British Pre-Victorian Campaign Medals
Early 19th Century Awards
By Stephen Sherman, Dec. 2008. Updated July 19, 2011.
This era saw the start of modern military medals, as we think of them: awarded to servicemen for acts of bravery or participation in a campaign. The also set the pattern for British campaign medals, that is, retrospective awards for campaigns with clasps for the particular action that the recipient was involved in.
Military General Service Medal 1793-1814
The Military General Service Medal 1793 - 1814 commemorates the campaigns and battles of the British Army between 1801 and 1814. The medal could not be awarded without a bar and this medal set the pattern for future British general service medals. The bars mainly commemorate actions of the Peninsular War, but also include various campaigns across the globe such as the West Indies, Egypt, Java, United States of America, etc.
Naval General Service Medal 1793-1840
The NGSM was awarded for various naval actions during the period 1793 to 1840. Each battle or action covered by the medal was represented by a clasp on the ribbon; 231 were sanctioned (although the maximum awarded to one man was seven). The medal covered a variety of actions, from ship to ship skirmishes all the way to major fleet actions such as the Battle of Trafalgar.
Army of India Medal 1799-1826
The Army of India Medal (AIM) was a campaign medal approved in 1851 for issue to officers and men of the British Army and Honourable East India Company. The AIM approved on 21 March 1851 as a retrospective award by the East India Company to survivors of various actions during the period 1803 to 1826. This period encompassed four wars: the Second Mahratta War (1803-4), the Gurkha War (1814-16), the Pindaree or Third Mahratta War (1817-18), and the First Burmese War (1824-26). Each battle or action covered by the medal was represented by a clasp on the ribbon; twenty-one were sanctioned (although the maximum awarded to one man was seven). The medal was never issued without a clasp.
WATERLOO MEDAL 1815
The British Government awarded the Waterloo Medal to all soldiers present at the battles of Ligny, Quatre Bras and Waterloo, 16-18 June 1815. It was the first campaign medal issued to all ranks, and to the next-of-kin of all those killed in action. The medal was also the first on which the recipient's name, rank and unit was impressed around the edge by machine.
Description: (shown upper left)
The obverse bears the head of the Prince Regent looking left wearing a laurel wreath and the legend 'GEORGE P./REGENT'. The reverse has the winged figure of Victory seated facing left with the word 'WELLINGTON' above, 'WATERLOO' at the base of her seat and the date 'JUNE 18 1815' in the exergue below. The medal is suspended from the ribbon by a large steel ring which passes through a clip on top of the medal.
None authorised for this medal.
The ribbon has a .25" wide crimson central stripe with dark blue edges.
Naming was done with impressed Roman capital letters including the unit of the recipient. Spaces were filled in with small stars.
This is the first true British military campaign medal awarded to all those who took part in the battles of Waterloo, Ligny and Quatre Bras between June 16-18th 1815 regardless of rank. It is also the first medal to bear the figure of Victory which would later be incorporated on many medals. Collectors should note that examples are often encountered with replacement ring suspenders as the original steel ones were prone to rusting.
SOUTH AFRICA SERVICE MEDAL 1834-53
The obverse bears the head of Queen Victoria and the legend 'VICTORIA REGINA'. The reverse has a crouching lion in front of a mimosa bush with the words 'SOUTH AFRICA' above and the date '1853' in the exergue below. The suspender is an ornate scroll swivelling type sweated to the medal.
No clasps were originally authorised for this medal. However recipients who later became eligible for the South Africa Service Medal 1877-79 received only the dated clasp for the 1834-53 medal.
The ribbon is 1.25" wide and yellow-orange with two broad and two narrow dark blue stripes on either edge. It has been said the later South Africa Medal 1877-79 should have this brighter yellow-orange ribbon while the 1834-53 medal has a paler or biscuit shaded ribbon. This however appears to be incorrect and is probably to the fading of the ribbon in sunlight and both should have the brighter ribbon.
Naming is done in impressed Roman capitals.
This medal was issued in 1854 to those who had fought in the three Cape Frontier or Kaffir Wars between 1834 and 1853.