SPOTLIGHT ON MEDALS
Will Bennett of the Orders & Medals Research Society tells the tale of
Bob Long and his life saving deeds
Acquiring a type of medal that you never thought you would own and uncovering an interesting story or gaining an insight into the life and character of someone long forgotten can be so rewarding. The tale of Bob Long and his life saving medal ticked all of these boxes and reminded me that you should never assume anything when researching.
The life saving awards issued by governments and other organisations are fascinating medals and some collectors specialise in them entirely. I do not often venture into this area but I could not resist the Life Saving Medal of the Order of St John named to Long when it was offered to me. Information with the medal said that he was serving with the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry in which I am interested.
Further research revealed that Long won his award for bravery when the yeomanry was preparing for the visit of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) to celebrate the regiment’s centenary in Devizes, Wiltshire in 1893. As it returned from drilling, the band struck up as it reached the main road.
The music startled two horses drawing a passing carriage and they veered round throwing the coachman into the road. The animals then bolted towards Devizes with the passenger, a Mrs Wynell Mayow, and a footman still aboard, frightened and helpless. Trooper Bob Long chased the runaway carriage for three-quarters of a mile and finally jumped from his horse to grab the harness and, after being dragged some distance, brought it to a halt.
When the Prince arrived for the celebrations the following day he must have been told about Long’s bravery. As he was the Grand Prior of the Order of St John, he would have had great influence over who was awarded its Life Saving Medal. The following year Long was personally presented with the medal by the heir to the throne.
The unusual story behind the medal was now clear but I still knew little about Long. As he was a trooper I thought that he could not possibly be connected with the Long dynasty who were major landowners in Wiltshire and had provided generations of officers for the yeomanry. My assumption proved wrong. Robert Chaloner Critchley Long, to give him his full name, was the younger brother of two successful men, one of whom, Walter, became one of the most powerful politicians in Britain.
While Bob ran up debts, failed to get a commission in the Army and lost the only Parliamentary election he ever fought, Walter spent 41 years as a Conservative MP, sixteen of them as a Cabinet minister. Walter was also a senior officer in the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry and probably told the Prince of Wales about his brother’s bravery. Bob’s life continued on a disastrous course but warm tributes were paid to him after his death in 1938. He was a muchliked, albeit flawed, man and also a brave one as the incident in Devizes showed.
Find out much more about medal collecting with the help of the Orders & Medals Research Society. The Society exists to promote a general interest in the study of orders, decorations and medals and to actively encourage and publish research into all aspects of civil and military medals, with a particular focus on those issued by Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries. Visit the website: omrs.org
One of the great pleasures of medal collecting is the joy of the unexpected, writes Will Bennett of the Orders & Medals Research Society, as he tells the tale of Bob Long and his life saving medal