By Roy Bassett
To be a collector of World War 2 medals awarded to British and
Commonwealth Forces, you should be diligent in your research
and aware of all the variables.
Some groupings could involve
payment of hundreds of dollars, so be on guard for the many forgeries
known to exist.
Basically, two medals and eight
campaign stars were awarded for British and Commonwealth campaign
service between Sept. 3, 1939, and Sept. 2, 1945.
Medals awarded were The War
Medal 1939-1945, and The Defence Medal 1939-1945, each with its
own distinguishing ribbon.
The eight stars are the 1939-1945
Star; Atlantic Star; Air Crew Europe Star; Africa Star; Pacific
Star; Burma Star; Italy Star and the France and Germany Star.
With exceptions to a few Commonwealth
countries, the British medals and stars were issued without names.
Each medal ribbon is different
and it is believed they were designed by King George VI. The
maximum number of stars awarded to one person was five.
In addition to the stars, there
were nine clasps awarded: Battle of Britain; Air Crew Europe;
France and Germany; Atlantic; North Africa 1942-43; 8th Army;
1st Army; Burma and Pacific.
The system devised to decide
who was entitled to which star and/or clasp is very complicated
and great care must be taken to verify any set of medals.
Your most expensive group, not
including any bravery awards, will be one that includes the Air
Crew Europe Star or the Battle of Britain clasp. For either confirmed
group, you will pay upwards of $400. This makes it essential
to do your homework.
You may wish to collect an example
of each medal and star together with the clasps for display purposes.
There are copies available at a modest price and are, in my opinion,
good quality. Go to defencemedals.ca
and see what they have to offer.
Should you wish to collect genuine
medals, Stars and clasps, here is a guide to how they were awarded.
War Medal: Awarded to
all full time personnel of the Armed Forces who served for 28
days or more between September 3, 1939, and September 2, 1945.
Operational and non-operational service counted. There are certain
exceptions to the 28-day rule, i.e. operational service terminated
by death, wounds or disability due to service. This medal is
made of cupro-nickel except the Canadian issue, which is made
of .800 fine silver. Issued unnamed except to the Canadian Merchant
The Defence Medal: Awarded to service personnel who served
three or more years at home, or, one year or more in non-operational
service overseas or outside the country of residence, or, six
months in territories threatened by the enemy or subject to bomb
attacks, or, three months service in Mine and Bomb Disposal Units
between September 3, 1939, and September 2, 1945. This medal
was issued unnamed and made of cupro-nickel. Canadian issue in
.800 fine silver.
The Stars are made of bronze,
are six pointed and have a circular centre with the GRI/V1 monogram
surmounted by a crown. The name of each Star is inscribed on
the central circlet. All were issued unnamed.
The 1939-1945 Star. Basically,
to qualify for this Star a member of the Navy and Army must have
served for 6 months in an operational command or in areas of
active operations. A member of the R.A.F. must have served in
operations against the enemy providing that two months service
had been completed in an operational unit.
The Atlantic Star: Was awarded for six months service
anywhere at sea between September 3, 1939, and May 8, 1945, with
one or more voyages in the Atlantic and/or Home Waters. To qualify
for this Star a member must have first earned the 1939-1945 Star.
The Air Crew Europe Star: Was awarded for operational flying for two months
from United Kingdom bases over Europe from September 3, 1939,
to June 5, 1944. To qualify for this Star a member must have
first earned the 1939-1945 Star.
The Africa Star: Was awarded for one or more day's service
in North Africa from June 10, 1940, and May 12, 1943, in an operational
unit or any service at sea in the Mediterranean or in the case
of the R.A.F. to have landed in, or flown over, any of the areas
or territory occupied by the enemy. This did not include West
The Pacific Star: Awarded for operational service in
the Pacific theatre of war from December 8, 1941, and August
15, 1945. Service in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea as
well as land service in these areas also qualified.
The Burma Star: Awarded for service in the Burma campaign
between December 11, 1941, and September 2, 1945. Service in
the Provinces of Bengal and Assam as well as in China and Malaya
also qualified members for this Star.
The Italy Star: Awarded for operational service in
Sicily or Italy as well in the Aegean, Dodecanese, Corsica, Greece,
Sardinia, Yugoslavia and Elba between June 11, 1943 and May 8th
The France and Germany Star. Awarded for operational service in
France, Belgium, Holland or Germany between D Day and the German
surrender - June 6, 1944, and May 8, 1945.
The 1939-1945 Star could be
considered as the qualifying star because except for the France
and Germany and Africa stars, a member had to earn it before
consideration for the other stars.
Qualifications required for
the stars have been condensed here. You can get the full qualifications
from a pamphlet issued by the Committee on the grant of Honours,
Decorations and Medals, published by H.M. Stationary Office,
or one of the many publications, such as The Medal Yearbook,
published by Token Publishing Limited, or British Battles and
Medals, Spink and Son Ltd., London.
As mentioned, a recipient could
only be awarded five stars, so, should you see a group with six
or more stars, then you know something is wrong.
Several Commonwealth countries
issued a medal related to their country and some even issued
all the medals named to the recipient.
All members of the Canadian military
were volunteers and in recognition of this the Canadian government
awarded the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal to all those who
served. Unfortunately, these were also issued without names.
The Canadian Volunteer Service
Medal: As the name implies,
this medal was only issued to members of the Canadian military
and Nursing Service providing they had completed 18 months voluntary
service or had been honorably discharged before the full period
had been completed. The qualifying period is from September 3,
1939, to March 1, 1947. Three clasps were awarded: Maple Leaf
clasp, to denote overseas service,
Dieppe clasp (instituted April
28, 1994) for all servicemen who took part on the Dieppe raid
of August 19, 1942, and the Hong Kong clasp (instituted April
28, 1994) for those involved in the Battle of Hong Kong from
December 8 to December 25, 1941. The medal is made of silver.
The India Service Medal: Awarded for three years non-operational
service in India.
The Africa Service Medal: Awarded to Union service personnel
who served at home and abroad during the war for at least thirty
days. These medals were named.
The Australia Service Medal: Awarded to all Australian personnel
who had seen eighteen months overseas or three years home service.
These medals were named.
The New Zealand War Service
Medal: Awarded to all members of the New Zealand forces who completed
one month full-time or six months part-time service.
The South African Medal for
War Service: Awarded
to men and women who served for at least two years in any official
voluntary organization. Service must be voluntary and unpaid.
The Southern Rhodesia War
Service Medal: This is
a very scarce medal and was only awarded to those who served
in Southern Rhodesia during the period of the war but were not
eligible for one of the campaign stars or war medals.
The Newfoundland Volunteer
War Service Medal: During
WW2, Newfoundland was a separate British colony, which did not
enter the Canadian Confederation until 1949, therefore, Newfoundland
servicemen did not qualify for the CVSM. In 1981, this was rectified
by the Newfoundland provincial government who instituted this
Long Service medals and General
Service medals are invaluable when included with groups of WW2
medals because they were all issued named.
Through research, you will be
able to find out the entitlements to that person.
There are many groups of medals
on the market today that are made up or were actually awarded
to a veteran. Being unnamed, it is virtually impossible to identify
the recipient and they just become "a group of WW2 medals."
Should you have friends or relatives
who are veterans of WW2, ask them to record their war service,
and ensure their documentation of Military Service is preserved
with the medals.
You might even convince them
to have their medals professionally engraved with name, service
number, rank and regiment or ship etc.
1 - Group: Police Longservice medal (named); 1939-1945 Star;
Defence Medal, War Medal, British Long Service Medal (named)
2 - Common 1939-1945 Star medal. Must be earned first before
others can be awarded
3 - Air Crew Europe Star, rarest of the Star medals, therefore
the most valuable. Many phony ones are on the market.
4 - Typical "Canadian" Group: 1939-1945 Star; France
and Germany Star; Defence Medal; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal,
Roy Bassett is a veteran
of the British Army (1950s) and a retired Toronto policeman.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org