|Joe Vango DCM MM BS|
Like a crocodile submerged in a watering hole waiting for hapless prey to stop by for a drink, the Waltenkommando wait patiently – and usually not for very long. Down to the water’s edge to slake his thirst steps Mr Joe Wildebeest – or Joe Vango to be more precise. The water stirs.
A Land Down Under
It all started in a land far far away a couple of years ago when one of our colonial cousins Down Under spotted something in a magazine that didn’t add up. Said colonial is an expert on medals – in particular those pertaining to the Korean War. The magazine was ‘The Morning Calm’, the journal of the British Korean Veterans’ Association (BKVA), and it had been donated to our man in the Antipodes by a friend and Korean ‘vet’ – that’s as in veteran, not as in a slanty-eyed James Herriot.
Anyhow, in the April 2007 edition our man spots the name of one Joe Vango DCM MM – Gloucestershire Branch Secretary and former 3RAR (3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment) Korea, WW2 veteran and ex-POW. Now, our man did 23 years in the mob and knows that a double gallantry award winner is something that doesn’t exactly grow on trees. Surely he’d recognise the name of such a distinguished hero?
Being a historian, our man - let’s call him ‘Steve’ – has a shed-load of literature concerning all things medal-related - and in particular records pertaining to Australian units in Korea and who got what. Surprise surprise, guess who's name is not on the list? A trawl through that trusy Walt-outer the London Gazette likewise yielded a big fat zero. Nothing. Nada. Niente. Neither DCM or MM to such an individual in Korea or otherwise.
Somewhat miffed, ‘Steve’ pens a rather stiff missive to the editor of 'The Morning Calm' and flags up Vango as a possible Walt. The editor then sends the letter on to the Honorary General Secretary of the BKVA – Frank Ellison OBE BEM JP who contacts Vango and squares up to him regarding his medal rack. Frank, understandably treated the allegations seriously and took a very dim view of such fraudulent claims, but it seemed that the writing was on the wall, despite feeble protestations from Vango that he had a letter from the Australian Army authorising him to wear both decorations – which in itself suggested that he had them before joining the RAR.
It transpired that Vango did actually see service in Korea with 3RAR and had a Service Number that indicated he was a British enlistee with possible prior service in the British Army. Records, however, showed no such decorations and nor was he listed as a POW. He did not serve in Malaya, Borneo or Vietnam. Oh dear!
Bubbled, Vango does a runner and goes off the radar. However, the story doesn’t end there. Fast forward two years to June 2009. The Normandy Veteran’s Association are parading for the last time at the Cenotaph in olde London towne. Like a moth to a candle the opportunity to hog the limelight was simply too good to miss and in to the spotlight steps our Wildebeest.
Festooned with enough tinware to put even Phil the Greek to shame, Joe Vango DCM MM is on parade – and it makes for an impressive sight. Sporting a blazer and beret with the badge of the Wiltshire Regiment, his medal rack looks like the fucking Dulux colour chart and within a short time he’s been spotted by the Gongpolizei. Rule 1 of Walting: never, never, ever have your photograph taken. Joe's medals are:
- Distinguished Conduct Medal
- Military Medal
- 1939-45 Star
- France & Germany Star
- Defence Medal
- War Medal
- General Service Medal 1918
- Korea Medal
- UN Korea Medal
- Australian Active Service Medal (Korea)
- 1953 Coronation Medal
- 1977 Jubilee Medal
- 2002 Jubilee Medal
Even with some other associated tat that he'd pinned on that's quite a rack! Within 24 hours Vango had been featured on a medal experts' forum and was duly shredded. It’s a small world – one of the members being the bloke who spotted Vango in the first place. Vango’s reputation was junked and yet again another walt was outed.
It’s not the first time that someone with creditable service has over-egged the custard. But pitching up to a parade sporting gallantry awards that you’re not entitled to is invoking the Curse of ARRSE. Why do they do it? God knows. But times have changed Walter. The internet is your enemy.