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British War Medal
Obverse (top left) and reverse (top right) of the medal. Ribbon: 32mm, orange watered centre with stripes of white and black on each side and borders of royal blue.
Awarded by United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Type Campaign medal
Eligibility British and Imperial forces.
Awarded for Campaign service.
Campaign First World War 1914–20.
Description Silver or bronze disk, 36mm diameter.
Clasps None authorised.
Established 26 July 1919
Total awarded 6,390,000 silver,
110,000 bronze.
Related 1914 Star
1914-15 Star
Victory Medal
Territorial Force War Medal

The British War Medal was a campaign medal of the British Empire, for service in World War I.

The medal was approved in 1919, for issue to officers and men of British and Imperial forces who had rendered service between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918.

Officers and men of the Army (including colonial and dominion forces) were required to have either entered an active theatre of war, or left the United Kingdom for service overseas, between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918, and completed 28 days mobilised service. The medal was automatically awarded in the event of death on active service before the completion of this period. The same criteria were applied for eligibility for staff of officially recognised non-military hospitals, such as those run by the Red Cross, and members of the women's auxiliary forces.[1]

For the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, and the Dominion and Colonial naval forces, the criteria was 28 days mobilised service, but without the requirement for overseas service. Again, the medal was automatically given to the next-of-kin of casualties if they were killed before the completion of this period. The medal was also awarded, with the same conditions, to a number of non-Naval personnel serving on Royal Navy ships, such as canteen and medical staff, and to members of the Women's Royal Naval Service.[1]

In the Royal Air Force, eligibility was broadly the same as for the Army - it required overseas service. However, members of the RAF, RNAS or RFC who had seen combat whilst based in the UK, who had ferried aircraft to France, or who had served on ships carrying aircraft, were deemed eligible.[1]

The medal was later extended to cover the period 1919–20 and service in mine-clearing at sea as well as participation in operations in North and South Russia, the eastern Baltic, Siberia, the Black Sea, and the Caspian.[2]

Some 6,500,000 medals were awarded in total, of which 110,000 were bronze. These bronze medals were mostly issued to Chinese, Maltese, and Indians who served in labour battalions of such organizations as the Chinese Labour Corps.


  • The medal is a circular silver (or, in rare cases, bronze) design. The obverse shows a King George V bareheaded effigy, facing left, with the legend: GEORGIVS V BRITT : OMN : REX ET IND : IMP : (George V, King of all the British Isles and Emperor of India)
  • The reverse shows St. George naked on horseback, armed with a short sword (an allegory of the physical and mental strength which achieves victory over Prussianism). The horse tramples on the Prussian shield and the skull and cross-bones. Just off-centre, near the right upper rim, is the sun of Victory. The dates 1914 and 1918 appear in the left and right fields respectively.
  • The ribbon has a wide central watered stripe of orange, flanked by two narrow white stripes, which are in turn flanked by two black pin-stripes, further flanked by two outer stripes of blue. The colours are not believed to have any particular significance.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Imperial War Museum: British War Medal
  2. Medals Yearbook 2004, p169

See also


  • Mackay, J and Mussel, J (eds) – Medals Yearbook – 2006, (2005), Token Publishing.
  • Joslin, Litherland, and Simpkin (eds), British Battles and Medals, (1988), Spink

External links

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