6 BEST MEDAL WEBSITES
If your ancestor received a campaign medal or an award for gallantry, these websites can help you find out more, writes Jonathan Scott
Campaign medals, plus associated clasps or bars added to medal ribbons for specific actions, can obviously give you clues about an individual’s military service, while awards for gallantry and other service awards can lead you down new avenues of research.
There’s a thriving community of medal collectors and enthusiasts whose depth of knowledge is often profound. If you have a mystery medal, or some other piece of military insignia, there are plenty of websites where you may be able to track down useful information.
Medal rolls and many other related sources are online – both free and through commercial websites. A good place to start is The National Archives, specifically the various medal research guides. These show where the original records are and what they contain; where you can find important resources online; and the kinds of information you’ll need to start your search – plus where you can go next.
1 The Gazette www.thegazette.co.uk/awards-and-accreditation/medals
Gallantry medals awarded for a heroic deed or action were announced in the official public record The Gazette. Some will include a citation, a description of the specific action that led to the award (although there are no citations here for the Military Medal or Mentions in Despatches). This particular page details the medals and awards for gallantry associated with the First World War, including the Victoria Cross.
While a hugely valuable resource, there are flaws and frustrations when using this website. Before you start searching, I’d strongly suggest you begin by visiting the Hints and Tips ( www.thegazette.co.uk/ all- notices/content/ 238).
2 The Long, Long Trail www.1914-1918.net/soldiers/ themedals.html
Medals can seem confusing to the uninitiated. Thankfully the Long, Long Trail website does what it does best by presenting the facts clearly and simply. This page includes details of the five types of campaign medal issued during the First World War – from the most common, the British War Medal, to the Victory medal, the 1914–15 Star and the like. The website notes: “The combination of a Star, Victory Medal and War Medal was fairly commonplace (more than 2.5m trios were issued). This combination earned for itself the nickname ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’.”
3 TheGenealogist thegenealogist.co.uk/ military-medal
Many commercial sites have important medal collections ( more are listed on the facing page). One useful example is TheGenealogist’s collection of more than 117,000 records of Military Medals awarded for ‘acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire’ during the First World War. The website allows you to view images of the actual medal cards, which then link to the official government notification in The Gazette (see box 1, previous page). This page has interesting case studies of female winners of the medal. Elsewhere it has records of Distinguished Conduct Medals during the Boer War and First World War.
4 The National Archives nationalarchives.gov.uk/ help-with-your-research/ research- guides/
For TNA’s collections of medal records, follow the link above and scroll down to ‘British Military Gallantry Awards’. Included are Army medal index cards (1914–20), merchant seamen’s campaign medal records (1914–18, 1939– 45) and more. This guide to medals for gallantry also links to various campaign medal guides, all of which will lead you to other online collections, internal and external. The guides spell out useful information to have before you start, and ways you can narrow down your search. Some material is available free via Discovery as part of TNA’s Digital Microfilms Project ( eg recommendations for honours between 1935 and 1990, long service and good conduct registers, and more).
5 Medals of the World medals.org.uk
This vast collection of images of medals from around the world is the handiwork of this month’s expert. Most of the UK-related military medals include photos of both sides of the award, plus a graphic showing the official ribbon. Click ‘ What’s New’ to see recent additions – such as the Jummoo and Kashmir Medal, awarded to those who took part in the defence and relief of Chitral (in what was then the North West Frontier of British India) in 1895.
Medals ( left to right): Distinguished Service Order; Military Cross; Victoria Cross; Distinguished Conduct Medal ( all British) and French Croix de Guerre