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WW2 British and Commonwealth Campaign Medals

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A quick guide to the campaign medals issued by Britain and various Commonwealth countries during The Second World War.

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WW2 British and Commonwealth Campaign Medals

  1. 1. British & Commonwealth Campaign Medals of The Second World War
  2. 2. Campaign Awards (1939-1945) General service within the British and Commonwealtharmed forces during The Second World War was rewardedby a series of eight stars and a number of circular medals.
  3. 3. WW2 Campaign StarsStars Available Clasp1939-45 Star Battle of BritainAtlantic Star Air Crew Europe, France and GermanyAfrica Star North Africa 1942-43, 8th Army, 1st ArmyAir Crew Europe Star Atlantic, France and GermanyBurma Star PacificFrance and Germany Star AtlanticItaly Star No ClaspPacific Star Burma
  4. 4. Although eight stars were issued,a recipient could only wear a maximum of five stars.
  5. 5. Further entitlement was identified through clasps sewn on to the ribbon. Only one clasp was allowed on any one star.
  6. 6. When a ribbon bar only is worn, such clasps are represented by a silver rosette…
  7. 7. …although the Battle of Britain clasp is represented by a gilt rosette.
  8. 8. The clasps for the 8th Army and 1st Army arerepresented by the numbers ‘8’ and ‘1’ respectively
  9. 9. The ribbons are believed to have been designed personally by King George VI and all have symbolic relevance to the medal they accompany.
  10. 10. Let’s look in detail at each campaign star…
  11. 11. 1939-45 Star Date of Institution: 1945 Award Criteria: Awarded for 6 months active service overseas between 3rd September 1939 and 2nd September 1945. Any service cut short by wounds, capture or death also qualified, as did the award of any gallantry decoration including being Mentioned in Dispatches. Branch of Service: All British and Commonwealth forces Ribbon: Dark blue, red, and light blue stripes of equal size symbolising the Royal Navy, the Army and the RAF respectively. Metal & Size: Bronze, height 44mm, width 38mm Clasp: Battle of Britain - awarded to RAF personnel of the 61 fighter squadrons involved in the Battle of Britain between 10th July and 31st October 1940 Additional Notes: The 1939-45 Star is the most widely issued of all the stars, however its clasp is the rarest, most sought after, (and thus most faked) clasp of the entire war. Because it was awarded for overseas service, ground crews working during the Battle of Britain did not qualify for this star, (they only received the Defence and War medals), whereas those who assisted in the evacuation of men from the beaches of Dunkirk did qualify.
  12. 12. The Africa Star Campaign: Operations in Africa 1940-43 Award Criteria: Awarded for one or more days’ service in North Africa, principally against Rommel’s Afrika Korps, between 10th June 1940 and 12th May 1943. Service in Abysinnia (Ethiopia), Somaliland, Eritrea and Malta also qualified for this award. The 1939-45 Star did not have to be earned before entitlement for the Africa Star became valid. Branch of Service: All British and Commonwealth forces Ribbon: Pale beige symbolising the desert sand, with a broad red central stripe (the Army) and two smaller stripes of dark blue (Royal Navy) and pale blue (Air Force) Metal & Size: Bronze, height 44mm, width 38mm Clasp: North Africa 1942-43, 8th Army, 1st ArmyAdditional Notes: The North Africa 1942-43 clasp was awarded mainly to the Royal and Merchant Navy personnelwho served inshore on escort duty between 23rd October 1942 and 12th May 1943 as well as to RAF personnel whoserved over North Africa during these dates. The 1st Army clasp was worn by personnel of that force for service inTunisia or Algeria between 8th November and 31st December 1942, and elsewhere up until 31st December 1942.The 8th Army clasp went to personnel of that force for service between 23rd October (El Alamein) and 12th May1943.When ribbons only were worn a silver number ‘1’ or ‘8’ was worn for the respective army clasps, and a silver rosefor the North Africa 1942-43 clasp.
  13. 13. Atlantic Star Campaign: Naval Operations within home waters, the Atlantic, and North Russia Award Criteria: Awarded to Royal Navy personnel for 6 months’ service afloat between 3rd September 1939 and 8th May 1945. Also awarded to anyone involved in the Battle of Atlantic, maintaining supplies to the UK despite the close attention of the German Navy and the constant U-boat threat. Personnel must have already qualified for the 1939-45 Star before entitlement for the Atlantic Star was considered. Branch of Service: Royal Navy & Merchant Navy. Also some RAF and Army personnel who served as gunners on merchant vessels. Ribbon: Watered blue, white and green stripes, representing the ocean. Metal & Size: Bronze, height 44mm, width 38mm Clasp: Air Crew Europe, France and Germany. Additional Notes: During the last 6 months of operational service (December 1944 - May 1945) the Atlantic Star was awarded instead of the 1939-45 Star
  14. 14. Air Crew Europe Star Campaign: Air Operations over Europe 1939 - 1944 Award Criteria: Awarded for two months of operational flying from British bases over Europe between 3rd September 1939 and 4th June 1944. The criteria for the 1939-45 Star had to be met first before qualification could begin for the Air Crew Europe Star. Branch of Service: Royal Air Force and Commonwealth Air Services flying personnel Ribbon: The centre of the ribbon is pale blue (representing the sky) with a narrow yellow stripe either side (enemy searchlights) with black edges (night flying) Metal & Size: Bronze, height 44mm, width 38mm Clasp: Atlantic, France and Germany Additional Notes: The Air Crew Europe Star is the most hard to find and subsequently the most sought after of all the stars, especially those that were officially inscribed on the reverse to South African Air Force personnel. Due to it’s rarity, this star is often faked and any prospective buyer should be absolutely certain of the provenance of the star they are purchasing.
  15. 15. Pacific Star Campaign: Operations in the Pacific theatre between 1941-45. Award Criteria: Awarded for operational service in the Pacific theatre of war from 8th December 1941 to 15th August 1945. Territories include Malaya, Singapore, Hong Kong and numerous Japanese held islands and territories. Army and RAF personnel were not required to earn the 1939-45 Star first, although Royal and Merchant Navy personnel, serving in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, were. Branch of Service: British and Commonwealth forces including the Merchant Navy. Ribbon: A central dark green stripe (representing the jungle) with a narrow yellow stripe in the middle (the beaches).To the right of the green is a pale blue narrow stripe (RAF) and to the left is a dark blue narrow stripe (Royal Navy). To both edges are wider strips of red (Army). Metal & Size: Bronze, height 44mm, width 38mm Clasp: Burma. Additional Notes: One of the more scarce stars, many were awarded to Commonwealth forces. Personnel qualifying for both Pacific and Burma Stars received the first star and a clasp for the second one.
  16. 16. Italy StarCampaign: Operations in Italy 1943-45Award Criteria: Awarded for operational service on land in Italy, Sicily,Greece, Yugoslavia, Corsica, Elba, the Aegean area and DodecaneseIslands, Sardinia, southern France and Austria between 11th June 1943and 8th May 1945. Army personnel did not have to earn the 1939-45 Starbefore qualification to the Italy Star, although Royal and Merchant Navypersonnel did have to qualify for the 1939-45 Star before they could beawarded the Italy Star.Branch of Service: British and Commonwealth forcesRibbon: Five equal stripes of (from left to right) red, white, green, white,red. These are the Italian national colours.Metal & Size: Bronze, height 44mm, width 38mmClasp: NoneAdditional Notes: None
  17. 17. Burma StarCampaign: Operations in Burma 1941-45Award Criteria: Awarded for service in the Burma region against theJapanese army. Also awarded for the fighting in Assam, Bengal, Malaya andthe Chinese border areas. Naval service in the eastern Bay of Bengal,Sumatra, Sunda and Malacca also counted.Royal and Merchant Navy recipients had to have earned the 1939-45 Starfirst, unless their service started too late in the war for this to be possible.Branch of Service: British and Commonwealth forces.Ribbon: A central red band denoting Commonwealth forces, with darkblue bands of equal size on either side (British forces). A thin orange stripesits in the middle of each of the dark blue bands, representing the sun.Metal & Size: Bronze, height 44mm, width 38mmClasp: Pacific.Additional Notes: Anyone who subsequently qualified for the Pacific Starwore the Pacific clasp.
  18. 18. France and Germany Star Campaign: Operations in France and Germany 1944-45. Award Criteria: Awarded for operational service in Northern Europe, including Northern France, Germany, Belgium, and The Netherlands from 6th June 1944 to 8th May 1945. Service in the North Sea, English Channel, and Bay of Biscay in connection to the Northern European land operations also qualified. Recipients did not need to earn the 1939-45 Star before qualifying for the France and Germany Star. Branch of Service: British and Commonwealth forces including the Merchant Navy Ribbon: Five equal stripes of (from left to right) blue, white, red, white, blue. The national colours of France, and the UK. Metal & Size: Bronze, height 44mm, width 38mm Clasp: Atlantic. Additional Notes: Personnel who were also eligible for the Atlantic Star, but won the France and Germany Star first wore the Atlantic clasp.
  19. 19. As well as the stars, there were also 2 circular medals issued…
  20. 20. The Defence Medal Date of Institution: 1945 Award Criteria: Awarded to service personnel for either three years’ home service, one years’ service in a non operational area (such as India), or six months’ service overseas in territories who were threatened by or subjected to enemy air attacks. Branch of Service: British and Commonwealth military, civilian, medical and other forces such as the Home Guard, Anti-Aircraft Command, National Fire Service and many other units. Ribbon: Two broad stripes of green (this green and pleasant land) with narrow black stripes towards either edge (representing the black-out), with a wide orange stripe in the centre (representing enemy fire-bombing). Metal & Size: Cupro-nickel. Although Canadian medals were made from solid silver. 36mm. Clasp: King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct. Additional Notes: The definitive list of eligible recipients was published in 1992 by the Ministry of Defence. (Form DM1/DM2 plus annexe) This list indicates 50 different organisations plus 90 sub-divisions.
  21. 21. The 1939-1945 War Medal Date of Institution: 1945 Award Criteria: Awarded to anyone who rendered twenty-eight days service in uniform or in an accredited organisation between 3rd September 1939 and 2nd September 1945. It was granted in addition to the various campaign stars and The Defence Medal could be awarded on its own to people who did not qualify for any other campaign medal or star. Branch of Service: All British and Commonwealth forces Ribbon: Broad red stripe on either side of the ribbon, with a neighbouring, same sized blue stripe. A central white stripe with a narrow red strip in the centre. Metal & Size: Cupro-nickel. Although Canadian medals were made from solid silver. 36mm. Clasp: None. Although , it was upon this medal’s ribbon that the bronze oak leaf denoting a ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’ was pinned Additional Notes: Awarded to a small number of civilians, such as war correspondents and civilian pilots who had flown in operational theatres also qualified.
  22. 22. Some Commonwealth countries awarded their own campaign medal to their forces in addition to the British 1939-1945 War Medal…
  23. 23. The India Service Medal Date of Institution: 1946 Award Criteria: Awarded to officers and men of the Indian forces for three years non-operational service in India between 3rd September 1939 and 2nd September 1945. This medal was awarded in place of the Defence Medal. Branch of Service: All Indian units Ribbon: Dark blue with a thin central stripe of pale blue and two wider stripes either side of the same pale blue colour. These are the colours of the Order of the Indian Empire and the Order of the Star of India. Metal & Size: Cupro-nickel. 36mm. Clasp: None Additional Notes: None
  24. 24. Canadian Volunteer Service Medal Date of Institution: 22nd October 1943 Award Criteria: Awarded to persons of any rank in the Naval, Military or Air Forces of Canada who completed eighteen months (540 days) total voluntary service from September 3, 1939 to March 1, 1947. On June 6, 2003, eligibility was extended to members and reserve constables of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who voluntarily served during the Second World War. Branch of Service: Canadian volunteer services Ribbon: A royal blue wide central stripe flanked either side by two equal stripes of scarlet and dark green. The green being on the edges. Metal & Size: Silver. 36mm. Clasps: Maple Leaf, Dieppe, Hong Kong Additional Notes: The Maple Leaf clasp was awarded for overseas service. The Dieppe Clasp was awarded in 1994 to all servicemen who took part in the Dieppe raid of 19th August 1942. The Hong Kong Clasp was awarded in 1994 to all servicemen who took part in the Battle of Hong Kong from 8th- 25th December 1941
  25. 25. Canadian Volunteer Service Medal On the obverse of the medal there is depicted seven men and women in the uniforms of the various services all marching together in step. These are based on real people: 3780 Leading Seaman P.G. Colbeck, RCN C52819 Pte. D.E. Dolan, 1 Can. Para Btn R95505 F/Sgt K.M. Morgan, RCAF W4901 Wren P. Mathie, WRCNS 12885 L/Cpl J.M. Dann, CWAC W315563 O.M Salmon, RCAF Lt N/S E.M. Lowe, RCAMC
  26. 26. Africa Service Medal Date of Institution: 23rd December 1943 Award Criteria: Awarded to South African forces who have volunteered for war service and have served for a minimum of thirty days, between 6th September 1939 and 2nd September 1945. As the name indicates, the medal was originally intended for service in Africa, up to the defeat of the Axis forces in North Africa 1943, but it was later extended to cover service anywhere in the world, right up to the end of the war. Branch of Service: All South African forces including the South Africa Police and the South African Railways Police. Ribbon: A central orange stripe with green and gold thin stripes on either side. The green stripes being towards to the edge. Metal & Size: Silver. 36mm. Clasps: None. Additional Notes: All medals were fully named to the recipient. A Protea emblem is worn on the ribbon by recipients of the King’s Commendation.
  27. 27. The Australia Service Medal 1939-45 Date of Institution: 1949 Award Criteria: Awarded to all Australian personnel who had seen 18 months overseas service or 3 years home service between 3rd September 1939 and 2nd September 1945. Branch of Service: All Australian service personnel. Including the Australian Mercantile Marine and Volunteer Defence Corps. Ribbon: A wide central stripe of Khaki representing the Australian Army, with two narrow strips of red (Mercantile Marine) on either side. To the left edge is a dark blue stripe (Navy) and to the right edge is a light blue stripe (RAAF). Metal & Size: Cupro Nickel. 36mm. Clasps: None. Additional Notes: All medals were fully named to the recipient.
  28. 28. The New Zealand War Service Medal Date of Institution: 1946 Award Criteria: Awarded for 28 days full time aggregated service or six months part time aggregated service between 3rd September 1939 and 2nd September 1945. Service brought to an end by death on duty, or due to wounds sustained on duty, or honourable discharge as a result of such wounds, automatically qualified for award of the medal. Branch of Service: Awarded to all members of the New Zealand armed forces, the National Military Reserve, Naval Auxiliary Patrol Service and the Home Guard. Ribbon: Black with white edges Metal & Size: Cupro Nickel. 36mm. Clasps: None. Additional Notes: Awarded un-named.
  29. 29. South African Medal For War Service Date of Institution: 29th December 1945 Award Criteria: Awarded for a minimum of two years service, in any of the official voluntary organisation within or outside the borders of the Union of South Africa. The service needed to be voluntary and unpaid, with five or more hours worked every week. Branch of Service: All South African forces. Ribbon: Three equal stripes of orange/red, white and blue. The national colours of South Africa. Metal & Size: Silver. 36mm. Clasps: None. Additional Notes: All medals were fully named to the recipient.
  30. 30. Southern Rhodesia War Service Medal Date of Institution: 1946 Award Criteria: Awarded only to those who served in Southern Rhodesia during the period of the War but who were ineligible for one of the campaign stars or war medals. Branch of Service: All Southern Rhodesian forces. Ribbon: Dark green with narrow black and red stripes at each edge. Metal & Size: Cupro Nickel. 36mm. Clasps: None. Additional Notes: Awarded unnamed. This is a rare medal with only 1700 issued.
  31. 31. Newfoundland Volunteer War Service Medal Date of Institution: 1981 Award Criteria: Awarded for volunteer war service overseas between 3rd September 1939 and 2nd September 1945 in the British Imperial Forces, as long as the recipient has not received a volunteer service medal from another country. Branch of Service: Newfoundland Forces Ribbon: Deep claret with edges of red, white and blue Metal & Size: Bronze. 36mm. Clasps: None. Additional Notes: During the Second World War, Newfoundland was still a separate British colony and not yet part of Canada. Consequently Newfoundland servicemen did not qualify for the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal. As this medal was not instituted until 1981, the medal could be claimed by the next of kin of those who died in or since the war.
  32. 32. This medal guide has been brought to you by Military Research UK. We havehelped thousands of people uncover their family heroes over the last 10 years. Visit our website for more information on our services www.military-research.co.uk Find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/militaryresearchUK Follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/military_search

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