasp showing. This is very specific to TAS, nearly all other military tailors leave the sewn brooch and it’s stitching exposed. The completed backboard is then sewn onto the back of the first buckram board, covering all of the previous sewing – court mount complete.
Medal mounting is not strictly limited to the Navy, Army and Air Force. We have mounted medals for the Ambulance, Fire Brigade and Police services as well as members of Freemasonry.
If you are the proud holder of not only your own, but granddads or great granddads medals you tend, like most of us, to reverently stuff them in the drawer with the intent of handing them down as part of the family heirlooms. You recognise their significance, but still we stuff them in a drawer! Maybe, once a year or so, you come across them, look at them, wonder where they served, who they were with, what they saw and had to do and then you stuff them back in the drawer, with a sigh.
At TAS we try to encourage folk to frame family members medals. They should be displayed with pride, for all to see. Displaying provides a point of interest, aids preservation and recognises the bearers sacrifice on our behalf.
We can insert almost anything into a frame. It’s always good to have a picture of the person the medals belong too, a regimental, corps or service badge, badges of rank, berets, pay and discharge papers can all be included within the frame. Frames can be made as regular picture frames or with opening fronts should you wish to wear the medals around times of remembrance. They come glass fronted and, to aid preservation, we can use museum quality glass. Backings within the frame have a ‘velvet-to-the-touch’ quality and come in colours which are commensurate with the branch of service or regiment.
The whole thing is finished off with a plaque at the base of the frame internally which can bear holders name, rank, number, regiment, corps, branch and service, with any dates that may be pertinent. In essence we never make two the same, your frame will be specific and unique to you and your wishes.
Where we have to replace ribbons, we like to self-seal your old ribbons and then include them within the back of the frame, out of sight, but for ever in your possession.
We offer a medal cleaning service. Cleaning medals is very much a personal choice and many collectors prefer to keep their medals in the condition they receive them in. However, cleaning removes and slows the build-up of oxides on the medal surface which are continuously eroding the metal, cleaning prolongs the life of the medal. As a consequence then we clean medals, using warm water and detergent, in an ultrasonic cleaning bath. This has no detrimental effect on the metal, removes all oxidants and lasts much longer than just polishing. Regular cleaning by the owner, generally once a year, with warm water and detergent applied with a cotton bud will keep medals clean, sparkling and fresh looking.
We don’t polish medals! In itself, polishing is detrimental, it’s an abrasive process and consequently we only undertake polishing if specifically asked for.