Fenland collector returns precious medals to former Para
A local war memorabilia collector and dealer has managed to track down the owner of a set of medals unearthed in the pocket of a discarded uniform.
Michael Burroughs, of Manea, was offered a collection of uniforms and other military gear dumped at a tip by one of his contacts, aware of his fascination for anything militaria, four years ago.
There were five kit bags full of uniform which Michael said dated from the 1970s up to the 1990s and was belonging to the Parachute Regiment – known colloquially as the Paras – and whose first battalion forms the SAS.
Michael, a former council officer who turned his hobby of collecting into a living a few years ago, explained: “My friend contacted me and said he had a load of uniforms and would I be interested. It had been taken to the tip at Milton Keynes. Like a lot of tips, Milton Keynes allows items to be bought as part of their recycling policy.
“Obviously, I said yes. Going through the pockets, I found a set of medals belonging to a former officer in the parachute regiment. I thought it was unusual and it appeared they had probably been discarded by mistake.
“I decided I wanted to return them to him, but unlike old service records, those of former servicemen who are still alive are kept sealed for obvious reasons.
“However, I managed to track the former owner down, and he was amazed they had been found. He was really lucky as they could quite easily have ended up in landfill.
“Instead I managed to return them to him, and he received them on Christmas Eve, which was a nice early present for him. They had a market value of around £2,500 – but it was a pleasure to return them to him. He will now be able to wear them with pride if he attends
Remembrance Day services and things like that.”
Michael has become a bit of a ‘go to’ person for museums, collectors, television and even Hollywood for his extensive knowledge of military history.
Not only do museums ask him to check displays to ensure they are historically correct, but film makers
often rely on him to provide essential artefacts to make their movies realistic.
One such example was the television series ‘My mother and other strangers’. They wanted a Second World War button and Michael sold it to them for £5.
He said: “I sourced them the button they needed but had no idea how much to charge, so I just said a fiver for it. Afterwards, when I watched the series and saw how much the button was featured – I realised I could probably have asked a lot more.”
Michael’s advice was also sought by fashion house Ralph Lauren when it did a military-inspired collection.
“They wanted me to check the buttons to make sure there were no insignia with a sinister history – obviously they didn’t want anything controversial,” said Michael.
He concluded: “I really love what I do, it is great that I have been able to turn my life-time hobby into a way of earning a living. It is fascinating – you never know what you might find. Only recently I turned up a medal that I had never seen before belonging to a diplomat who had the number 001 – it is now featured in the Medal Year Book, which is great.”