The digital magazine of The Parachute Regimental Association

Messenger of The Gods British Parachute Wings Pin Badge

Medals to The Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces #1

  • Posted on 30 Dec 2023
  • 28 min read

The strange case of Colour Sergeant Caudwell’s medals…

In 2015, medal collector Dr André Chissel paid just under $10 000 USD to a New York-based dealership  — Historik Orders  — for the above medal group to former 2 PARA Senior NCO Trevor Caudwell. In general, decorations and medals awarded to Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces soldiers command higher prices in the medal collecting milieu than those awarded to other units.

Dr Chissel was thrilled to add the Caudwell group to his small but very select collection. As Falklands Conflict-related groups go, it was very desirable for several reasons. Not only had Colour Sergeant Trevor Caudwell’s engagement with small arms on June 13th 1982 of low-flying Argentine aircraft passed into Parachute Regiment lore but Caudwell had been wounded in action, which adds even more to the value of medals and medal groups.

The following passage from the book 2 PARA in The Falklands — attributed to Arnhem legend John Frost but, in reality, written by 2 PARA’s Regimental Signals Officer Captain David Benest — is as good a description as any of the exploit. Benest recounted: “The Machine Gun Platoon, firing from their trenches with their normal trajectory only slightly raised, was able to produce a barrage of bullets across the top of Sussex Mountain which resulted in a claim of at least three hits.

“The Defense Platoon, too, had its moment when a Skyhawk jettisoned its bombs on the far side of Ajax Bay and tried to escape by flying directly over Battalion HQ. Everyone leapt for cover, expecting cannon fire or more bombs. Robert Fox dived into the safety of the Adjutant’s trench behind a boulder. Colour Sergeant Caudwell and his men, however, sitting on the rock outcrop above, blazed away and claimed another hit as fuel poured down on them from a smoking fuselage.”.

June 1982: Trevor Caudwell heading the Defense Platoon in the Falkland Islands.

Another factor in the group’s desirability was the three-clasp General Service Medal — for the Radfan, Yemen and North Ireland. In addition to this rare CSM clasp combination, there was the United Nations Medal for Cyprus, instituted in March 1964 and awarded to 3 PARA personnel who completed the three-month UNFICYP tour there.

Trevor Caudwell’s medals had first been sold publicly by the London medal auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb in September 2000. DNW — now trading as Noonans Mayfair — published the following write-up in their catalogue: “Trevor Caudwell served with either 1 or 3 Para in the Radfan campaign and for a tour of Cyprus before transferring to 2 Para, probably on promotion and almost certainly the only recipient with this medal entitlement in his new battalion.

“He was in command of the Defence Platoon, HQ Coy, in the Falklands and was wounded in the foot in the action on 13 June 1982. He was the most senior NCO to be wounded and was operated on in the field by the RMO, Captain Hughes. Earlier in the conflict he and his men were responsible for damaging an Argentinian Skyhawk.”.

The Caudwell group changed hands several times between 2000 and 2015, when Dr Chissel bought it. One of the dealers who handled it was The London Medal Company whose co-founder Richard Black would state in May 2016 that: “[The Caudwell group] has been sold openly several times over the last 16 years and at no point during this time has there ever been a negative comment made about the group or question over entitlement.”.

By this time, Dr Chissel had been able to establish that Trevor Caudwell was not entitled to the Radfan clasp nor the UNFICYP Medal. Furthermore, he had never served with 1 or 3 PARA. Apart from a posting to Depot PARA, Trevor Caudwell was a 2 PARA man through and through.

Dr Chissel takes up the story: By the time I saw C/Sgt Caudwell’s medal group posted for sale on the New York-based Historik Orders website in 2015, the original vendors’ write-up had blossomed into several pages. With the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Falklands Conflict coming up, I decided that it would be a good time to buy the group. I felt that that it would be a wonderful addition to my very small medal collection and that it would be an interesting modern group well worthy of further research. As it turned out, I was not wrong!

“Through Prosper Keating, a fellow collector and former paratrooper with whom I made contact on the Internet at the very start of my research, I learned that the Caudwell medal group may have been fraudulently enhanced by the addition to the GSM of the Radfan clasp and also of the UN Medal for service with UNFICYP, the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus.

“I naturally alerted the New York dealer from whom I had bought the group — Robert Gottlieb — to this possibility. Mr Gottlieb replied that the group had been guaranteed by a third party, that every part of the group was genuine and that “proof” of this lay in the fact that the group had been through several dealers’ hands and no-one else had ever questioned its authenticity.

“This struck me as an odd line of reasoning, especially as Prosper Keating, through Allen Jones, a long-time friend of Trevor Caudwell — the pair had passed P Company together in 1965 — had been able to verify from Trevor Caudwell himself that the latter was not entitled to the Radfan clasp or the UNFICYP Medal. This is the advantage you have when the original recipient is still alive!

“At the same time, I was able to establish that the group was incomplete; it was missing the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal (QGJM) and the Accumulated Campaign Service Medal (ACSM). That said, these two medals did not exist when the group was first publicly sold by Dix Noonan Webb in 2000. Moreover, Trevor Caudwell had parted with the group when leaving the army, long before the institution of the ACSM in 1994.”.

Medal dealers and auctioneers often cite the difficulty of researching modern medals and groups because of the official and entirely understandable ban on divulging the service records of serving or recently retired military personnel. It can sometimes be difficult to access records going back as far as the 1939-1945 War, even for relatives. Unscrupulous types take advantage of this, as the Caudwell medal group reminds us.

One of the leading specialists

Contacted by Dr Chissel and myself, the New York dealer Robert Gottlieb came out fighting. He accepted no responsibility for the Caudwell group. Like Richard Black of The London Medal Group, Mr Gottlieb cited the well-known dealers, auctioneers and collectors who had presumed or claimed over the years that there was nothing amiss with the group. Mr Gottlieb even shared his correspondence with Dr Chissel and myself with Mr Black.

Through Allen Jones, Trevor Caudwell stated that he had not sold his medals and certainly not to any dealer. On leaving the Army in 1988, he had swapped his medals with another Colour Sergeant for some kit he wanted and the replacement medals he has worn to Regimental events and reunions since then, adding the genuine Accumulated Service Campaign Medal and Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal he has since received. Trevor Caudwell and his mates were rather taken aback to see the group mounted with the Radfan clasp and the UN Medal that added an estimated 40% or more to its value.

Mr Gottlieb’s 2015 write-up brought readers closer to the truth regarding the Caudwell group in stating that Trevor Caudwell had enlisted in 1965. One does not need access to Ministry of Defence records to understand that Trevor Caudwell could not have earned a campaign clasp for an action that ended the year before he signed up.

The same can be said of the UN Medal for service with UNFICYP, said by Dix Noonan Webb and others to have been awarded to Trevor Caudwell of 3 PARA for its 1964 mobilisation in Cyprus, a battalion with which he had never served.

Convincingly faked using a genuine Radfan clasp…

As the photographic close-ups show, the use of a genuine Radfan clasp and the excellent quality of the riveting indicate an extremely professional level of faking. Moreover, the service number on the medals should have indicated to any serious collector or dealer that the recipient was too late for the Radfan.

A professional job…

Official reluctance to divulge recent military records notwithstanding, any serious researcher could have written to regimental and battalion associations even in the days before the evolution of the Internet into the formidable research resource that it was already becoming by 2000, when Dix Noonan Webb wrote Trevor Caudwell’s fantasy resume. Moreover, the man himself was in the Aldershot telephone book.

One might say that it would have been easier to research the Caudwell medal group than was the case with other such groups. Writing to Robert Gottlieb, London dealer Richard Black stated: “From memory, the group was originally purchased from the recipient by well known [sic] Para collector and dealer Tony Godfrey. I am happy to do some digging if you wish.”.

It is a pity that none of the professional auctioneers and dealers did “some digging” regarding the Caudwell group. The same applies to the various collectors cited by said dealers as they played pass-the-parcel after Dr Chissel’s research exposed the fraudulently enhanced medal group. 

Historik Orders Ltd: Argentine flag?

Dr Chissel’s request that Robert Gottlieb partially refund him elicited a demand from the New York dealer that Dr Chissel and Il refrain from contacting him again. Mr Gottlieb wrote: “I would also like to suggest that you stop threatening me. You’ve been asked to not impune [sic] reputations so you have been put on notice. Liable [sic] is a serious matter.’. Nobody had threatened Mr Gottlieb. As for libel, according to this line of reasoning, Trevor Caudwell would be guilty of libelling the dealers and collectors by confirming the truth concerning his medals.

Mr Gottlieb continued: “All the info on the medals come from DNW as I am told. Feel free to call Pearce Noonan as he is expert in modern medals. His contact information is on DNW’s website. I suggest you move on as Caudwell sold/or moved on his medals for whatever reason he chose and have been in the collecting market now for some 16 years as pointed out by Richard Black and has changed hand [sic]. All the collectors having a great deal of experience with medals and confirmation. DNW did the same.

“According to Richard Black who is one of Britain’s most successful medals dealers the bars and medal are all correct. Again if you disagree please feel free to call him as he has invited you to do so. His reputation is impeccable. No more emails please.”.

OMRS journal: protecting advertisers?

Dr Chissel then wrote an article for the prestigious Order and Medals Research Society journal of which he says: “It is fair to say that the OMRS imposed extensive cuts on my first draft. However, as luck would have it, during these revisions, Trevor Caudwell got in touch with me directly by email.”.

Trevor Caudwell wrote: “Hi I have been asked by my mate Al Jones, to speak to you about the saga of my medals. My last two years in the army was spent down at our Depot. 

“I was approached by another C/Sgt who said he collected medals and would I be interested in exchanging them for anything. At this stage there was no mention of money. Not thinking much about it at the time, I told him I would like two arctic sleeping bags and a two-man tent which he was more than glad to do, so I got the kit plus another set of medals which he had made up. With that I was more than happy.

“Then I received a phone call from a mate of mine — this, by the way, was years later — saying he had had a phone call from another mate asking him if I was hard up for money as he had noticed that my medals were up for sale.

“After looking at the medals I noticed an extra bar on the GSM for the Radfan. When that took place, I think in 1963/64, I was working down the pit (colliery) so I could not have earned that bar. Also there was a UN medal. During the time I spent with 2 Para they never did a UN tour.

“So, I got in touch with the chap who I gave my medals to and asked him if he still had my medals to which he replied he did not save medals anymore and had given all the medals he had away which I did not believe for one minute.

“But not to go on too long, there is no way I would have doctored my own medals, especially while still serving as someone would have spotted them, so at the end of the day when I exchanged my medals there was a GSM with South Arabia and Northern Ireland, a Falklands Medal with a Rosette and a LS&GC medal.

“I do hope this has been some help to you. Trev Caudwell.”.

When Dr Chissel consigned the Caudwell group to Noonans Mayfair for resale early in 2024, he included his research file and the OMRS article. He was working on a revised version of the article for publication by Hermes as the first in an occasional series of articles about decorations and medals to The Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces.

When Dr Chissel received the catalogue copy for approval, he was surprised to see that there was no mention of the Caudwell group’s shady past. Noonans’ Head of Client Liaison, Christopher Mellor-Hill replied to my email asking about this: “I am not sure why you are involved in this matter but I should just mention that Mr. Chissel was sent the ‘ DRAFT ‘ of the entries for comment and to advise us of any E & O.”.

Christopher Mellor-Hill: ex-HAC

A former commodities broker and Honourable Artillery Company member, Mr Mellor-Hill continued: “As we sold the medals originally the cataloguer had, as is normal practice, copied the original entry before he had become aware that there was further information from Mr. Chissel. The Caudwell medals had not gone online and had not gone public because we had not finished our cataloguing. For your information they are currently withdrawn pending our review of the matter.”.

Mr Mellor-Hill’s response prompts the question of why Noonans sent Dr Chissel the catalogue text from 2000 for his approval when Dr Chissel had supplied his research to Noonans when he consigned the Caudwell medal group. However, it is a moot point because Dr Chissel has decided to keep Trevor Caudwell’s medal group despite Noonans’ kind offer to remove the Radfan clasp and the UN Medal and mount the medals as they were when Colour Sergeant Caudwell parted with them in 1988.

Trevor Caudwell, centre, wearing the medals to which he is entitled

Dr Chissel said: “This group will always be the pride and joy of my very small collection. Moreover, its notoriety is now of course assured by the fact that it is the first ever ‘pimped’ South Atlantic Medal group to have been discovered and written about.”. From another viewpoint, there is now no risk that anyone looking at this medal group might conclude that the recipient, former C/Sgt Caudwell, ‘bloated’ his military career, a risk to which Trevor Caudwell was exposed by various individuals who have expressed not one iota or regret or contrition.

You might also like…