The Guide to British War Medals.
The naming of British war medals.
    The majority of the official campaign and gallantry medals issued  to British and Commonwealth service people were impressed or engraved with the details of the recipient. There are many exceptions, the major one being the campaign medals issued to British recipients for service during the second world war (1939-1945), also the early to mid Victorian medals such as the Crimea, Baltic, Ghunznee, Cabul etc. Of the medals that are named, the details typically constitute some of the following: service number, rank, given name(s) or initial(s), family name, battalion, regiment, corps or service. Below are two examples of medal naming.

  In the examples above it is clear that the naming, around the rim of the disk of the medal in both these cases, is in different styles. In the top picture the naming is "engraved", in the bottom picture the naming is "impressed". Generally speaking it is this naming of medals that define their value, that is, it's to whom they were awarded, that decides the price. For example, identical issue medals for service in the First World War could be worth £50 or £500 (and more) depending on the naming. When the more uncommon medals issued for wars in the Victorian period are collected, the desirably named medals - good examples would be medals to officers, casualties, and recipients present at famous actions - the value difference is often measured in thousands.  "and therein lies the rub"  naming is the bane and the joy for the collector.


The issues.
  With such large sums of money being involved, the naming of medals has attracted over the years the attention of the faker, the forger, the unscrupulous, and the plain criminal (not to mention the well intentioned innocent!). With the prices medals achieve today it is absolutely imperative that the new collector gets to grips with the naming issues to make sure he or she does not end up out of pocket, or "ripped off"  to use the modern phrase. Below are the important issues as I see them. Following that, it is my intention to build a database of British medals with images of naming styles, links to these will be in a table at the bottom of the page. This will be gradual as time permits, so check back occasionally.

(Also see: Medals of the Regiments for qualification by regiment for Infantry and Cavalry units.)

1. Correctly, or officially named
There is frequently one main style of  naming to a particular medal issue. Unfortunately there are about as many exceptions to this generalisation as there are medals issues! - and this is also true of the great war medals due to the vast numbers issued and the number of different contractors involved in the naming. The term "officially named", can be somewhat misleading, it doesn't mean the "government style of naming" but it could mean "the style accepted in the medal collecting fraternity as a style frequently encountered and accepted as correct and as issued"


2. Officially corrected
Everyone makes mistakes. When an error was made during the impressing or engraving process, the medal was not discarded, instead the erroneous character(s) was mechanically removed (erased, filed off) and the area stamped again with the correct character(s)


Above, First World War 1914-15 Star, showing an official correction to the first digit of the service number.
Removal of the error has produce a smooth concave depression into which has been stamped the correct
number: "4". Faint traces of the original erroneous number remain.



Above: EIIR Navy General Service 1915-1962, bar "Near East". To C/SMX. 908092 D. R. Wood. L.E.M. R.N.
The error coincides with the  last letter of the number prefix and the full stop. A ghost "X" is just visible (arrowed).

3. Officially renamed.
As above but applicable to the whole of the naming, that is the medal shows (a) mechanical removal of metal along the whole of the naming generally coinciding with the renaming , and /or (b) measuring with a micrometer (in the case of circular medals) the disk is found to be out of true, and hence metal is assumed to have has been removed .

4. Late issue and wrong style.
Service people who miss out on the initial issue of a medal can do so for several reasons, e.g. later clarification of eligibility rules can reveal more recipients, individuals are missed off the medal rolls, personally realise they are eligible and make a successful claim at a later date. As time moves on naming styles come and go, and late issues by nature have a feature revealing them as such, not just necessarily a later naming style but perhaps a different suspender or they are struck on a thicker (or thinner) flan than the bulk of the issue. Another point to note is that official but atypically named medals can be duplicate or replacement issues and not marked as such.

5. Erased
Medals can commonly be found with all or some of the details erased. I suppose this has been mainly done by  in the past to create a "blank" replacement medal for a recipient who is no longer in possession of his medal for whatever reason (originals lost, stolen, sold when fallen on hard times, etc.). Although there is another reason - groups can be found (not uncommonly) with an erased medal the recipient was not entitled to- maybe he failed the criteria for award by a thin margin of days or geographic placement and decides to "correct" the situation himself. whatever the reason, generally erasure has a serious affect on desirability (and hence price).


Above: an erased Campaign Service Medal, or I should say nearly erased, as the individual responsible
has not done a very "good" job, details are still readable , in this case  "23725224 Tpr. A. Upton Q.R.I.H"
(Queens Royal Irish Hussars).


6. Renamed
The next step from 4. above. The erased medal is re-engraved / impressed with the recipients details, and hey presto! he has his medal back. Not in the eyes of the collector though, and as above, the desirability is seriously depressed. Remember the important distinction between "officially renamed" and plain old "renamed" renamed is generally amateurish and uneven, probably done by the village watchmaker or similar (our well intentioned innocent )  for a shilling and sixpence for our Private Tommy Atkins.  

7. Named to deceive.
 "Oh, the horror,.. the horror..." (Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, "Apocalypse Now") Yes the practice exists unfortunately. Probably the best way to keep up to date with the faker and forgers activities is to join an organisation like the Orders and Medals Research Society whose quarterly publication "The Journal" runs occasional articles on fakes and forgeries - for instance I have before me their article on recent fraudulent naming of officially issued unnamed  WW1 campaign medals -fraudulently named to South African Officers- and another article on  fake Waterloo medals. -essential reading.
8. Duplicate and Replacement Issues.
First thing to mention is that identical named medals exist. Double issued in error, unmarked duplicates/replacements who knows. For example I recently had two 1914-15 Stars identical including the naming, with no reference to duplicates or the like on the medal roll or index card. Of course duplicates are a lot easier to detect when marked as such. Medals can be found stamped "REPLACEMENT", "DUPLICATE", "R", "D" .
 Two replacement GVI General Service Medals are shown below. No chance of mistaking the first for what it is , but the second could be missed due to the single letter "R" being high up on the shoulder of the disk at about 2 o'clock.


British medals and their naming.   
under construction - medals are being randomly added as time permits.

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British Campaign and Gallantry medals.

Military  General  Service
Medal  1793-1814
Sutlej Medal
 India General Service Medal. 1854-95  Baltic Medal
Crimea Medal
Turkish Crimea Medal
Indian Mutiny Medal
Second China War Medal
Canada General Service
 Medal 1866-70
Ashantee Medal
South Africa Medal
Afghanistan Medal
 Kabul to Kandahar Star
Cape of Good Hope General Service Medal 1880-97 Egypt & Sudan Medal
British South Africa Company's
 Medal 1890-97
 India Medal
Queen's Sudan Medal
Khedive's Sudan Medal
 1896 -1908
The Ashanti Star 1896
British North Borneo
Company's Medal 1900
Queen's South Africa Medal
 1899 - 1902
King's South Africa Medal
1901 - 1902
Transport Medal
 India General Service Medal
 1908 -1935
The Military Cross The Military Medal 1914 Star 1914-15 Star British War Medal
Victory Medal
Territorial Force War Medal 1914-19 Mercantile Marine War Medal Memorial Plaque General Service Medal
India General Service Medal
1939-45 Star Atlantic Star Air Crew Europe Star Africa Star
Pacific Star Burma Star Italy Star France and Germany Star Defence Medal
1939-45 War Medal Korea Medal 1950 - 1953
( and  UN Korea Medal )
General Service Medal
The Gulf Medal 1990-91 
Also see Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti Liberation medals
The Iraq Medal

Other Gallantry, Long and Meritorious Service, Coronation and Miscellaneous Medals.

Indian Police Medal King George V's Coronation Medal 1911 Delhi Durbar Medal
King George V's Silver Jubilee Medal 1935 King George VI's Coronation Medal 1937
Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation Medal 1953 Naval Reserve Long Service Medals 1909-57 Royal Air Force Long
Service and Good Conduct (GVI).
Efficiency Medal Civil Defence Long Service Medal
Volunteer Officers Decoration Territorial Decoration      

 Commonwealth medals and post independence / foreign medals frequently encountered with British medals.

Canadian Forces Decoration New Zealand War Service Medal 1939-45  New Zealand Memorial Cross Tamgha-i-Diffa, 1947
 Pakistan General Service Medal.
 Messina Earthquake Medal 1908

Investigations of Copies and Fakes

The Air Crew Europe Star;
 copy versus an original.
Memorial Plaque      

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