By Capt. Jay Singh-Sohal VR
To receive a medal is often a big deal, but there can be no greater occasion than that of a Sovereign’s Jubilee, and receiving the medal to mark the 70th year of the reign of our Queen.
I was one of many thousands of fortunate serving Officers to recently receive the “Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal” (or QPJM) which was issued to those who work in public services including members of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, the emergency services, and the prison services amongst others.
The QPJM. as a commemorative medal, recognises service at the time of the Jubilee, and whilst not an operational service or long service medal, it is one which I know many service personnel will feel particularly proud of as it will be the first medal that many will pin on their chests.
At home during the COVID pandemic and abroad in operational settings, I have met and served alongside many young service personnel, who’ve served five years or more, for whom the QPJM will be their first medal during their service. Young soldiers I met in Estonia or those working on Op Rescript, the military assistance to civilian authorities, will be pinning it upon their chests with pride whenever the opportunity allows as it is a recognition of their hard work and the service they undertake daily in uniform. And we too must express our gratitude to them for doing so.
The QPJM represents the continuity afforded these past seven decades by our Head of State and the significance of having a piece of history to mark Her reign. The history of awarding medals to mark Royal Jubilee’s dates back to the Victorian period when the first medal was awarded to mark the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s reign.
But no other monarch has presided over the issue of five such commemorative medals to mark such a long reign as Elizabeth II. Her first was the Coronation medal in 1953, followed by the Silver Jubilee medal in 1977, the Golden Jubilee in 2002, the Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and now the Platinum one.
For me, the QPJM enhances the set of medals I now have for my thirteen years of service, sitting neatly at the end of a row containing an Operational Service Medal and a Volunteer Reserve Service Medal. Sending these medals off to be court mounted comes at some cost, so I’m quite content with what I have. But who knows where my service may take me in future!
As a military historian, I believe firmly in the story that medals can help tell about an individual’s service and contribution to their country. But it is as a father that I realise their true value is in how they can inspire the next generation to take up service themselves or support those who do. I pin the miniatures of my medals to the right breast of my young children on any special occasion that allows it, so they too can feel the connection we have as a military family, and appreciate why daddy spends long periods of time away from home doing “stuff” he cannot talk about.
We as a nation do not award as many medals to our service personnel as other countries, compare any senior officer from the U.S. or Russia or India (or indeed North Korea!) with one of our own and you’ll know what I mean. The requirement on “risk and rigour” mean OSMs have a high threshold in particular.
Perhaps we ought to recognise more operations, both at home such as during COVID and abroad in the Baltics, with medallic recognition? I’ll leave that debate for another day.
But for now let’s celebrate the QPJM and those who have the great honour of receiving it – and hope it inspires many more to serve our country in future.