The British War Medal 1914 - 1920


    
Instituted in 1919 to commemorate the successful conclusion of the Great War, and the arduous services rendered by His Majesty's Forces. The Medal was later extended to include service in North and South Russia, Eastern Baltic, Siberia, the Black Sea and the Caspian, and mine clearance post armistice up to 1920.
 

Award Criteria

Royal Navy.
     Awarded to those of the under mentioned classes who performed twenty-eight days' mobilized service, or lost their lives in active operations before completing that period, between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918, both dates inclusive.

(a) Officers, warrant officers, petty officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Naval Air Service, Royal Indian Marine, Royal Naval Reserve (including Trawler and Fishery Sections), Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and Dominion and Colonial Naval Forces.

(b) Mercantile Marine officers and men serving in His Majesty's commissioned ships and auxiliaries on Special Naval Engagements.

(c) Officers and enrolled members of the Women's Royal Naval Service who proceeded and served overseas.

(d) Members of Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service and Royal Naval Nursing Service Reserve, and recognized official nursing organizations, who served in a hospital ship at sea or proceeded overseas and served in a Naval hospital abroad.

(e) Canteen staffs who served in a ship of war at sea.

(f) Non-nursing members of medical units, e.g. dispensers, storekeepers, clerks, ward maids, etc, who served in a hospital ship at sea or proceeded overseas and served in a Naval hospital abroad.

Mercantile Marine.
 Awarded to the men and women of the Mercantile Marine who served at least six months at sea between 4th August 1914 and 11th November 1918.  Licensed Pilots, Fishermen and crews of Pilotage and Lighthouse Authorities' Vessels, and of Post Office Cable Ships were also eligible.

Army.
Awarded to the following classes who either entered a theatre of war on duty, or who left places of residence and rendered approved service overseas, other than the waters dividing the different parts of the United Kingdom, between 5th August 1914 and11th November 1918, both dates inclusive:

(a) Officers, warrant officers, attested non-commissioned officers and men of British, Dominion, Colonial and Indian military forces.

(b) Members of women's formations who had been enrolled under a direct contract of service for service with His Majesty's Imperial forces.

(c) All who served on staffs of military hospitals and all members of recognized organizations who actually handled sick and wounded.

(d) Members of duly recognized or authorized organizations.

(e) Enrolled and attested followers on the establishment of units of the Indian Army.

 Royal Air Force
Awarded  to the under mentioned classes who either entered a theatre of war on duty, or who left their places of residence and rendered approved service overseas, other than the waters dividing the different parts of the United Kingdom, between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918, both dates inclusive:

(a) Officers, warrant officers, attested and enrolled non-commissioned officers and men of the Royal Naval Air Service, Royal Flying Corps or Royal Air Force.

(b) Members of women's formations employed under a direct contract of service with the Royal Air Force Medical Service.

(c) Members of duly recognized or authorized organizations. The medal was also granted to all officers, warrant officers, attested and enrolled non-commissioned officers and men of the Royal Naval Air Service, Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force who

(i) Had been actively engaged in the air against the enemy whilst borne on the strength of an operational unit in Great Britain.

(ii) Had been employed in flying new aircraft to France.

(iii) Had formed part of the complement of an aircraft-carrying ship.

It will be noted that officers and members of the Women's Royal Air Force were not specifically referred to above. There might, however, be many who are qualified for the medal by reason of services with other women's formations prior to their having joined the WRAF.

No members of the WRAF served overseas as such.


 

Description:  36mm diameter silver or bronze*, with non-swivelling suspender. Obverse: the coinage head of King George V and the legend: GEORGIVS BRITT: OMN: REX: ET: IND: IMP: . Reverse, St. George on horseback holding a short sword. The horse is trampling on the shield of the Central Powers and a skull and crossbones. The dates "1914" and  "1918" are around the edge.
Naming: issued in a variety of naming styles - see below for the common examples.
Ribbon; Orange with blue / black / white edge stripes.

Bars; proposed - 68 for the navy and 79 for the army. Naval bars were authorised, but in the end the award of bars was abandoned, although naval bars are frequently encountered on miniatures. Listed below is the naval proposal.
 

notes.
* Bronze issues were awarded to Maltese, Indian and Chinese Labour Corps. They are outnumbered 60:1 by the silver issues (6,500,000 silver 110,000 bronze) dangerous fakes of the bronze issue are numerous.
(Also see: Medals of the Regiments for qualification by regiment for Infantry and Cavalry units.)

 


Proposed Naval Bars for the British War Medal.

 

 

quote

Admiralty Fleet Order C.W.6154 – 7th July 1920

 

NAVAL CLASPS

 

His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of Naval Clasps to the British War Medal under the following conditions, viz :

 The particular services for which clasps will be awarded are as follows :—

 

(A) General actions at sea

Under this heading the following clasps will be awarded :—

" heligoland, 28 Aug. 14 " — To be awarded to the Officers and men of those ships actually engaged.

" falkland islands, 8 Dec. 14 " — To be awarded to the Officers and men of all ships of Vice Admiral Sir F. C. D. Sturdee's squadron, which left Port Stanley on December 8th, 1914, with the intention of engaging the enemy.

" dogger bank, 24  Jan. 15 " — To be awarded to all ships which took part in the action resulting in the sinking of the " Blucher," 24th January 1915.

" jutland, 31 May 16 " — To be awarded to the Officers and men of those ships and vessels named in the list attached to Admiral Sir John Jellicoe's Despatch.

 

(B) single ship actions

Under this heading the following clasps will be awarded :—

" cap Trafalgar,  14  Sept. 14 "   - To be awarded to the Officers and men of H.M.S. " Carmania," present in the action.

" Emden,  9 Nov. 14 " - To be awarded to the Officers and men of H.M.A.S. " Sydney," present in the action.

" KONIGSBERG,  July 15 " -To be awarded to the Officers and men who served on board the " Severn " and " Mersey," and in the aeroplanes, in the Rufigi River on July 6th and 11th 1915, in the operations resulting in the destruction of the " Konigsberg."

" leopard, 16 March 17 " - To be awarded to the Officers and men of " Achilles " and " Dundee," present in the action.

"21 April 17 " -To be awarded to the Officers and men of H.M. Ships " Swift " and " Broke," present in the action.
 

(C) fighting at sea in particular areas

 Under this heading the following clasps will be awarded :—

" north sea 1914 " etc., up to 1918.

" narrow seas 1914 " etc., up to 1918.

" home seas 1914 " etc., up to 1918.

" arctic 1914 " etc., up to 1918.
 
" Baltic 1914 " etc., up to 1918.

" Mediterranean 1914 " etc., up to 1918.

Limits of Particular Areas

 North Sea.

Southern Limit — A line drawn from Cromer to the Texel.

Eastern Limit — Up the coast of Holland, Germany and Denmark, down the east coast of Denmark, across the northern exits to the Belts and Sound to the Swedish coast, north along the coasts of Sweden and Norway as far as the meridian of 30° E., and then true north along this meridian.

Western Limit — From Cromer up the east coasts of England and Scotland to Cape Wrath, thence to a position in Lat. 64° N., Long. 30° W., thence true north.

Narrow Seas.

Northern Limit — A line drawn from Cromer to the Texel.

Southern Limit — A line drawn from Dungeness to Boulogne. (Ships based on Boulogne will be included.)

Home Seas.

Eastern Limit — Line joining Cape Spartel and Cape Trafalgar, thence west and north along the coasts of Spain and Portugal, the coast line of the Bay of Biscay, along the French coast to Boulogne, thence to Dungeness, thence along the south and west coasts of England and Scotland to Cape Wrath.

Northern Limit — From Cape Wrath to a position in Lat. 64° N., Long. 30° W.

Southern Limit — From Cape Spartel west true to the meridian of 30° W.

Western Limit — The meridian of 30° W. as far as Lat. 64° N.

Arctic.

Southern Limit — Along the parallel of 60° N. between the meridians of 30° E. and 50° E.

Eastern Limit — The meridian of 50° E.

Western Limit — The meridian of 30° E.

Baltic.

Within the Baltic inside the Northern exits to the Belts and Sound

Mediterranean.

The whole Mediterranean within a line joining Cape Spartel and Cape Trafalgar, including the Black Sea, Sea of Marmora, and the harbour of Port Said, but excluding the Suez Canal.
 

Qualifying Service for " Area " or " Service " Clasps

(a)  One clasp to be given for each calendar year, 1914—1918.

(b)  Qualifying service to be one month for 1914, and three months for the other years.    Service in bona fide seagoing ships only to count. Service in Depot ships and other vessels which occasionally go to sea from port to port not be regarded as qualifying service.

(c)  Service within the calendar year need not be continuous.

(d)  Only one " Area " or " Service " clasp to be given for any one year.    If an Officer or man qualifies in more than one area in any one year, he shall receive the clasps for the area in which he has served the longest.

(e)  In the case of any Officer or man who has been killed or mortally wounded in action, the clasp for that year will be granted irrespective of the length of service.
 

(D) special services not confined to particular areas

 Under this head the following clasps will be awarded :—

" minesweeping "   - To be awarded as follows :—

(a)  To each rank and rating who formed one of the official crew of a vessel employed regularly as a minesweeper between 4th August 1914 and 11th November 1918, provided that the applicant's vessel formed one of a Minesweeping Unit which swept up enemy's moored mines when the applicant was present in that vessel.

(b)  To each rank and rating who formed one of the crew of a vessel temporarily employed on minesweeping for clearing or ensuring a passage in the Dardanelles.

note — Auxiliary Patrol and other vessels fitted for minesweeping who occasionally passed their sweeps in conjunction with their patrol duties not to be entitled to the Mines weeping Clasp.

" minelaying " — To be awarded to Officers and men who made ten minelaying trips within the undermentioned areas, including Officers and men serving in Submarine E24 when that vessel was lost:—

i. Within the British Notified Areas, i.e., the area comprising all the waters except the Netherlands and Danish territorial waters lying to the southward and eastward of a line commencing 3 miles from the Coast of Jutland on the parallel of Lat. 57° 08' N., and passing through the following positions :—

(1)  Lat. 57° 08' N., Long. 6° 00' E.

(2)  Lat. 56° 00' N., Long. 5° 10' E.

(3)  Lat. 54° 45' N., Long. 4° 17' E.

(4)  Lat. 53° 29' N., Long. 4° 04' E.

(5)  Lat. 53° 00' N., Long. 4° 10' E.

thence along the parallel of Lat. 53° 00' N. to a position 3 miles from the Netherlands coast, thence to the northward and eastward following the limit of Netherlands territorial waters.

2.  Within 20 miles of the Belgian coast between Zeebrugge and Nieuport;   also within a radius of 20 miles from (a) Zeebrugge Mole, (b) Nieuport Harbour.

3.  Between lines drawn east true from the Skaw and Syr Point, Lasso Island, to the Swedish coast.    (Admiralty chart No. 2114.)

4.  Within 20 miles of the eastern shore of the Adriatic.

5.  The area enclosed between the meridians of 28° 30' E., and 25° 45' E., and the parallels of 36° 50' N. and 40° 30' N.

" ' Q ' ships " - To be awarded to all Officers and men who served during the war in " Q " or " Decoy " ships, employed on anti-submarine duties, and were in action in its widest sense with enemy submarines.

" submarines " — To be awarded to Officers and men who served in submarines for not less than twelve months during the war.

" Baltic S/Ms " - To be awarded to Officers and men who served in submarines in the Baltic within the limits for the Baltic shown under heading (c).

To be held in lieu of and not in addition to " Submarines " clasp.

" heligoland bight S/Ms " - To be awarded to Officers and men who operated in submarines in the Heligoland Bight within the British Notified Area. (See Area I, under " Minelaying.")

To be held in lieu of and not in addition to " Submarines " clasp.

"Marmora S/Ms."- —To be awarded to the Officers and men of all submarines who penetrated through into the Sea of Marmora and operated there between midnight, 18th and 19th February 1915 and 8th January 1916. The award to include Officers and men of Submarine " B.11," which torpedoed the " Messudieh " on 31st December 1914, and Submarine " E.15," which made the pioneer attempt and grounded on Kephez Point in the Dardanelles on i5th April 1915.

To be held in lieu of and not in addition to " Submarines " clasp.

note — Officers and men of Minelaying Submarines to be also eligible for " Minelaying " clasp in addition to any submarine clasps, under the conditions laid down above.
 

(E) actions with enemy's land forces

 Under this head the following clasps will be awarded :—

" Belgian coast "   - To be awarded  to the Officers and  men serving in ships which operated between 4th August 1914, and midnight 19th-20th October 1918 (the date of the enemy's evacuation) in an area within twenty miles of the Belgian coast between Zeebrugge and Nieuport;   also within a radius of 20 miles from (1) Zeebrugge Mole, (2) Nieuport Harbour.

N.B. — The "Belgian Coast" clasp not to be awarded for the operations at Zeebrugge 23rd April 1918, and Ostend, 23rd April and l0th May 1918. (See below.)

"Dardanelles " — To be awarded to the Officers and men of H.M. Ships which took part in the operation in the Dardanelles from midnight, February 18 - 19th 1915 to midnight, March 18 - 19th 1915. Those eligible shall be the Officers and men serving in the ships mentioned in the despatches of Vice-Admirals Carden and De Robeck, dated March 17th 1915 and March 26th 1915. (See London Gazette, 31322, 7th Supplement, April 29th 1919.)

" Gallipoli landing " — To be awarded to all naval ranks and ratings who left transports with a view to landing ; to the Officers and crews of those small ships, vessels, and boats which worked inshore or actually assisted in the disembarkation of troops ; and to all ranks and ratings of the Royal Navy and Mercantile Marine on board the " River Clyde " ; between midnight, April 24 - 25th and midnight, April 26 - 27th 1915. Off-shore covering vessels, transports, etc., not to be included.

note — Transports for this purpose are held to mean all floating craft that carried troops.

" Gallipoli " — To be awarded to the Officers and men of all ships employed off the Gallipoli Peninsula within the area mentioned below from midnight, March 18-19th 1915, to the date of the final evacuation, January 8th 1916.

Area — To the eastward of a line drawn from Yukyeri Point (Lat. 39° 50' 40" N., Long. 26° 9' 45" E. approx.) through a point in Lat. 39° 53' N., Long. 26° 00' E., thence direct to Cape Gremea (Lat. 40° 35' N., Long. 26° 6' E. approx.).

" tsIngtau " — To be awarded to the Officers and men of all ships employed off Tsingtau during the operations resulting in its capture, north of Lat. 35° 30' N. and between meridians of 120° and 121° E.

" Suez canal " — To be awarded to the Officers and men of those ships and vessels which took part in the engagement on February 2nd to 4th 1915, resulting in the repulse of the Turkish attack, that is, to ranks and ratings serving in ships which operated between a position 2 miles north of Kantara and the northern end of the Bitter Lakes.

" zeebrugge. Ostend " — To be awarded to the Officers and men present in the ships and vessels named in Article 45 of Sir Roger Keyes' amended despatch of May 9th 1918, published in " London Gazette," No. 31189, of 19th February 1919.

" Ostend, 10 May 1918 " — To be awarded to the Officers and men present in the ships named in the Appendix to Sir Roger Keyes' despatch dated 15th June 1918.
 

(F) operations in connection with those on land

 Under this head the following clasps will be awarded :—

" Mesopotamia "   - To be awarded to all Naval Officers and men who served in the Persian Gulf within the Straits of Ormuz, from November 1st 1914, the date of Turkey's entry into the War, until noon, October 3ist 1918.

" red sea " — To be awarded to the Officers and men of H.M. Ships who were actually stationed in the Red Sea or the Suez Canal, north of and including Aden, and south of the Mediterranean, excluding the harbour of Port Said, between November 1st 1914 and noon on October 31st 1918. Ships proceeding through the Suez Canal or Red Sea on passage not to be included in the award.

" German east Africa " — To be awarded to the Officers and men of H.M. Ships employed off the coast and outlying islands of East Africa between Mombasa and Delagoa Bay, both inclusive, throughout the war; also to those Naval ranks and ratings serving on the African Lakes.

"German S.W. Africa" — To be awarded to the Officers and men of H.M. Ships employed on the coast of German S.W. Africa between Luderitz Bay and Swakopmund between September 15th 1914 and July 9th 1915.

" pacific islands " — To be awarded to all Naval Officers and men who took part in the following operations :—

New Britain   ( Sept. 11 - 21st 1914.)

New Ireland    (Sept. 6 - Oct. 8th 1914.)

Kaiser Wilhelm Land    (Sept. 24th 1914.)

Admiralty Islands    (Nov. 21st 1914.)

Naura    (Nov. 6th 1914.)

German Samoa  (Aug. 29th 1914.)

 " Cameroons " — To be awarded to the Officers and men of all H.M. Ships, vessels and boats, including the Nigerian Marine personnel, who were present on the Cameroons' waters and rivers between 29th August 1914 and 31st January 1916 inclusive.
 

(G) services in Serbia and Russia, and post armistice operations

Under this head the following clasps will be awarded :—

" north Russia, 1918/19 " — To be awarded to all naval ranks and ratings who served afloat or ashore in North Russia, within the area specified below, between midnight, 11-12th November 1918 and 12th October 1919.

Southern Limit — Along the parallel of 60° N. between the meridians of 30° E. and 50° E.

Eastern Limit — The meridian of 50° E.

Western Limit — The meridian of 30° E.

" eastern Baltic, 1918-19 " — To be awarded to all naval ranks and ratings who served within the Gulf of Finland and in the Baltic east of 20° E. between midnight,11-12th November 1918, and midnight, 31st December I919-1st January 1920.

" mine clearance, 1918-19 " — To be awarded to those Officers and men who actually signed a Mine Clearance Contract, and were accepted and employed under the terms M.0.972/19. Limiting dates and areas as follows :—

(a)  In   Home   Waters, including North Sea European littoral, between 11th November 1918, and midnight, 30th September-1st October 1919.

(b)  Within the Mediterranean, between 11th November 1918, and midnight, 30th November-1st December 1919.

(c)  Within the Baltic, between 11th November 1918, and midnight, 30th November-1st December 1919.

(d)  In other foreign areas where British vessels have carried out mine clearance, between 11th November 1918, and midnight, 31st July-1st August 1919.

" SERBIA " — To all those in the Naval contingent, and in the attached hospital, serving under the orders of Rear Admiral Sir E. C. T. Troubridge during the defence of Belgrade, and the subsequent retreat through Serbia across the Albanian frontier to the sea, between 14th December 1914, and 1st January 1916, and who are eligible for no other clasp for the same service.

" SIBERIA, 1918-19 " — (a) To the naval personnel of the British Naval Mission in Siberia under Commander J. Wolfe Murray, up till 13th September 1919, and who are eligible for no other clasp for the same service.

(b) To the personnel of the naval detachment who were employed on the Kama River, Siberia, up till 28th June 1919, and who are eligible for no other clasps for the same service.

" RUSSIA " — (a) To-naval ranks and ratings who were employed with the armoured cars serving with the Russian forces throughout the war, and who are eligible for no other clasp for the same service.

(b) To members of the Naval Mission who were serving in South Russia 1919-1920, and who are eligible for no other clasp for the same service. The determining dates in this case will be announced later.

" BLACK SEA, 1918-20 " — To be awarded to Officers and men serving on board H.M. Ships and vessels which operated in the Black Sea or in the Bosphorus within the line joining Stefano Point and Farnar Burnu (at the Sea of Marmora exit from the Bosphorus) subsequent to 11th November 1918. The terminal date will be announced later.

This clasp is not to be held in addition to the clasp for " Russia " by members of the Naval Mission mentioned in paragraph (b), " Russia," above.

" CASPIAN " — To be awarded to all Naval Officers and men who were employed in the Caspian Sea, or on the shores thereof, between July 1918 and 27th August 1919

 

 

see also: Admiral Sir John Jellicoe's Despatch on the Battle of Jutland.

 

 

 

The British War Medal 1914 - 1920

 

Below: Some naming styles commonly encountered. (under construction)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 
 

The Nelson Bunker Hunt Problem.

     Many of the older collectors will tell you that  pre 1978 the price of a WW1 British War Medal was a function of its scrap silver price. For the vast majority it didn't  matter what was impressed on the edge, and the destiny of many BWMs  was the melting pot. This steady destruction of medals was exasperated by an order of magnitude in the late 70's when the Hunt family decided to try and corner the silver market, eventually driving the price from $2, to a peak of $50. Medals and silver coins were actively sought out during this time and destroyed for their silver content. Many broken trios in the form of  1914/15 stars and victory medals are victims of the silver bubble at the end of the 70's and the missing BWMs are gone forever. Accumulations of BWM discs (often from jewellers) which turn up today with the suspenders removed are hangovers from the silver bubble.  The suspension is snapped off and dumped because it is an alloy -  pure silver would be too soft for the job. Fortunately these can be repaired and are lucky survivors.
      BWMs to Indian units have had an even tougher time, with the relative value of the medal as scrap being much higher back on the sub-continent, hence BWMs to Indian units are not that common considering the numbers issued and complete trios even more difficult to find.


Below; From a jewellers scrap bag and both ready for the melting pot? : BWM disc to a Royal Fusilier killed on first day of the Gallipoli landings, "X" Beach. Also a low grade silver coin.

 

 

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