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War Museum buys royal Vimy medal

The Canadian War Museum has bought a piece of royal memorabilia — a medal worn by King Edward VIII at the 1936 unveiling of Canada's colossal Vimy Memorial in France.

The Canadian War Museum has bought a piece of royal memorabilia — a medal worn by King Edward VIII at the 1936 unveiling of Canada's colossal Vimy Memorial in France.

The Ottawa-based museum paid $19,985 for the medal at an auction of artifacts that were once owned by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The auction was held Tuesday at Sotheby's in London.

The medal is a Vimy Pilgrimage Medal, created for the occasion by the Royal Canadian Legion and produced by badge maker J.R. Gaunt & Son.

It has the inscription "Vimy Pilgrimage," an engraving of the memorial and images of poppies set against a cross.

It was given to all Canadian soldiers and their families to mark the unveiling of the Vimy memorial, created by sculptor Walter Allward.

The Vimy Ridge battle of April 1917, in which Canadian troops fought together under a Canadian-appointed commander for the first time, was seen as a turning point in the First World War.

King Edward VIII wore the medal on the lapel of his suit on July 26, 1936, as he unveiled the monument, a fact noted by newspaper reporters at the time. He was about halfway through his year-long reign as King of Canada.

"We raise this memorial to Canadian warriors," the King said in a speech to about 6,000 Canadian veterans at the unveiling. "It is the inspired impression in stone, chiselled by a skilled Canadian hand, of Canada's salute to her fallen sons."

He stepped down as king in December 1936 to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson, and they became Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The throne went his brother King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth.

"The Vimy Medallion worn by Edward VIII is symbolic of the king's admiration and respect for Canada's great achievement and sacrifice at Vimy Ridge," Mark O'Neill, director general of the Canadian War Museum, said in a release announcing the purchase.

"It is a direct link to the unveiling of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, a tribute to all who served their country in battle in that four-year struggle and particularly to those who gave their lives."  

The purchase was supported by the Vimy Foundation.

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