If your an­ces­tor re­ceived a cam­paign medal or an award for gal­lantry, these web­sites can help you find out more, writes Jonathan Scott

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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

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