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When noting his recreations, he gave precedence to ‘Military History’ above ‘Archaeological Fieldwork’ – a nod towards the extensive collection of British military badges to be sold in a single-owner sale at Thomas Del Mar in west London on April 24. The 450 lots come from Thomas’ family.

The catalogue includes an introduction by Stephen Wood, who was curator of badges and medals at the National Army Museum, 1973-83, and keeper at the National War Museum of Scotland, 1983-2000.

Wood writes of Charles Thomas: “Military history, and the collecting of its material culture ‘militaria’, remained an abiding interest with him for more than 70 years; the extent of this interest is demonstrable by the extent of this collection – which is remarkable by any standards.”

‘Lack of parochiality’

Charles Thomas was a Cornishman through and through.

However, “while the nucleus of this collection must be the 40-or-so lots of the military insignia of Cornwall, its enormous extent and global spread is wholly indicative of the professor’s complete lack of parochiality, in his collecting as in everything else,” adds Wood.

An extensive library, comprising well in excess of 1000 individual publications on all aspects of military history, will also be offered in around 20 lots. Charles Thomas himself wrote – or co-wrote – three books of relevance to this collection: Military Insignia of Cornwall (1974) and its supplement (1976) and Badges of Cornwall’s Home Guard (2007).

Wood states: “Other than his family, some fortunate curators and a few fellow badge-collectors, few knew Charles Thomas as either a badge collector or military historian; his numerous obituaries confirm this.

“His public persona was that of a Cornish historical scholar and distinguished archaeologist.”

Specialist Del Mar, founder and member of the 25 Blythe Road auctions ‘collective’, says: “Everything has been minutely researched by the owner and it has just been one of those great collections to work with for all the specialists involved.

“This is to our knowledge the largest collection of its type to come to market in living memory. It is truly comprehensive.”