Michael Hargreave Mawson details the British and foreign gazetted awards of the Crimean War period.
The original ‘Great War’ of 1793 to 1815 saw the expansion of the Order of the Bath to three classes, the creation of the Army and Naval Gold Medals and Gold Crosses, and the striking of the first universal issue campaign medal for 165 years, for Waterloo.
The years of the ‘Great Peace’ (1815 to 1854) saw the institution of three retrospective campaign medals: the Naval General Service Medal, the Military General Service Medal and the Army of India Medal, each bearing clasps for service at individual battles or sieges between 1793 and 1840, as well as a number of awards for long and/or meritorious service.
The list of official awards instituted in, and/or awarded to British naval and military recipients for services during the period of the Crimean War (28 March 1854 to 30 March 1856), however, is extensive (semi-official medals, such as those of the Royal Humane Society, and regimental medals, are outside the scope of this article):
- The Victoria Cross was instituted in 1856 (Gazette issue 21846). The first awards were announced in Gazette issue 21971; further awards were announced in the following Gazettes: 22043, 22065, 22149, 22194 and 22260.
- The Most Honourable Order of the Bath continued to be awarded in three classes; awards were gazetted, passim.
- The Distinguished Conduct Medal was instituted in Gazette issue 21640, where it was described as a medal for ‘distinguished service and gallant conduct’. The names of recipients were not gazetted.
- The Conspicuous Gallantry Medal was instituted by an Order in Council of 13 September, 1855. Some of the names of those awarded this medal were announced in Gazette issue 21817 and 21827. All but five recipients of this medal also subsequently received the Victoria Cross.
- The South Africa Medal was instituted in Gazette issue 21635. This campaign medal was a fourth retrospective medal, covering campaigns in South Africa from 1834 to 1853, and was awarded to participants in three separate wars; unlike the previous retrospective medals, it was issued without clasps.
- The (British) Crimea Medal, along with clasps for Alma and Inkermann for award to the army, was announced in Gazette issue 21648. A clasp for Balaklava, for award to the army, was announced in issue 21699. Clasps for Sebastopol and Azoff, for award to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, were announced in issue 21879. Balaklava and Inkermann clasps were also granted to the RN and RM personnel who fought in those battles, and the clasp for Sebastopol was also awarded to all army personnel who served in the Crimea between the investment of that city on 1 October 1854 and its fall on 9 September 1855. These awards appear not to have been announced in The Gazette. The issue of medals was extended to the next of kin of the fallen in Gazette issue 21653.
- The Baltic Medal was instituted in Gazette issue 21890. This was a campaign medal awarded for service in the Baltic campaigns of 1854 and of 1855. As with the South Africa Medal, it was issued without clasps.
- The Arctic Meritorious Service Medal was instituted, and the only four medals ever granted were awarded for services during this period.
- The Arctic Discoveries Medal, a universal issue for services in the Arctic between 1818 and 1855, was instituted in Gazette issue 21963.
- The Army Meritorious Service Medal continued to be awarded.
- The Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal continued to be awarded.
- The Naval Long Service and Good Conduct Medal continued to be awarded; in a handful of cases it was granted as a reward for gallantry in the Crimea.
- The Royal Marines Meritorious Service Medal continued to be awarded; by an Order in Council of 8 February 1855, this was also granted as a reward for gallantry in the Crimea.
- Board of Trade Medals for Gallantry in Saving Life, in three classes (gold, silver and bronze) and two categories (gallantry and humanity). Created neither by Royal Warrant nor by Order in Council, these awards were instituted by act of parliament: the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854.
Not until the second ‘Great War’ of 1914 to 1919 (leading to the institution of such awards as the Order of the British Empire, the Military Cross, the Military Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Naval Meritorious Service Medal and the Mention in Despatches emblem), was there to be such an explosion of new awards in such a short space of time.
New rules concerning the acceptance of foreign orders and medals were announced in 1855 (Gazette issue 21710). Lists of appointments to the following foreign orders were published, along with royal permission to accept and wear the various insignia associated with membership of the said orders.
- The French Légion d'honneur (Legion of Honour) in five classes – permission to accept and wear was granted to named individuals in Gazette issue 21909 and issue 21996 (600 awards).
- The Turkish Mecidî Nişanı (Imperial Order of the Medjidie) in five classes – the first instance of permission to accept and wear was granted in issue 21686, with the main list of recipients appearing in issue 22107. (Permission to accept and wear a total of around 1,500 awards was spread over a large number of different Gazette issues.)
- The Sardinian Ordine dei Santi Maurizio e Lazzaro (Order of St Maurice and St Lazarus) in five classes – permission to accept and wear was granted in issue 21912, issue 21949 and issue 22184 (11 awards).
- The Sardinian Ordine Militare di Savoia (Military Order of Savoy) in five classes – permission to accept and wear was granted in issue 21912 (six awards).
Lists of the recipients of the following foreign medals were not published in The Gazette, but blanket royal permission to wear the ‘Medals conferred by His Majesty the Emperor of the French, His Majesty the King of Sardinia, and His Imperial Majesty the Sultan, for services during the late War’, was published on 2 March, 1858 (Gazette issue 22107).
- The Sardinian Medaglia d’Argento al Valor Militare per la spedizione d’Oriente 1855-1856 (known variously as the Sardinian War Medal and the Al Valore), was a gallantry medal, of which 450 examples were issued to British recipients.
- The French Médaille militaire (Military Medal) was a gallantry medal, of which 500 examples were issued to British recipients.
- The Turkish İftihar Madalyası (Medal of the Order of Glory) in two classes, gold and silver, was a campaign medal, awarded for services in the Danubian Principalities to around 50 British recipients. The announcement that the medals had arrived in London and were ready to be claimed by those entitled was published in Gazette issue 21773.
- The Turkish Silistre Madalyası (Medal for the Defence of Silistria), another campaign medal, was issued to the handful of British personnel who were present.
- The Turkish Kars Madalyası (Medal for the Defence of Kars) was another campaign medal, also issued to the handful of British personnel who were present.
- The Turkish Kırım Harbi Madalyası (Turkish Crimea Medal) was yet another campaign medal, intended as a universal issue to all those who were entitled to the British Crimea Medal, as well as those who had served in the Crimea in the Turkish Contingent. A shortage of medals meant that by no means all those who qualified for the medal received one.
About the author
Michael Hargreave Mawson is an independent scholar, author, lecturer and broadcaster, and is best known for the book ‘Eyewitness in the Crimea’. He is a member of the Society for Army Historical Research, the Orders and Medals Research Society and the Crimean War Research Society, on the committee of which he served from 1996 to 2005. The Crimean War Research Society is the only organisation dedicated to the study of the war with Russia of 1853 to 1856.
Suggested further reading:
Abbott, P E and Tamplin, J M A, British Gallantry Awards, Nimrod Dix & Co, London, 1981
Douglas-Morris, K J, Naval Medals: 1793-1856, Privately printed, London, 1987
Hayward, J, Birch, D and Bishop, R, British Battles and Medals, Spink & Son Ltd, London, 2006