Medals from the collection of Angela and the late Douglas Bertram

Medals from the collection of Angela and the late Douglas Bertram

John Douglas Bertram (1927 - 2004)

Anyone driving down a country lane on the very edge of Dartmoor and seeing this tall, lean farmer talking affectionately to his herd of dairy cows would not have an inkling as to his past experiences, let alone his passion for medal collecting.

The only child of an expatriate family living in Hong Kong prior to the outbreak of World War II, Douglas quickly became a 'young adult' and would accompany his father on visits to meet the captain and officers of merchant ships trading into Hong Kong. This started a lifetime interest in men of the merchant fleet. His godfather was one of the two pipers in the Hong Kong Defence Force (see lot 177). With his mother, Douglas was on one of the last ships to leave Hong Kong before it fell into enemy hands-leaving his father, the chief engineer of the power station, sadly never to see him again.

The mid-War years were spent in Australia, and those who attended A Weekend of Medals at Banbury a few years ago will remember his intriguing talk on the Japanese midget submarine raid on Sydney Harbour, which Douglas actually witnessed. Towards the end of the War he returned to the UK to be commissioned into the Grenadier Guards, transferring to the Devonshire Regiment. He saw action in South East Asia where he was mentioned in despatches, later returning to Europe where he served in the Army of Occupation. On returning to civilian life Douglas started farming and met his future wife, Angela; together they bought the farm in Devon where he remained in harness until 2003. Discovering medals over 30 years ago, he found it a perfect hobby, allowing him to pursue his love of history and research. In conversation with him we could never decide whether he was a Magpie or a Squirrel, everything possible was acquired -a true collector! With his Far East upbringing, China and Hong Kong featured very strongly in his collection, as did the medals of Indian 'followers', the Merchant Navy and men in the Royal Navy who served in the East. Douglas was a founder member of the West of England Medal Club, and for the last ten years he held the combined office of chairman and secretary. He was much respected by members for freely sharing his encyclopaedic medallic knowledge.

I knew Douglas for over 25 years and could not have asked for a truer friend.