British War Medal 1914-20

British War Medal

This medal commemorates some of the most terrible battles the world has ever known. The military war dead of the British Empire totalled over 900,000. This medal was instituted by George V in 1919 to mark the end of the Great War and record the service given..

The conditions of award were as follows:

Royal Navy

The medal was granted to the undermentioned who performed 28 days’ mobilised service, or lost their lives in active operations before completing that period, between August 5, 1914, and November 11, 1918.

a) 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 HM commissioned ships and auxiliaries under 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 other recognised official nursing organisations, who served in a hospital ship at sea or proceeded overseas and served in a hospital abroad.

e) Canteen staffs serving in the ship of war at sea.

f) Non-nursing members of medical units, e.g., dispensers, store keepers, clerks, ward maids, et cetera, who served in a hospital ship at sea or proceeded overseas and served in a naval hospital abroad.


The medal was granted to the undermentioned 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 August 5, 1914, and November 11, 1918.

a) Officers and men of the British, Dominion, Colonial and Indian military forces.

b) Members of women’s formations who were enrolled under a direct contract of service for service with His Majesty’s Imperial forces.

c) All who served on the staffs of military hospitals, and all members of the recognised organisations who actually handled the sick and wounded.

d) Members of duly recognised or authorised organisations.

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


a) Officers and men of the Royal Naval Air Service, Royal Flying Corps or Royal Air Force.

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

c) Members of duly recognised or authorised organisations. The medal was also granted to all officers and men of the Royal Naval Air Service, Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force who

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

ii) were employed in flying new aircraft to France.

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

The qualifying period was later extended to cover postwar mine clearance and service in Russia during 1919 and 1920.

The question of giving bars for certain battles and theatres of operations was raised; 68 were suggested for Naval recipients and 79 for the army, however, the idea was dropped in 1923 because of the expense involved. The Naval bars were actually authorised in August 1920 but no further action was taken. No full size bars were issued but the relevant Naval bars are often seen on miniature War Medals.  Occasionally privately made full size bars for army and navy service are seen fitted to the medal.

List of Naval Bars authorised in 1920

General actions at sea

Heligoland 8 August 1914

Falkland Islands 8 December 1914

Dogger Bank 24 January 1915

Jutland 31 May 1916

Single Ship Actions

Cap Trafalgar 14 September 1914

Emden 9 November 1914

Konigsberg July 1915

Leopard 16 March 1917; 21 April 1917

Fighting At Sea In Particular Areas

North Sea 1914

Narrow Seas 1914

Home Seas 1914

Arctic 1914

Baltic 1914

Mediterranean 1914

Special Services Not In Particular Areas


Mine laying

‘Q’ Ships


Baltic S/M’s

Heliograph Bight S/Ms

Marmora S/Ms

Actions With Enemy’s Land Forces

Belgian Coast


Gallipoli Landing



Suez Canal



Ostend 10 May 1918

Operations With Land Forces


Red Sea

German East Africa

German South West Africa

Pacific Islands


Service in Serbia and Russia, and Post Armistice Operations

Eastern Baltic 1918-19

Mine Clearance 1918-19

North us sea 1918-19


Serbia 1918-19


Black Sea


Approximately 6,500,000 silver and 110,000 bronze medals were issued. It was issued in bronze to Chinese, Maltese, Indian and other native Labour Corps and also to other native personnel who were mobilised for war service and received pay at military rates.

The naming detail given on the medal differs according to rank and unit. Medals to army officers do not give the regiment, those to officers of the RN, RNR, RNVR, RM and RAF have the appropriate letters after their name. Medals to army ‘other ranks’ have the recipients number, rank, name and regiment, those to the Navy give the number, rating and name followed by the relevant letters, RN, RNR, etc. With the exception of medals to New Zealanders, no ship name is given. Medals having the recipients name only would be awarded to personnel on war service though not in one of the recognised military services: Merchant Navy, civilian nurses, press, et cetera.

This medal was issued singly without the Allied Victory Medal to certain regular and mobilised personnel who did not see any fighting. Recipients of a Mention in Dispatches who did not qualify for the Allied Victory Medal wore a bronze oak leaf on the ribbon of this medal.

A total of 633 Victoria crosses were awarded between 1914 to 1919 including two awards for the NW Frontier of India in 1915 and five for Russia in 1919.

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