One of the most common medals of the Second World War is the ‘War Medal’. Like many collectors this was one of the first I ever picked up and I have had this one since I was a child. The medal has a crown portrait of George VI on the obverse:The reverse of the medal has a lion standing over a two headed dragon, one head is an eagle the other a dragon to symbolise Germany and Japan:The reverse also has the years of the war’s duration, 1939 and 1945, displayed upon it. The medal itself is made of cupro-nickel and is 1.42 inches across, with a non swivelling suspender above:The ribbon is in red white and blue, the colours of the Union flag:The qualification requirement for the award of the War Medal 1939–1945 to full-time military personnel was 28 days of service, wherever rendered. Qualifying service in the Merchant Navy was 28 days of service anywhere at sea during the qualifying period. Foreign subjects commissioned or enlisted into British Forces who did not receive a similar award to the War Medal 1939–1945 from their own Governments were also eligible to qualify for the award of this medal.
Full-time paid members of the specially approved colonial and other military forces, militarised police or militarised civilian bodies that were eligible to qualify for campaign stars were also eligible to qualify by 28 days of service during the qualifying period as laid down for the force concerned, as follows:
- Aden Armed Police from 3 February 1939 to 2 September 1945.
- British Honduras Defence Force from 3 September 1939 to 3 December 1939.
- British Guiana Constabulary, excluding those who ceased to belong to the Force for reasons other than death, ill-health or age, from 3 September 1939 to 14 July 1945.
- British Guiana Military Band from 29 April 1942 to 8 May 1945.
- Cyprus Police Force employed on full-time military service from 10 June 1940 to 12 June 1941.
- Cyprus Volunteer Force from 2 June 1941 to 2 September 1945.
- Gambia Police Force from 5 July 1940 to 17 August 1940.
- Gambian Army Inland Water Transport on the SS Munshi from 21 July 1942 to 31 May 1944.
- Gibraltar Defence Force from 3 September 1939 to 2 March 1940.
- Nigeria Police Force from 23 July 1940 to 8 May 1945.
- Palestine Police Force from 27 May 1942 to 8 May 1945.
- Sudan Defence Force for full-time permanent service anywhere in the Sudan from 3 September 1939 to 8 May 1945.
- Trinidad Police Force from 3 September 1939 to 2 September 1945.
- Zanzibar Police Force from 3 September 1939 to 2 September 1945.
The qualification for the specially approved categories of uniformed civilians who were eligible to qualify for Campaign Stars was 28 days of service in the area of an army operational command overseas, or overseas from or outside the country of residence in non-operational areas subjected to enemy air attack or closely threatened. Service in the United Kingdom or in the territory of residence, other than in an army operational area, was not a qualification.
The medal was awarded to personnel whose required service period was terminated prematurely by their death, disability due to service or capture as a prisoner-of-war and whose service qualified them for one of the Second World War Campaign Stars. Personnel who had received one of the Stars for a service period of less than 28 days were also awarded the War Medal 1939–1945.
Having largely ignored medals up until now, I have increased my collection of British medals by 60% in the last couple of weeks. After the France and Germany Star we looked at last week, tonight we have the Defence Medal. Again this was a cheap find on Huddersfield second hand market as the ribbon and the suspension bar were missing. A pound on a new ribbon and a bit of scrap wire and the medal was soon back in shape…The medal itself is made of Cupro Nickel, with a bar suspended above. The obverse shows King George VI:The reverse has the medals description ‘THE DEFENCE MEDAL’ at the bottom, with the dates 1939 and 1945 and the crown above an oak sapling, flanked by a lion and lioness all above the waves:The ribbon of the medal is green for the green and pleasant land of Great Britain with a broad orange stripe for the flames of the blitz and two narrow black stripes for the blackout:This is a very common medal, issued to many different military and civilian personnel and there were many criteria for award:
In the United Kingdom this included military personnel working in headquarters, on training bases and airfields for the duration of the War in Europe from 3 September 1939 to 8 May 1945, and service by members of the Home Guard during its existence from 14 May 1940 to 31 December 1944. The medal was also awarded for non-operational service overseas in the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, India and the Colonies.
Those who qualified for the award of any one of the Campaign Stars could be awarded the Defence Medal in addition, and the subsequent award of one of the Campaign Stars did not supersede a previous award of the Defence Medal.
Eligible civilian service in the United Kingdom included, but was not confined to, civilian services whose members were eligible for Chevrons for war service.
- Civil Defence services established by a Government Department or Local Authority.
- Wardens Service, including Shelter Wardens.
- Rescue Service, including former First-Aid Party Service.
- Decontamination Service.
- Report and Control Service.
- Messenger Service.
- Ambulance Service. including Sitting Case Cars.
- First-Aid Service, including First-Aid Posts and Points, Public Cleansing Centres, Mobile Cleansing Units and the Nursing Service for public air-raid shelters.
- Local Authority Civil Defence Services.
- Rest Centre Service.
- Emergency Food Service, including the Queen’s Messenger Convoy Service.
- Canteen Service.
- Emergency Information Service.
- Mortuary Service.
- National Fire Service, including service in a local authority Fire Brigade or the Auxiliary Fire Service prior to nationalisation.
- The Police, Royal Marine Police Special Reserve, Admiralty Civil Police, War Department Constabulary, Air Ministry Constabulary, Railway Police and Dock Police.
- American Ambulance, Great Britain.
- Civil Air Transport.
- Civil Defence Reserve, Kent County Civil Defence Mobile Reserve and West Sussex County Civil Defence Mobile Reserve.
- Civil Nursing Reserve.
- Civilian Technical Corps.
- Coast Guard.
- Fire Guards who performed duties under the local authorities, or at Government or business premises.
- Lighthouse keepers who served under the three Lighthouse Authorities and keepers of Light-Vessels under those authorities, who did not qualify for the 1939-1945 Star.
- Nurses in hospitals for which Government Departments or local authorities were responsible, or in the recognised Voluntary hospitals.
- Port of London Authority River Emergency Service.
- Clyde River Patrol.
- Royal Observer Corps.
- Women’s Voluntary Services for Civil Defence, whose members could qualify provided:
- They were enrolled in an eligible local authority Civil Defence Service.
- They performed duties analogous to those of one of the eligible local authority Civil Defence Services and the section of the Women’s Voluntary Services to which they belonged was one which functioned operationally during or immediately after enemy attacks.
The length of qualifying service required for the award of the Defence Medal varied, depending on where and in what role an individual served.
- For persons normally resident in the United Kingdom, the requirement was 1,080 days (three years) of service in the United Kingdom or 90 days (three months) of service in a Mine and Bomb Disposal Unit. The qualifying period in the United Kingdom ended upon the end of the War in Europe on 8 May 1945.
- In a non-operational area which was not subjected to air attack and which was not closely threatened, the requirement was 360 days (one year) of service overseas from or outside the individual’s country of residence. Military service overseas from the United Kingdom could qualify up to 2 September 1945 when the war in the Pacific ended. Service was reckonable from the date of embarkation and was counted at its full rate for the voyage to the non-operational area.
- In a non-operational area subjected to air attack or closely threatened, the requirement was 180 days (six months) of service overseas from or outside a person’s country of residence. The same applied to British Commonwealth citizens from overseas who served in the Home Guard in the United Kingdom. Service was reckonable from the date of embarkation and, for the voyage to the area of service, was counted at half the actual duration of the voyage
Soldiers in the First World War were only issued three basic medals, the 1914-15 Star, the War Medal and the Victory Medal. After the Second World War the British government issued a much wider selection of campaign medals covering many of the different theatres of war:
- 1939-45 Star
- Atlantic Star
- Air Crew Europe Star
- Africa Star
- Pacific Star
- Burma Star
- Italy Star
- France and Germany Star
Belatedly in 2012 an Arctic Star was instituted as well. These medals were also accompanied by a Defence Medal and a War Medal of circular design. I was pleased to pick up the France and Germany Star for £5 on Tuesday’s second hand market; it was missing a ribbon, but a pound on another stall soon remedied that situation! The medal itself follows the standard design with a six pointed star struck in yellow copper zinc alloy. The medal is suspended from a ribbon passing through a ring at the uppermost point:The reverse of the medal is plain, whilst the obverse has the Royal G VI R cypher with a crown above and a circle describing the medal, in this case France and Germany Star:The ribbon is striped blue-white-red-white-blue:These colours represent the national flags of the UK, France and Belgium. The medal was issued to those who served in Western Europe between June 6th 1944 and 8th May 1945 inclusive. These medals are not hard to find and seem to fetch around £20 each for an original (beware fakes are out there!).