The Collection of Medals formed by the late Alan Wolfe

The Collection of Medals formed by the late Alan Wolfe

Alan Wolfe (1928 - 2004)

Alan Douglas Wolfe, a CIA operations officer who served as chief of the Near East and South Asia division and European division, died on 5 March 2004 at his home close by the Great Falls of the Potomac River in Maryland, USA, aged 75. He was born in New York and graduated from Columbia University where he received a master's degree in Chinese history and language. He retired in 1989 after almost 40 years service with the Agency for which he received two 'Distinguished Intelligence' medals. His overseas career included duty in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Rome and London.

Alan had a taste for the good things in life: travel (frequently London, France and Italy), books, theatre, cinema, wine, cigars and, not least, his much loved 'old English white' MGB GT regularly parked in the car porch of his sleek contemporary house. He also had a wide range of interests. Closer to home was a fascination with the culture of the American Indian. Further afield grew a lifelong passion for the history and art of South Asia, China and the Middle East. He had a particular interest in British India during the 18th and 19th century, facilitated by a lengthy posting to Pakistan where Alan bought his first medals in 1969 from Peshawar's cantonment bazaar-beginning thirty-five years of active medal collecting.
He was a regular visitor to the silver bazaar in Rawalpindi where the uncontested supremo of the medal trade-one Sheikh Mohd Sayeed of 'Universal Enterprises'-once held sway. But with his razor sharp intelligence and tremendous energy, Alan was not content to rely only on regular commercial outlets. On one occasion he was captured on camera, standing in an open field somewhere near Rawalpindi with the V.C. group of an 89th Punjabis subedar in one hand, in animated discussion with the recipient's descendants, and brandishing the published records of the regiment in the other. Luck was always in the equation and he often related how he was able to acquire a fine medal group in the car park of the Lahore Museum from a disgruntled gentleman whose offer to sell the museum his ancestor's medals had just been summarily rejected.

Although there is a strong element of Indian Army material in Alan's medal collection, he developed a broader perspective upon military endeavour across Great Britain's far-flung empire. lie liked to describe himself as a 'magpie' collector. His love for the chase and the cut and thrust of trading was tempered by an eye for quality. He had an efficient modus operandi, making regular visits to the London medal trade where he exchanged much of what he had picked up in Pakistan for medals to British recipients. The collection reflects sound judgement in the acquisition of some excellent material representing many fabled battles on land and at sea and it is greatly enhanced by one of Alan's indisputable strengths: that he admired the medal to the Camel Corps sarwan equally as much as the medal to the Cavalry colonel.

Alan Wolfe was a regular visitor to the annual O.M.R.S. convention in London and had many friends in the international medal collecting fraternity. He will be greatly missed by those who knew him.