Abyssinian War Medal (1869)

Era: 1867 - 1868

Sanctioned on 1st March, 1869 the award of the Abyssinian War Medal was given for service between 4th October 1867 and 19th April 1868, for personnel who took part in the 1868 Expedition to Abyssinia under Lieut.-Gen Sir Robert Napier, who afterwards become Lord Napier of Magdala.  This expedition was to secure the release of British labourers sent to the country at the request of King Theodore, but imprisoned and put in chains on their arrival along with other British representatives.  

The expedition launched by the British Forces totalled 43,000 men (of whom only 14,683 were soldiers), 36,000 transport animals, 7,000 camels, and 44 elephants.  This was across hundreds of miles of mountainous terrain that lacked any road system.

The Abyssinian War Medal is said to be one of the most expensive of all general issue medals on the account that the recipients’ names were embossed, thus a separate die was required for each medal.


Materials:      The majority of the British medals and clasps are made of solid silver, though some were issue in bronze versions, mainly to Indian non-combatants.  The majority of the British campaign awards are circular, usually 36mm in diameter.

Ribbons:         Medals are worn suspended from their own specific ribbons. These were first made of silk but cotton was increasingly used as the nineteenth century developed.  Their own colours often have a symbolic significance: the equal stripes of the ‘1939 to 1945 Star,’ for example, are dark blue to represent the service of the Royal and Merchant Navies, red, to represent that of the Armies and light blue to represent that of Air Forces.

Ribbon width can vary slightly though it is generally 32mm wide.

Ribbon – A crimson ribbon 1 1/2 inches wide, with white borders

Abyssinian War Medal ribbon
Abyssinian War Medal ribbon

Type – Campaign medal.

Eligibility –British and British Indian Army.

Awarded for – Campaign Service.

Campaign –1868 Expedition to Abyssinia.

Established –1st March 1869.

Designer –Joseph S. Wyon and Alfred B. Wyon.

Suspender - Ring

Naming – In embossed lettering in the centre of the reverse for British and some native Indian troops, though some of the latter received medals with their names engraved thereon.

Total Awarded – Approx. 14,000 issued for the expedition under Lieut.-Gen Sir Robert Napiar.

Clasps – None issued.

Description – The obverse of the medal is a small veiled left facing effigy of a diademed Queen Victoria surrounded by an ornate nine-pointed star, between the indentions are the letter of the word “ABYSSINIA.”  The reverse has laurel wreath around the outside of a blank central shield that is used for stamping the recipient’s name, regiment or ship within.


This guide will help you through all the parts and descriptions of military medals


Major LL Gordon, 'British Battles & Medals

Some of the material on this page was also partially derived from <en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Abyssinian_War_Medal>

Which are released under the terms of the creativecommons.org/licenses/by-s/3.0/.


Search for a name in our archive

Please enter a surname

Small Medium Large Landscape Portrait