British Commonwealth War and Campaign Medals Awarded to New Zealanders - The British War Medal
About the British War Medal
The British War Medal was instituted in 1919 to recognise the successful conclusion of the First World War (1914-1918). Its coverage was later extended to recognise service until 1920, recognising mine clearing operations at sea, and participation in operations in North and South Russia, the eastern Baltic, Siberia, the Black Sea and the Caspian.
The obverse of this medal shows the uncrowned left-facing profile of King George V by Sir Bertram Mackennal. The reverse of the medal depicts St George on horseback trampling underfoot the eagle shield of the Central Powers, and a skull and cross-bones (the emblems of death). Above, the sun has risen in victory. The figure is mounted on horseback to symbolise man's mind controlling a force of greater strength than his own, and thus alludes to the scientific and mechanical developments and machines which helped to win the war.
Throughout the British Empire about 6.5 million medals were awarded in silver. Approximately another 110,000 were awarded in bronze, mainly to Chinese, Indian and Maltese personnel in labour battalions.
About the ribbon
The ribbon consists of an orange watered centre, with thin stripes of white and black at each side, and borders of royal blue.
Clasps and Bars
Rather unusually, no clasps were issued for this medal, although it was originally intended to do so. However, there were so many operational areas and theatres of war to be included (79 clasps were recommended by the British Army and a further 68 clasps were recommended by the Royal Navy), that the proposal was abandoned as impractical. The very large cost to issue so many clasps also appears to have been a significant factor in the clasp proposals not being implemented. The naval clasps were authorised in Britain on 7 July 1920, and miniatures of these clasps are known to exist, but the actual clasps were never issued.
Order of Wear
The position of this medal in the Wearing of Medals in New Zealand Table can be viewed here.
Media Statements and NZDF Feature Stories since 2008 concerning service by New Zealand personnel which qualified for the award of the British War Medal
- 9 February 2011 - Auckland Regiment soldier to be reburied at Longueval, France
- 24 April 2009 - Remembering Pacific peoples’ WW1 contribution
- 11 November 2008 - The 90th anniversary of Armistice Day
- 11 November 2008 - Chief of Army launches Devil’s Own War
- 7 November 2008 - Book launch for important WW1 diary - Brigadier-General Herbert Hart 'The Devil’s Own War'
- 18 February 2008 - French Museum showcases Tunneller's work
Older Media Release concerning a New Zealand service person who qualified for the award of the British War Medal
- 4 December 2003 - WWI Kiwi medal find by New Zealand Army Officer in Afghanistan bazaar
Further information about First World War medals
Alec A. Purves. The Medals, Decorations and Orders of the Great War 1914-1918. 2nd revised edition (1989)
Captain H. Taprell Dorling. Ribbons and Medals. 20th edition (1983). Edited and revised by Alec A. Purves
John Wilson. 'British Battle Clasps of the First World War', in The Volunteers: The Journal of the New Zealand Military Historical Society (Inc), vol.39, no.2, November 2013, pp.94-103.
John Wilson's article is based on the documents in two files at Archives New Zealand, Wellington:
- - R22433114; was 48/131, Medals, Honours etc: War Medals, Great War, Issue of Clasps
- - R10701469; was 27/133/3, Reinforcements, Battle Clasps
- (both in Series AAYS, Army Department; formerly Series AD).