The Order of Industrial Heroism. By W.H. FEVYER, J.W. WILSON and J.E. CRIBB. Orders and Medals Research Society, 2000 (All copies sold). A4, card covers, thread sewn. xii + 197pp. + 6 plates and 35 b/w illustrations, ISBN: 0-9539207-0-4.
In 1923 the Daily Herald, a campaigning left-wing newspaper, observed that there Ďhad not yet been established a method of recognising the bravery of the toilers, though scarcely a day passes without some example of valour or self-sacrifice in the industrial field.í In an effort to address this omission, the newspaper took the decision to establish its own award, The Daily Herald Order of Industrial Heroism.
The Order of Industrial Heroism was awarded on 440 occasions between 1923 and 1964. This volume addresses not only the acts of gallantry which led to the making of these awards, but also sets the medal firmly in both its historical and artistic context. To achieve such a wide coverage represented a formidable challenge, but it is a challenge which has been effectively addressed by an authorial team possessing an exceptional depth of breadth of knowledge.
The volume commences with a foreward by John Monks, written in his capacity of Secretary General of the TUC, and a brief history of the Daily Herald and its links with the Labour Party and Trades Union movement. Thereafter it can be divided into two chapters. The first of these (by JEC) tackles the story of Eric Gillís designs for the medal and its accompanying certificates. As the grandson of Gillís first assistant, Cribb possesses a personal interest in his subject and this comes over strongly in his writing. The author displays a keen insight into Gillís place both in the world of art and on the fringes of the labour movement, mercifully choosing to sideline the more controversial aspects of the artistís life which were so spectacularly revealed in Fiona MacCarthyís biography. Instead, the role played in the design process by Gillís religious convictions is stressed, as is the degree to which the sculptor was willing to manipulate a project in order to attain his own ends. The chapter, which concludes with a numismatic survey of surviving medals, is well illustrated with high-quality images of the approved medal, draft designs and award certificates.
The following chapter (by WHF and JWW) reproduces citations for all of the 440 awards made. These have been drawn from a variety of sources, including TUC files in the possession of the University of North London, the London Gazette, contemporary newspaper reports and the records of associated humane societies. In many instances details of awards made to recipients of the Order of Industrial Heroism by the Crown, Royal Humane Society and other organisations are also provided, as are a good range of photographs of recipients and details of award ceremonies.
Overall, the quality of production is high and, whilst some minor typographical errors have slipped through the editorial net, they in no way detract from the usefulness of this astonishingly comprehensive volume. The writing of The Order of Industrial Heroism has been a very ambitious but ultimately extremely successful project, and the Orders and Medals Research Society are to be commended for their support. The volume is highly recommended not only to those with an interest in life saving awards, but also to anyone interested in industrial history or twentieth-century sculpture
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