Medals of the First World War

Teachers' notes, activities and linked resources

Five campaign medals were awarded to men who served in the First World War. Any individual could be issued with a maximum of three of them, though there are were small number of exceptions. 


In addition to the campaign medals, a badge was issued to officers and men who had been honourably discharged or had retired as a result of wounds or sickness.

 

The three medal most commonly found together are the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal. Together they are known as ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’ after three characters in a Daily Mirror cartoon of the time.  

  • The 1914-15 Star (Pip) was awarded to those who had served in France or Belgium between 5 August 1914 and 31 December 1915. It was always given together with the British War Medal and Victory Medal. Those who served in the first 16 weeks of the war were responsible for helping hold back the German Army while new recruits could be trained and equipped. About 2.4 million of these medals were issued.

  • The British War Medal (Squeak) was awarded to officers and men of the British and Imperial Forces who entered service between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918. About 6.5 million of them were issued.

  • The Allied Victory Medal (Wilfred): each of the Allies designed their own; the one pictured above is the British one. Approximately 5.7 million were issued.  

The Mercantile Marine War Medal was established in 1919 and awarded by the Board of Trade to anyone who had served in the Merchant Navy and made a voyage through a war zone or danger zone during the war.

 

The fifth medal was the Territorial Force War Medal, issued in 1920 to members of the Territorial Force and Territorial Force Nursing Services who had served overseas during the period of the war. Those eligible for the 1914 or 1914-15 star could not also receive the Territorial medal.

 

Men who had been discharged from the army under the King’s Regulations were awarded the Silver War Badge. The King’s Regulations covered a number of ways in which a man could have been discharged. The most common was if he was permanently physically unfit, which included serious illness injuries sustained in battle. Other reasons for discharge included if a soldier had lied about his age on enlistment.

The badge had to be worn on civilian clothes; it was forbidden to wear one on a military uniform. The badge was first issued in September 1916 and is sometimes known as the ‘wound badge’ or ‘discharge badge’. Over a million of them were issued.  

 

Curriculum links:

KS3/4 History – World War One

KS3/4 Citizenship – Dealing with conflict, types of conflict

 

Learning objectives:  

Knowledge about how the war has been remembered and commemorated

Understanding that remembrance and commemoration has changed over time

Skills in analysing and interpreting historical evidence

 

Discussion ideas:

  • Why do you think we use medals to mark a person’s war service?
  • What meaning do medals, especially First World War medals, have for us today?    

Activity ideas:

For further ideas around First World War medals, see the separate resource WW1 Medal Stories, which includes a 'design your own medal' interactive.


View other relevant resources on My Learning or scroll down to the bottom of the page for a list of related links and resources on this topic.


Glossary:

Allies - the   nations who joined together against the Central Powers during WW1 (initially Great Britain, France and Russia)

Eligible - be qualified to receive something

Enlistment - signing up for the armed forces




 
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