The Insignia for the Military Wounded (French language: Insigne des blessés militaires) was a French military insignia for wounds received in the line of duty while facing an enemy. It was established by the law of 11 December 1916, based on an idea by the nationalist writer Maurice Barrès. Although originally established as a temporary measure, the insignia has survived to this day in some form or another. It could be awarded to wounded soldiers, prisoners of war, to World War II deportees and internees from the French resistance and to soldiers wounded in more recent conflicts.
The Insignia for the Military Wounded, as specifically described in the law, was awarded: "to soldiers under arms who have received an injury in the course of military operations or in maintaining order, in the presence of the enemy or due to enemy action" and (by an extending decree of 8 November 1952) "to prisoners and internees, as well as prisoners of war, wounded in the course of their detention". Combat injuries are recognized and confirmed using a certificate of the origin of injury, a detailed report, pension notifications, etc., from any of the different bodies of the three military arms.
Upon the creation of the French World War 1 Commemorative Medal (French language: Médaille commémorative de la guerre 1914–1918) on June 23, 1920, the regulations were changed stating the insignia was no longer to be worn and that the red wound stars were to be transferred to its ribbon. This was repeated for all subsequent conflicts (WW2, Indochina, etc.) where the insignia was officially sanctioned only until an official commemorative medal was established where the red wound stars were to be transferred.
Since the creation of the "French Commemorative Medal" (French language: Médaille commémorative française) on October 9, 1995, this technical problem should no longer surface.
The original official insignia consisted of a simple 38 mm wide ribbon bar bearing a red enamelled star for each wound received. The ribbon was coloured as follows: a red 3 mm central stripe bordered by 1 mm white stripes, 4 mm yellow stripes, 2 mm white stripes, 3 mm blue stripes, 2 mm white stripes, 5 mm blue stripes and finally 1 mm white edge stripes. A red enamelled five pointed star was affixed to the ribbon for each confirmed combat wound received. That same star (or stars), was to be transferred to the ribbon of the commemorative medal of the related conflict upon its establishment becoming in effect, the entire insignia for the wounded.
As early as immediately following the First World War, many recipients of the "Insigne des blessés militaires", not satisfied with a mere ribbon, had medals privately made. Hanging from the same ribbon, these medals, of which multiple variants exist, consisted of a large red enamelled star most often surrounded by some kind of gilt laurel and/or oak branches. Small red enamelled five pointed stars were affixed to its ribbon denoting additional combat wounds. Many veterans opted to retain this unofficial medal and never transferred their wound stars to the official commemorative medals.
Even though extremely popular among veterans and openly worn in lieu of the approved insignia, it is not recognized by the Chancery of the Legion of Honour, and therefore is not an official French decoration. It does not appear on any official order of precedence chart. However, due to its symbolic value amongst combat veterans, it is quite often worn with other official decorations and was tolerated for wear on the uniform. Ironically, the medal is available from the Monnaie de Paris (Paris mint), along official French decorations.
Notable recipients (partial list)
- Sergeant André Maginot
- General Pierre Billotte
- Major Hélie de Saint Marc
- General Raoul Salan
- Resistance fighter André Girard
- General Edgard de Larminat
- Foreign Legion Captain John Freeman "Jack" Hasey
- Lieutenant-Colonel Pierre Clostermann
- Captain Pierre-Eugène Fournier
- General Gilbert Henry
- Lieutenant Jean Carrelet de Loisy
- Major Jean-Edmond Lamaze
- Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred Maurice Cazaud
- Lieutenant-Colonel Jean Vérines
- General Félix de Vial
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