Every medal collected tells the story of a soldier

Military collection honours how and why medals were earned

Sidney’s John Bardsley and some of his collection of military medals Each one

At a glance, John Bardsley can tell what a military or civilian medal was for, what country it came from and where the person who wore it earned it.

The Sidney man has been collecting medals for years and is a regular contributor to the local museum’s annual Tribute to the Military display during November. He says he collects them because each one comes with a tale of service — even valour.

“The fascination for me is what the medals were given for and what they signify,” said Bardsley. “some were for long service, others are battle medals and some are valour awards.

“It’s about what the medals signified, what they stood for.

“That is what has always interested me about them.”

His collection is well-organized and is comprised mostly of Canadian honours — from long service medals and bars indicating rank or theatre of action, to awards for great valour — such as the Victoria Cross.

The Victoria Cross — or VC — is Canada’s highest award for valour and originated in Britain. They are all made from former Crimean War cannons and the genuine article are hard to come across. Bardsley has replica VCs and knows the difference between ones from the UK and ones from Canada (the Canadian ones have writing in Latin, as not to offend the country’s two official languages).

Even the ribbons holding each medal tells a story — mostly about where and when the hardware was earned and the reason the bearer won it.

Bardsley is most proud of the medals earned by his own father and grandfather. They tell the story of his family history — which helped contribute to his own life’s path. Bardsley grew up in Ontario and joined the militia in St. Catharines. He would go on to attend Royal Military College in Kingston, then over to Queens University and eventually landing in the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. Bardsley earned his biology degree, went into medicine (even joined the naval reserve in the process) and served as a medical officer with the Canadian Forces until the late 1980s.

“Somewhere along the way, I got the bug of collecting medals.”

His collection has waxed and waned over the years, yet there are some medals he will always hold on to — from the Boer War and the two world wars as well as some of the nation’s highest military and civilian honours, such as the Memorial Cross, awarded to the mothers or spouses of soldiers killed in action.

“It’s a way of honouring the service of many different individuals.”

A portion of Bardsley’s medal collection is on display until Nov. 15 at the Sidney Museum on Beacon Avenue.