Medals awarded to officers and enlisted men for service in the Crimean War
and medals from other campaigns and/or service
The British Crimea Medal 1854-1856
Sanctioned on 15 December 1854, this medal was awarded to 275,000 men of the British Army and Navy. The medal is found both with and without clasps.
Description: Sterling silver 36mm diameter. The suspension is an ornate floriated swivelling suspender unique to the Crimea Medal; the clasps are also unique, being in the form of an oak leaf with an acorn at each extremity. Obverse: the diademed head of Queen Victoria and the legend VICTORIA REGINA and 1854. Reverse: a Roman legionary (carrying a gladius and circular shield) being crowned with a laurel wreath by a winged figure of Victory; to the left is the legend CRIMEA which is written vertically
Clasps or Bars: Clasps were authorised for the Battles of Alma, Balaklava and Inkermann and for the fall of Sebastopol. The four clasps were worn in date order, with the clasp for Alma being closest to the medal. A clasp was also awarded to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines for actions in the Sea of Azoff.
Naming: The medal was issued unnamed. However, medals could be returned to the Mint for naming (in a style known as ‘officially impressed’), but many were crudely stamped with names by recipients who were presented with their medals in the Crimea (‘Depot impressed’), or were privately engraved by jewellers in England.
Ribbon: Pale blue with yellow edges.
The Turkish Crimea Medal 1854-1856
Issued by Abdülmecid I Sultan of Turkey to the armies of his allies for services in the Crimean War. While this medal is almost always found with the British Crimea Medal, a small number of British officers who served with the Turkish forces along the Danube received the Turkish Crimea Medal only.
Description: Silver 36mm diameter. Suspended by means of a ring, but frequently replaced by a straight suspension. Obverse: depicts the Sultan’s cipher and the Mohammedan date 1271. Reverse: depicts cannon with varying arrangements of the allies’ flags depending on the issue.* There were three types of medal – the English, French and Sardinian, differentiated by the position of the flag on the reverse and the inscription on the reverse exergue Crimea 1855 (English), La Crimee 1855 (French) and La Crimea 1855 (Sardinian). It does not follow that British recipients received the appropriate issue since many of the British issue were lost in a shipwreck. The most common type found issued to the British was the Sardinian.
Many people mistakenly believe the reverse with the flags and cannon are the obverse of this medal and indeed many of the recipients at the time wore them that way. The side with the Sultan’s cypher or tughra is actually the obverse.
Clasps or Bars: None
Naming: The medal was issued unnamed.
Ribbon: Dark crimson with green edges. The original ribbon issued with this medal measured only .50” wide but was replaced by one of 1.25” when awarded to British personnel.
The Sardinian Crimea Medal 1854-1856
Authorised by the King of Piedmont-Sardinia 6 June 1856, this silver medal to be awarded to 450 specially selected officers and men of the British naval and military forces who had fought in the Crimean War. Some 400 of these went to the Army and the first awards were made on 18 July to the Royal Artillery at Woolwich.
Description: A silver medal suspended from a blue ribbon, featuring a cross in an oval surmounted by a crown, with laurel and palm branch tied with a ribbon below, lettered with ‘Al Valore/Militare’ and ‘F.G.’. The reverse depicts two laurel branches tied with a ribbon, letter with ‘Spedzione D’Oriente 1855/1856’.
Medal Roll: The names of the 400 British Army recipients can be found on the Crimean War Medal Roll WO100-34-336.
NOTE: Not to be confused with the Turkish Crimea War medal issued to the Sardinian troops by the Sultan of Turkey.
The Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM)
Instituted 4 December 1854 for other ranks during the Crimean War, awarded for gallantry in the field. Eight hundred medals were awarded. The medal underwent various changes in 1881 and 1916 and was discontinued in 1933, replaced by the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross.
Description: Sterling silver 36mm diameter. Obverse: originally a trophy of arms, but after 1902 the head of the reigning sovereign appeared. Reverse: a four-line inscription across the face FOR DISTINGUISHED CONDUCT IN THE FIELD.
Clasps or Bars: Two types of second award bars have been issued: the first type has the date of the second award on it, with the second type bearing laurel leaves.
Naming: The medal was issued named, and carried the number, rank and name of the recipient on the rim. The date of the act of gallantry from 1881 to 1916 was also present.
Ribbon: 32mm crimson with dark blue central stripe.
The Victoria Cross (VC)
Instituted January 1856 following the Crimean War as the premier award for gallantry, available for all ranks. The award was granted posthumously in 1902, retrospective to 1856 to those recommended for acts of valour during the Crimean War. At the time of the Crimea, a £10 annuity was paid to recipients. As at 2017, the annuity was £10,000.
Description: A Cross pattée of bronze, allegedly from Russian guns captured in the Crimea (an unsubstantiated story in the Times newspaper in 1857). It is now thought that the metal was from Chinese canon captured in other conflicts. Obverse: a lion standing guard on the royal crown, with the words FOR VALOUR on a semi-circular scroll. Reverse: a circular panel engraved with the date of the act for which the medal was awarded. The Cross is suspended by a ring attached to a suspension bar decorated with laurel leaves.
Clasps or Bars: None
Naming: The reverse of the suspension bar is engraved with the name, rank and ship/regiment/squadron of the recipient.
Ribbon: 32mm crimson. Originally the ribbon was crimson for Army and blue for Navy, but since 1918 has been issued in crimson for all services.
The French Legion of Honour (2nd Empire)
Established by Napoleon Bonaparte on 19 May 1802 to be awarded for outstanding civil or military service to France; first awarded 14 July 1804. It has survived Empire, restoration of the Monarchy and five Republics. There have been at least a dozen major changes to the insignia and the political history of the past 200 years of France may be traced on them. It is France’s premier order.
The Légion d’Honneur was awarded to 746 members of the British Armed Forces during the Crimean War. Prior to the Crimean War there was no precedent of a mass exchange of awards between allied nations. However, in January 1856 Queen Victoria and the Emperor of France formally agreed to an interchange of decorations between their two Armies. However, nominations for the French awards had already been gathered, with recommendations requested at the end of October 1855 and mid December 1855. In exchange several awards of the Order of the Bath were made to French soldiers and sailors.
Description: The badge of the Légion is a five-armed Maltese Asterisk (Cross) in gilt or silver (depending on rank) enamelled white, with an enamelled laurel and oak wreath between the arms. The obverse central disc is in gilt, featuring (in this era) the head of Bonaparte surrounded by the legend Napoleon Emp de Français on a blue enamel ring. The reverse central disc is the Imperial Eagle also in gilt, surrounded by the Légion’s motto Honneur et Patrie (Honour and Fatherland). The badge is suspended from an Imperial Crown.
The Ribbon for the medal is plain red.
The French Military Medal (2nd Empire)
Established in 1852 by Emperor Napoleon III for award to privates and non-commissioned officers who distinguished themselves by acts of bravery in action against an enemy force. The Médaille Militaire was awarded in some number to British and allied forces (allies of the French Empire) during the Crimean War.
Description: The Médaille militaire is a silver laurel wreath, 28 mm (1.1 in) in diameter, wrapped around a central gold medallion bearing the left profile of Emperor Napoleon III. The central gold medallion is surrounded by a blue enameled ring bearing the gilt inscription “LOUIS-NAPOLEON” with a small gilt five-pointed star at the bottom with flowers on both sides . The 2nd Empire variant was topped by a silver imperial eagle with a loop through which the suspension ring passed. The reverse of the medallion is common to all variants since inception of the award, it bears the relief inscription on three lines “VALEUR ET DISPLINE” (English: “VALOUR AND DISCIPLINE) and is surrounded by a blue enameled ring.
Ribbon: 37 mm (1.5 in) wide, yellow in color with 6 mm-wide (0.24 in) green stripes on each edge. This ribbon was borrowed from the Order of the Iron Crown which it effectively replaced in France.
The Turkish Order of the Medjidie
Instituted in 1851, the Order was awarded in five classes, with the First Class being the highest. The Order was issued in considerable numbers by Sultan Abd-ul-Mejid I as a reward for distinguished service to members of the British Army and the Royal Navy and the French Army who came to the aid of the Ottoman Empire during the Crimean War against Russia. In Britain it was worn after any British gallantry and campaign medals awarded, but before the Turkish Crimean War medal. The Order was usually conferred on officers but a few enlisted soldiers also received it in a lower class. The medal has not been awarded since 1917.
Description: On the obverse of the star is Sultan Abdul Mejid’s royal cipher surrounded by an inscription on a gold-bordered circle of red enamel; all on a star of seven triple quills with small crescents and five-pointed stars between them, suspended from a red enameled crescent and star suspender with green enameled edges.
Classes: The order has five classes. First, second, third and fourth classes are gold. Fifth (lower) class is silver.
Ribbon: Red with green stripes.
The Baltic Medal – The Baltic Sea Campaign 1854-55
Authorised in 1856, this medal was awarded to officers and men of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines for operations against Russia in the Baltic at the same time as the war in the Crimea. It was also awarded to about 100 members of the Royal Sappers and Miners engaged in the demolition of Russian fortifications of Bomarsund and Sveaborg.
Description: Sterling silver 36mm diameter. Obverse: Wyon profile of Queen Victoria. Reverse: Britannia seated on a plinth decorated by a cannon, with a coastal scene in the background and BALTIC round the top.
Clasps or Bars: None.
Naming: The medal was issued unnamed but often privately named afterwards. The exception was medals to the Sappers and Miners which were officially impressed.
Ribbon: Yellow with light blue edges.
Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal
Instituted 1830 originally for soldiers of exemplary conduct for 21 years service in the infantry or 24 years in the cavalry, but in 1854 the qualifying period was reduced to 18 years.
Description: Silver 36mm diameter. Obverse: a trophy of arms with the royal arms in an oval shield in the centre. The first issue had the royal arms with the badge of Hanover and a small suspension ring. A large ring was substituted in 1831 and in 1837 on the accession of Queen Victoria the Hanoverian emblem was dropped from the arms. In 1855 a swivelling scroll suspension was substituted. The reigning sovereign’s effigy was placed on the obverse from 1901. Reverse: bore the inscription FOR LONG SERVICE AND GOOD CONDUCT (large lettering replaced in 1859 by smaller lettering). In 1930 the medal was replaced by the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (Military).
Clasps or Bars: None.
Naming: The medal was issued named and dated on the rim.
Ribbon: 32mm plain crimson until 1917 when white stripes were added to the edges.
The China Medal 1840-1842
Issued in 1843. The medal was initially intended for all ranks of the Honourable East India Company, but by order of Queen Victoria was issued to British Army and Royal Navy personnel who took part in the First China War (First Anglo-Chinese War or First Opium War). This included (approx.) five companies of Artillery, four companies of Sappers and Miners, five British and nine Indian Infantry regiments; 50 British and Indian ships.
Description: Silver 36mm diameter with a suspender thick and straight, fixed directly onto the medal. Obverse: the Wyon bust of Queen Victoria and the legend VICTORIA REGINA. Reverse: depicts military trophies under a palm tree* with inscription ARMIS EXPOSCERE PACEM, the word CHINA and the date 1842 in exergue.
Clasps or Bars: None
Naming: Large, deeply impressed in Roman capitals with any spare space filled in with stars as on the 1815 Waterloo medal.
Ribbon: Crimson with yellow edges 35 mm wide.
South Africa Medal 1834-1853
Sanctioned in November 1854 and awarded for services during three campaigns in South Africa in 1834-35, 1846-47 and 1850-53. These campaigns were known as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Kaffir Wars or the 6th, 7th and 8th Frontier Wars.
It was awarded to approximately 9,500 survivors in both the Army and Navy, but was not issued to next of kin. Almost all the recipients were British troops, although 650 were issued to Naval personnel on five ships. Only a few local troops and officers in native levies received the award.
Description: Silver 36mm diameter with a swivelling ornamental suspension. Obverse: the Leonard Charles Wyon bust of Queen Victoria and the legend VICTORIA REGINA. Reverse: depicts a lion drinking by a protea bush with the legend SOUTH AFRICA and 1853 in the exergue.
No Clasps or Bars: Only reference to the rolls (WO100-17) will give an indication of which campaign(s) the recipient served in.
Naming: Impressed in Roman capitals. No ship is shown on medals to Naval recipients.
Ribbon: Orange, with two wide and two narrow dark blue stripes.
Indian Mutiny Medal 1857-1858
Instituted 18 August 1858 for award to British and Indian troops deployed against the Mutineers. The last of the Honourable East India Company’s medals issued on behalf of the British Government. Approximately 270,000* medals were issued.
Description: Silver 36mm diameter with a swivelling cusped suspension. Obverse: the diademed head of Queen Victoria and the legend VICTORIA REGINA. Reverse: depicts a standing Britannia, with shield, presenting a wreath. Behind her is a standing the British lion, above is the word INDIA and in exergue the dates 1857 -1858.
Clasps or Bars: Five fish tailed bars with rosette separators were issued: Delhi, Defence of Lucknow, Relief of Lucknow, Lucknow and Central India; maximum of four awarded on one medal.
Naming: Impressed in Roman capitals. Official replacements can be found on a thicker flan with the naming in taller letters and showing the recipient’s service number (service numbers are not impressed on the original issue).
Ribbon: White, with two red stripes.
*Some sources give 290,000. This number may include an issue in 1868 to those civilians who had borne arms or taken part in the fighting.
The New Zealand Medal 1845-1847 & 1860-1866 (First and Second Maori Wars)
Awarded in 1869 to the survivors who fought in the Maori Wars. Army and Navy personnel received the award as well as local militia troops. Both campaigns were the result of Maori resistance to the continuing encroachment of settlers on their lands.
Description: Sterling silver 36 mm diameter. The suspension ornamented with New Zealand fern fronds. Obverse: the veiled head of Queen Victoria. Reverse: Date of service in a wreath, with NEW ZEALAND round the top and VIRTUTIS HONOR (honour of valour) round the foot.
Clasps or Bars: None.
Naming: The medal was almost always impressed in Roman capitals when awarded to Army and Navy personnel, although some awards to local militia are found engraved.
Ribbon: Blue with central orange stripe.
Note: This medal is one of the most complicated of the campaign medal series as there are 29 different reverse types – one undated (as in example above), the others bearing differing dates showing when the recipient served in New Zealand (example on left).
Applications: Officers and Men of the Colonial Forces were required to make application for the NZ Medal for services performed prior to the 31st December 1866 and whose claims were admitted by the War Medal Commissioners. These were entered on the Nominal Medal Roll in 1871.
Source: Medal Yearbook 2014, edited by John W Mussell, Token Publishing Limited.
© Diane Oldman 2018