Iron Cross
Brora Heritage Centre

Warning – some people may find this object upsetting.

It is not unusual to find medals and war memorabilia from a range of countries within British museums. The Iron Cross originated in Prussia during the Napoleonic Wars. However, it became a symbol of German bravery and was re-established on a number of occasions, including during the Second World War.

This German Iron Cross medal is dated from 1939 and includes the Nazi swastika motif which was a new addition that year. The swastika was intended to symbolise Aryan purity and is now viewed as a symbol of hate and oppression.

Very unusually, this medal has had the initial of James Manson Sutherland, (1912-2006), of Brora stamped on the underside of the cross-guard.

James, usually known as Jim, was among the first hundred men to volunteer for the new ‘Commando’ unit. He trained at Achnacarry, around thirty miles from Fort William in the West Highlands. These special forces were taught ‘unconventional warfare’ and played vital and very dangerous roles during the Second World War.

Whilst in the Commandos and the SAS, Jim served in several theatres of war in Europe between 1939 and 1945, including France, Africa, Netherlands and Norway. He would have had many encounters with the enemy, including close combat. However, we don’t know the exact circumstances in which he acquired this medal from an enemy soldier. It is likely that he took it as a souvenir of battle. Attitudes to taking souvenirs of this kind have changed over time and many people no longer find this acceptable.

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Date: 1939-1945
Materials : Metal, Ribbon, Marble
Size : 3.5cm x 4cm

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