Professor Antony Charles Thomas CBE DL DLitt FSA FRHistS FBA (1928-2016) was a towering figure in British academic archaeology during the second half of the twentieth century. Military history also played an important role in his life for more than seventy years, particularly the collecting of militaria. His extensive collection comprising approximately 15,000 pieces, including cap-badges from all over the world and from all the services as well as schools, is to be offered in almost 500 lots by Thomas Del Mar Ltd at 25 Blythe Road, London W14 on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 at 10 am. Viewing will take place on the preceding Saturday, Sunday and Monday and online bidding is available via the-saleroom.com
As Stephen Wood MA FSA, Curator of Badges and Medals at the National Army Museum, from 1973 to 1983; and Keeper at the National War Museum of Scotland from 1983 to 2000, noted in the catalogue introduction: the extent of this interest is demonstrable by the extent of this collection which is remarkable by any standards.
He continues: Other than his family, some fortunate curators and a few fellow badge-collectors, few knew Charles Thomas as either a badge collector or military historian; his numerous obituaries confirm this. His public persona was that of a Cornish historical scholar and distinguished archaeologist. He brought to his collecting the same forensic skills as guided his archaeology, carefully and assiduously curating his collection as if he had chosen a different career path and become a museum curator (of a type now largely extinct). It is now for other collectors, of a new generation, to continue his interests by benefitting from the dispersal of this remarkable collection.
Estimates vary from £40 up to £1,500 and some of the lots include over 100 pieces. Among the notable highlights is an Officer's gilt Helmet-Plate Centre of the Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry dating from 1851 estimated at £200300; while a group of 96 Infantry Cap Badges post-1881 representing, among others, the Somerset Light Infantry, PWO (Prince of Wales Own), East Yorkshire and Lancashire Fusiliers, of which approximately 36 are for officers, carries an estimate of £1,000 1,500.
Professor Thomas was a patriotic Cornishman, so it is no surprise that his beloved county is represented in the sale. These items include an Officer's Shoulder-Belt Plate of the 32nd Regiment. This rectangular gilt plate mounted with an eight-pointed star in white metal, the rays bearing battle-honours to 'Nive' and a QVC (Queen Victorias Cross) above the central circlet is inscribed 'Cornwall Regt', with regimental number, within a laurel wreath above 'Waterloo' scroll. The lot carries an estimate of £500800. Among another Cornish lot, estimated at £300-450, is an Officer's Pouch Belt Plate of the Royal Cornwall Rangers with a massive cast white metal plate with a coronet above a rococo shield bearing the County Arms voided within an oval strap inscribed 'Royal Cornwall Militia or Duke of Cornwall's Rangers', flanked by oakleaf sprays, with 3 fixing lugs.
Elsewhere among the British military groupings is a Brigade of Gurkhas Insignia comprising 76 items such as cap and collar badges, buttons and shoulder- titles of the 2nd, 6th, 7th and 10th Gurkha Rifles, Gurkha Engineers, Signals and Transport Regiment. These include an 1857 - 1957 commemorative badge of the 2nd Gurkhas, officers' pouch belt plates of the 6th Gurkhas, Gurkha Engineers and the Gurkha Transport Regiment, a piper's plaid-brooch of the 10th Gurkhas, and arm badges of the 153rd and 154th Indian Parachute Battalions. The lot is expected to fetch £120-180.
Other notable British pieces include a collection of 11 items including a Royal Engineers Sabretache Badge and Headdress Plates estimated at £400-600, while 13 items including a selection of Grenadier and Coldstream Guards Headdress Badges carries an estimate of £350-500.
The military of other countries is extremely evident in the sale including 18 items from the Polish Air Force of the 1920s - 1930s as well as the Polish Air Force in Great Britain between 1940-1945 such as Air Regiment, Squadron and cap badges with shoulder title and rank insignia and buttons. This is estimated at £600 800. 12 Badges of the Royal Flying Corps (Canada), Canadian Air Force 1919-23 and Royal Canadian Air Force comprising RFC (Can) Cap and collar badges, CAF pilot's flying badge and RCAF Full Dress belt clasp are estimated at £300-400, and 15 items relating to the Australian Flying Corps with Royal Australian Air Force Insignia including an AFC cap, collar and shoulder strap metal badges with AFC Overseas Service triangular arm badge and various RAAF badges carry an estimate of £400-600. One of the rarer pieces is an example of an officer's Albert shako-plate of the Cameronians, which is estimated at £200-300.
The collection also includes a selection of RAF badges including Royal Naval Air Service and early Royal Air Force insignia and buttons from 1914 1918, 35 items in total, estimated at £100 150. Also featured is a framed panel estimated at £150 200 containing 17 items of Royal Naval Air Service Armoured Car Branch insignia and early Royal Air Force Airmans cap badge as well as a framed panel of Pipe Band insignia for 602 (Glasgow) and 603 (Edinburgh) Auxiliary Air Force Squadrons, 1936 containing 33 items estimated at £150 200. Also of interest in this section is a lot of 65 items of Royal Flying Corps Insignia, 1912 1918 of Officers' and Airmen's cap badges, officers' and Senior NCO's collar badges among other items, estimated at £300- 400.
Objects relating to important military campaigns and figures will be offered. A large quantity of memorabilia relating to the Crimean War including a Field Marshal's button, said to be from Lord Raglan's coatee, a Crimea medal with Sebastopol clasp, an Allied gilt-copper commemorative medal for the battle of Inkerman, a group of coins totalling 3/4d (representing a day's pay of a Royal Artillery Sergeant Major), a small brass/wood model of a 12-inch mortar, a strip of machine-embroidered patriotic ribbon dated 1851 from the Great Exhibition, a 1st Edition copy of Florence Nightingale's "Notes on Nursing", and a small book of paintings of contemporary French military uniforms, as a lot carry an estimate of £250-400.
Also of interest is a quantity of memorabilia of General Gordon including a manuscript note dated 8/1/74 to a Mr Waller inscribed "Before entrusting instruments to Mr Williams, see he is conversant with them," another short letter dated 11/3/84 to Mr Waller, complete with its envelope and a transcript, a Union Flag, made in Khartoum from strips of coloured paper, sent to Mr Waller for his children. All the items are in individual glazed frames, together with three Egyptian Army buttons, and are expected to fetch £70-100.