China War medal (1842)

Era: 1842

Established in 1843 and issued by the British Government, the China War Medal was given to members of the British Army and the Royal Navy who took part in the First Anglo-Chinese War (5th July, 1840 – 29th August, 1842) or the ‘First Opium War’ as it is popularly known.

The original suggestion was the awarding this medal was by the Governor-General of India in October, 1842, for presentation to all rank of the Honourable East India Company’s Forces.  However it was awarded by the Home Government in 1843, to those who had taken part in the first and second capture of Chusan, on 5th July, 1840 and 1841.  Also actions in the Canton River, during 1841, and battles of Amoy, Ningpo, Chinhai, Tsekee, Chapoo, Woosung, in the Yangtze River, and in the assault of Chinkiang.  The campaign known as the First Opium War ended with the capture of Nanking. The resultant treaty opened five ports to trade, and ceded Hong Kong to Great Britain.

The original design of the China War Medal was different from that was issued.  The original reverse depicted a lion with its paws on the dragon. This was at the time considered offensive to the Chinese and therefore not suitable.


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 – 35mm wide, crimson centre strip with yellow edges

China War medal ribbon
China War medal ribbon

Type – Campaign Medal

Eligibility – British Forces

Awarded for – Campaign Service

Campaign – First Anglo-Chinese War (1839-42)

Established – 1843

Suspension – A straight nickel silver suspender with a neck in the centre, which is sweated directly to the piece.

Designer – Wm. Wyon, R.A.

Naming – Impressed with bold Roman capitals that are well spaced, blank spaces are filled with star, similar to the Waterloo medal.

Total Awarded – Not known

Clasps – None issued

Description - The China War medal's obverse shows the diademed head of Queen Victoria with the legend "VICTORIA REGINA". The reverse has a collection of War trophies with an oval shield with Royal Arms in the centre, all placed under a palm tree. (This reverse is also found on both the First, Second and Third China War medal.)  Above this is the inscription “ARMIS EXPOSCERE PACEM.” and in the exergue the word “CHINA,” with the date “1842” underneath.

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


Major L L Gordon ‘British Battles and Medals’

Some of the material on this page was also partially derived from


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