This is one of those things that you tell people about, and they just don't believe the circumstances by which the item was acquired. Such is the case with this award document. Just a couple of years ago, having been frustrated with a "dry-run" on garage sales, I decided to stop at one on a very busy road near Oneida, New York. The skies were about to open up with buckets of rain, so I thought that I ought to make it quick. After a quick skim of the wares that were being sold, I figured that I had stumbled upon just another bust. I stopped and talked to the lady who was running the garage sale, and I had asked her if there were any military items. She said that she hadn't any. Her friend, who lives across town approached, and affirmed with me that I was looking for military stuff. She explains that she has a document that belonged to her grandfather during WWI. My eye brows raise, and I think to myself, "OK, finally a lead, albeit probably something insignificant". She explains that she had kept it in her wallet all these years, and she asked me to accompany her to her car, so that she could retrieve it. I am thinking to myself, "What the heck is this woman talking about? A WWI document that she carries with her????" She goes on to explain that the document belonged to her grandfather, who was in the navy during the First World War. She said that he had switched to the Air Service, and that he had flown King Albert, of Belgium back to his country when the Armistice was signed. As a token of appeciation, King Albert had given the medal, and this award document to her grandfather. Kind of perplexed, I waited to see what she was going to hand me, and what you see pictured is it. I asked her how much? She said, "Name a price, and I'll do better". I shot her the price of $40. She said, "$20 and it's yours!". I was thinking to myself, "You've got to be freakin' kidding me!" And so, I walked away a very happy man. A very happy man that had, and still does, a lot of questions!
She said that she also has, "somewhere", some of his medals, including a Navy medal, (Probably Victory with the Navy clasp) She mentioned some small, foreign medal that he had, and she wasn't sure if it was the one that went with this document, or not. She never contacted me about these things, and I have wondered since how I might go about contacting her. (No name, don't even remember precisely where the sale was!)
At any rate - I know how the stories that families often give are often embellished, and sometimes you have to sift through the lore to find the truth. For all I know, her story could be right on, but I am not convinced.
Firstly, I find it interesting that an Assistant Mechanic would be awarded such a medal, especialy, as the document indicates, in the hand of King Albert himself. (Alas, no autograph) Perhaps W.E. Smith was an aircraft mechanic? If anyone can offer information on him, please let me know.
Secondly, how did King Albert return to his country? Was he indeed flown? If so, obviously Smith was not the pilot, but had to have, in some way, assisted with the return of the King to his country.
Also, what exactly was this medal that this document references? My research could not find very much.
I was advised that the gentleman from Wartime Collectibles might be able to help. Since I know that he is a member of this forum, I thought this would be a good place to start.
So what does everyone think? Was $20 a steal????
Let's unfold this mystery, and let this man's history come to light....
PS - I am sorry for the shaddows - the house is pretty sunny today!
Edited by cpatrick, 18 September 2007 - 08:54 AM.