Medals of the First World War

Campaign Medals

1914 Star

Also known as the Mons Star, the 1914 Star was instituted in 1917 for service ashore in France and Flanders between 5th August and 22nd November 1914. The majority of recipients were officers and men of the British Expeditionary Force (the Old Contemptibles) who landed in France soon after the outbreak of the War and who took part in the retreat from Mons. The reverse is plain and engraved with the recipient's number, rank, name and unit. Over 362,000 were awarded in total. Recipients of this medal also received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

A Clasp, often referred to as Clasp and Roses was instituted in 1919 and awarded to those who were under fire, or had operated within range of mobile artillery during the above period. When the ribbon bar was worn alone, recipients of the clasp wore the small rosette on the bar.

1914-15 Star

The 1914-15 Star was approved in 1918 for issue to officers and men who served in any theatre of the War between 5th August 1914 and 31st December 1915, other than those who had already qualified for the 1914 Star. Over 2,366,000 were awarded. Recipients of this medal also received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

British War Medal

The medal was approved in 1919, for issue to officers and men of British and Imperial forces. Recipients were required to have either entered an active theatre of war, or left the United Kingdom for service overseas, between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918 and completed 28 days of service. The same criteria were applied for staff of officially recognised non-military hospitals, such as those run by the Red Cross, and members of the women's auxiliary forces. The medal was automatically awarded in the event of death on active service during the above period. Over 6,500,000 were issued, most being the silver version, the bronze version being awarded to those serving in foreign labour corps. The recipient's service number, rank, name and unit was engraved around the rim.

Victory Medal

The Victory Medal was authorised in 1919 and was awarded to all eligible personnel who served on the establishment of a unit in an operational theatre between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918. Women qualified for this and the earlier two medals for service in nursing homes and other auxiliary forces. Over 5,500,000 were issued.

The basic design and ribbon was adopted by many countries in accordance with the decision of the Inter-Allied Peace Conference at Versailles. The dates of the war were in every case 1914 to 1918, except that of the British Empire, which gave the dates as 1914 to 1919. The medal was issued to all those who received the 1914 Star or 1914-15 Star and to most of those who were awarded the British War Medal. It was never awarded singly. The recipient's service number, rank, name and unit was engraved around the rim.

The above medals were sometimes irreverently referred to as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, with Pip representing either the 1914 Star or 1914-15 Star, only one of which could be awarded to a soldier; Squeak represented the British War Medal; and Wilfred represented the Victory Medal. The names came from characters from a cartoon strip in The Daily Mirror and Sunday Pictorial.

Territorial Force War Medal

The medal was established in April 1920 for award to members of the Territorial Force and Territorial Force Nursing Services who volunteered for service overseas on or before 30 September 1914, and served overseas. They had to have been serving with the force on 4 August 1914 or have completed four years service with the force before 4 August 1914 and rejoined the force on or before 30 September 1914. Recipients of the 1914 Star or 1914-15 Star could not receive the Territorial War Medal.

Only 34,000 Territorial Force War Medals were issued, making it the rarest of the five British Great War medals.

Silver War Badge

The Silver War Badge was issued in September 1916 to officers and men who were discharged or retired from the military forces as a result of sickness or injury caused by their war service. After April 1918 the eligibility was amended to include civilian medical staff and aid workers.

Around the rim of the badge was inscribed "For King and Empire; Services Rendered". It became known for this reason also as the "Services Rendered Badge". Each badge was also engraved with a unique number on the reverse, although this number is not related to the recipient's Service Number. The badge was made of sterling silver and was intended to be worn on the right breast of civilian clothing. It was not permitted to be worn on a military uniform.

There were about 1,150,000 Silver War Badges issued in total for First World War service.

Gallantry or Meritorious Service Medals

Distinguished Service Order (DSO)

The Distinguished Service Order (DSO) was instituted on 6th September 1886 by Queen Victoria and is awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, usually in actual combat. It is typically awarded to officers ranked Major (or its equivalent) or higher, but the honour has sometimes been awarded to junior officers for exceptional acts of bravery. Between 1914 and 1916 the DSO was also awarded to some Staff Officers not under fire or in contact with the enemy. This caused resentment among front-line officers and after 1st January 1917, commanders in the field were instructed to recommend this award only for those serving under fire.

The medal was issued without the name of the recipient being engraved on it, but some medals do bear the name of a recipient engraved on the reverse of the suspension bar. The recipient of a D.S.O. is known as a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order and is entitled to use the letters D.S.O. after his name.

8,981 DSOs were awarded during the war.

Military Cross (MC)

The Military Cross was instituted by Royal Warrant on 28th December 1914 for gallantry during active operations in the presence of the enemy. Commissioned officers with the rank of Captain or below and Warrant Officer were eligible for the award. In August 1916 bars were awarded to the MC in recognition of further acts of gallantry meriting the award and recipients of a bar continue to use the letters MC after his name. From June 1917 officers of the rank of Captain but who had a temporary rank of Major could also receive the award.

The reverse of the medal was issued plain with no engraving. Some families and recipients engraved their details at their own expense.

Over 37,000 MCs were awarded during the war.

Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM)

Instituted on 4th December 1854, the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM), was awarded to all other ranks for exceptional bravery in the field. It is the other rank's equivalent of the DSO. and was regarded as second only to the Victoria Cross in prestige. The reverse of the medal bears the inscription "For Distinguished Conduct in the Field". A bar carrying the date of a subsequent deed could be added to the ribbon until 1916 when the bar was changed to a laurel wreath. Recipients of the award are entitled to use the letters DCM after their name.

4,100 DCMs were awarded during the war.

Military Medal (MM)

Instituted on 25th March 1916 and backdated to 1914, the Military Medal was awarded to other ranks of the British Army and Commonwealth Forces. It was an award for gallantry and devotion to duty when under fire in battle on land. The medal was subsequently awarded to women; two were awarded to women in recognition of their role during the 1916 Easter rising in Dublin.

On the reverse of the medal is inscribed "For Bravery in the Field". Recipients of the medal are entitled to use the letters MM after their name.

Over 115,000 were awarded during the war.

Mention in Despatches (MID)

To be "Mentioned in Despatches" is when an individual is mentioned by name and commended for having carried out a noteworthy act of gallantry or service. A Despatch is an official report written by the senior commander of an army in the field. It would give details of the conduct of the military operations being carried out. An individual could be mentioned in despatches more than once. As with the Victoria Cross, this commendation for an act of gallantry could be made posthumously.

In 1919 it was decided that individuals "Mentioned in Despatches" from 4th August 1914 would receive a certificate and in 1920 a decoration was established in the form of a bronze oak leaf which was issued to all those who were "Mentioned In Despatches" between 4th August 1914 and 10th August 1920. It was worn sewn onto the ribbon of the British Victory Medal.


Rutland and The Battle of the Somme

More than 90 Rutland soldiers died in the Battle of the Somme which lasted from 1 July 1916 until the middle of November. Today they lie in cemeteries across the old battlefield in northern France or are remembered among the 72,000 names on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. By using our interactive map, you can find out what happened to them.

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