[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
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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
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.