The history of British army medals is rich and fascinating. Medals, ribbons and awards presented for feats of bravery or noteworthy achievements during warfare were a reflection not only of the courage, character and skills of the person being presented with them, but they also demonstrated the power and prestige of the monarch who reigned over the army in question.
Other military medals commemorated battles or military events that took place during a longer war with scenes depicted on one side from action on land, at sea or in the air. They were, and still are highly sought-after by collectors of coins and military memorabilia.
Most, if not all countries have military medals struck to reward bravery or mark achievements during times of war. However, some of the most interesting examples arguably come from Britain.
Medals of England span the gamut of monarchs from the very earliest through to Queen Elizabeth II, who has ruled the country during many instances of modern warfare during her 70-year reign. English military medals have traditionally been made from different metals, in different sizes and accompanied by different British medal ribbon types and colours.
Individually awarded UK military medals
Some of the most prestigious British military medals were awarded for bravery. Presented to individuals whose service or actions during a conflict were considered over and above the call of duty.
One of the most famous of these is the Victoria Cross, given for a conspicuous act of bravery, pre-eminent act of valour or extreme devotion to duty in the face of the enemy. Any rank can be awarded this honour and it can be presented while the person is still alive or posthumously.
The George Cross is another prestigious British medal, awarded for heroism or gallantry not in the presence of an enemy. It is presented after someone performs an act of bravery while facing extreme danger, and is equal in stature to the Victoria Cross.
British WW1 medals
Many UK army medals were awarded for bravery and acts of heroism or gallantry during the First World War (1914-1918).
Examples include the 1914 Star that was awarded to military personnel who fought in France and Belgium between certain dates at the start of the conflict.
Other WW1 medals include the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal 1914-20 (awarded to recognise the successful winning and conclusion of the First World War) and the Victory medal 1914-19, often referred to as the Allied War Medal.
These British world war medals are often prized by the descendants of their brave recipients, as well as being sought-after by militaria and medal collectors whenever they come onto the market for sale.
British WW2 medals
Other British army decorations and British army medals were awarded during the Second World War for bravery and gallantry shown by UK army personnel.
Examples of English military medals from this time include the 1939 to 1945 Star for those who completed the requisite amount of operational service overseas.
The colour of the ribbon attached to the medal represents the service – army, navy or air force.
Other individually awarded medals came from specific battles or campaigns, such as the Air Crew Europe Star, the Africa Star, the Burma Star and the Pacific Star.
The Mudie Medals
The practice of commemorating general victories during warfare and noteworthy military events has long taken place in Britain and can cover military operations that happen all over the world.
One example of a famous set of English medals is the Mudie medals collection – a set of forty specially designed medals created in 1820 by James Mudie to commemorate British successes during the Napoleonic wars and conflicts that took place between 1797 and 1817.
They were intended to counteract the many French medals that were also being created at that time to depict military events from the French point of view. Military medal collectors were encouraged to purchase them in special leather cases to keep them together and in good condition.
More commemorative military medals
The Mudie medals were by no means the first example of commemorative British military medals. Many important military battles and strategic successes that have played out on British soil, or involved British troops have been immortalised in medals, coins and medallions.
The 1650 Battle of Dunbar was fought in Scotland between Oliver Cromwell’s supporters and Scottish fighters under the command of David Leslie.
The English victory that resulted is the subject of a commemorative medal bearing Cromwell’s bust. A similar coin was struck to depict English monarch, King Charles II as a Roman general, standing and looking out at a naval battle in 1665.
Discover the related Medallion: 1650 Battle of Dunbar, Military Reward Historical Medallion by T Simon
Discover the related Medallion: 1745 Carlisle Recaptured: Jacobite Rebels Retreat to Scotland Historical Medallion by A Kirk & J Kirk
Then, there are a number of coins and medals in existence that mark the various events of the Jacobite Rebellion that took place in England during the mid-18th Century. The Duke of Wellington also makes an appearance on bronze commemorative military medals in the 19th Century that recognise his successes in the field of war.
Modern-day military medals
Sadly, warfare continues to this day, with UK military personnel serving around the world and making incredible sacrifices in the name of active service.
British army medals and ribbons are still being awarded for acts of bravery and extraordinary heroism and these modern-day awards are becoming the military collectors’ items of tomorrow.
Commemorative medals, too, as being struck to recognise modern warfare and to ensure that its impact upon history is not forgotten. To discover more about British military medals, or to browse the extensive collection available for sale, please visit our website.