Medal Index Cards 1914-1920

Every man and woman who served overseas during the First World War would have been entitled to at least one campaign medal. Millions of medals were awarded for service during the war and details of the recipients were recorded in campaign medal rolls and on medal index cards which pointed to those rolls. There were five campaign medals:

The 1914 Star was awarded to officers and men serving with the British and Indian Expeditionary Forces in France or Belgium between 5th August 1914 and midnight on 22nd November 1914. The majority of the 400,000 recipients of this medal were either serving soldiers or reservists recalled to the colours.

The 1914-15 Star was awarded to officers and men of British and Imperial Forces who served in any theatre of war between 5th August 1914 and 31st December 1915, excluding those officers and men who were already entitled to receive the 1914 Star.  Over 2,350,000 191415 Stars were awarded.

The British War Medal was originally awarded for officers and men of British and Imperial Forces who had rendered service between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918. This was later extended to include women who had served and also the immediate post-war period 1919-1920 which covered mine-clearance operations at sea as well as operations in the eastern Baltic, Siberia, The Black and Caspian Seas, and north and south Russia. Over 6,390,000 silver British War Medals were issued with a further 110,000 bronze British War Medals issued mostly to the Chinese Labour Corps, Indian Labour Corps and Maltese Labour Corps.

The Inter-Allied Victory Medal has many versions which were issued to qualifying participants from the victorious allies. Qualification for the British/colonial version was extensive and covered those who had been serving within a theatre of military operations between 4th/5th August 1914 and midnight on the 11th/12th November 1918. It was also awarded to members of the British Naval mission to Russia 1919-1920 and for mine clearance in the North Sea between 11 November 1918 and 30 November 1919.

The Territorial Force War Medal is the least common of the campaign medals. Recipients either had to be members of the Territorial Force on 4th August 1914 or had to have completed four years or more of service prior to the 4th August 1914 and re-joined before 30th September 1914. In addition, recipients had to have volunteered – prior to 30th September 1914 – to have served outside the United Kingdom and to have actually served between 4th August 1914 and 11th November 1918. Recipients of the 1914 Star and the 1914-15 Star were inelligible to receive the Territorial Force War Medal.

Medal Index Card for John William Beeby Gale

As well as giving details of a man’s name, rank, regiment, regimental number (as applicable) and medal entitlement, the medal index cards in National Archives series WO 372 often give other crucial information. For men who served overseas before the 1st January 1916, the date and theatre of disembarkation are generally given. Medal index cards may also give date of discharge or demobilisation, date of death and how the man died. Home addresses are often given for officers (who had to apply for their medals), unlike other ranks (who were automatically sent theirs). For men who were captured in 1914, the initials PoW appear on the majority of their medal index cards, and for those 1914 men who also applied for their clasp and roses, this detail also appears.

The image above, courtesy Ancestry, shows the medal index card for John William Beeby Gale of the Bedfordshire Regiment who arrived overseas on the 6th October 1914, thus qualifying for the 1914 Star and the clasp and roses, as well as the British War Medal and Victory Medal. He arrived in France as a lance-sergeant and was a Warrant Officer Class II by the time the war ended. The small number 16 in the top left hand corner is a reference to the 16th Regiment of Foot which was the pre-July 1881 (!) designation of the Bedfordshire Regiment.

Some medal index cards carry annotations that were added much later, often in response to enquiries about a man’s service or medal entitlement, and some cards don’t carry medal entitlement information at all but rather information about silver war badge entitlement.

The medal index cards are an essential data source for men and women who served King and Country during the First World War and we are delighted that we have a complete listing of recipients on this site. Do note that if a man or woman served King and Country during the First World War but did not serve overseas and was not entitled to a silver war badge, that they will be unlikely to appear in this collection. Also see my British Army Medals blog.

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