Thursday 11 December 2014

Queer Achievement : Courage and Conscience

[Achievement – the name given in heraldry to the full pictorial representation of a coat of arms.]

For my final Year of Remembrance article I’m looking at how one lgbt war hero from the First World War, who was brought forward as a hero of the modern anti-Iraq campaign, displayed the medals he was awarded for bravery on his coat of arms.

This is the full armorial achievement of Air Commodore Lionel Charlton (1879-1958). He served in the Boer War and was one of the first officers in the Royal Flying Corps and RAF.
In 1923 Charlton was appointed to the RAF’s Iraq Command. It was the British bombing of Iraqi villages that created a matter of conscience and he resigned in protest. He openly expressed his opposition to the bombing and firmly believed he’d be discharged from the RAF, but he wasn’t Because of this he was brought to the attention of modern anti-Iraq campaigners in the UK as his actions given as an example of good military policy.

The Charlton family can trace their family back to the 1290s in Northumberland. There were several families of this name in England at around that time, none of them directly related. The coat of arms of Baron Charlton, who fought at the Siege of Rouen in 1418, was a red lion on a gold shield. Lionel Charlton’s family have no proven relationship to the baron, so could not use the red lion unless that added something else to the design. Lionel’s ancestors added the green fretty design and the black square with gold lion.

I’ll concentrate from now on the medals and honours Lionel could display on his achievement. I’ll take them in order of official precedence. In the painting they are arranged below the shield and (with 1 as the highest in precedence) they rank, from left to right, as follows : 3,1,2,4.

1)            Lionel was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath on New Year’s Day 1919, entitling him to place the letters CB after his name. The Most Honourable Order of the Bath was created in 1725. Today it consists of 2 divisions – military and civilian. As a Companion of the Order Lionel could place the order’s badge beneath his shield. He was also entitled to place a circlet around his shield – the red circlet shown here. On it is written the motto of the Order, “Tria Juncto in Uno”. Around this circlet is a wreath which denotes his membership in the military division, and it has a small blue scroll at the bottom bearing the words “Ich Dien”.

2)            The next most senior award Lionel received was the Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG). This Order is not specifically a military one but is awarded to people who have served the British Crown abroad. Today this is usually given to diplomats. Lionel was awarded the CMG in 1916 and may have been in recognition of his appointment as ADC to the Governor of the Leeward Islands.

3)            The earliest award for bravery which Lionel could have shown is the DSO, a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order. Up until the last decade this was the highest military award fro bravery below the Victoria Cross. Lionel received this award in November 1900 in recognition of his bravery during the Boer War. He was a lieutenant with the West African Frontier Force at the Battle of Spion Kop in January 1900. Lionel was severely wounded but kept on fighting for 9 hours until his commanding officer ordered him to leave.

4)            Lionel received the Légion d’Honneur for his services in France. During World War I. Shortly after its formation Lionel transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. On the outbreak of World War I he was Flight Commander of No. 3 Squadron in northern France. Lionel was appointed a Chevalier (knight) of the Légion d’Honneur in November 1914, and after the war he was promoted to Officer. The badge of the Officer is shown on the extreme right of the medals.

Two bravery awards are not shown, though they are not generally included in any English armorial achievement. The first is the Royal Humane Society’s bronze medal awarded to him in 1899 for saving a man from drowning. The other is his Mention in Despatches (MiD). Lionel received 3 of these, the first in May 1918 and the last in July 1919. All 3 of his MiDs are commemorated on his Victory Medal as 3 oak leaves (as in the example is pictured below).
The family motto, “Sans Varier” (“Without Change”) is usually shown below the shield, though artistic licence is allowed. That’s why I’ve drawn in curling from behind the shield, creating a less “vertical” design. I chose not to colour the reverse of the motto scroll in Rainbow Pride colours as I have done with other lgbt achievements because I thought it would crowd the design with too much colour.

No comments:

Post a Comment