Second China War Medal

Era: 1856 - 1861

The Second China War Medal was issued by the British government on 6th March 1861 for those members of the British Army and Royal Navy who took part in the Second Opium War of 1856 to 1860 against China. 

Events started as the Royal Navy, under Admiral Sir Michael Seymour destroyed a Chinese flotilla at Fatsham Creek, preparing the way for the attack on Canton which brought the first phase to an end in June 1858. Fighting later broke out again and a large number of troops were involved in the assault on the sack of Pekin (Beijing) and the forts at Taku, though many reinforcements were sent to help with the Indian Munity.

This is a very common medal: the bar for the China, 1842, is however, somewhat rare.  It is only said 115 of these bars were issued.


Materials:      The majority of the British medal 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 (or Ribands). These where first made of silk but cotton was increasingly used as the ninetieth century progressed.  Their own colours often have a symbolic significance: the blue and white strips of the Egypt medal, for example, are said to signify the blue and white Niles, while the red and green ribbon of the Second Afghan War shows the heraldic colours of Great Britain and of Islam.

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

Ribbon – 32mm wide, the original issue had five equally spaced stripes reading from the left blue, yellow, red, white and green.  This was later replaced by one crimson with yellow edges.

Second China War Medal ribbon
Second China War Medal ribbon

Type – Campaign Medal

Eligibility – British forces.

Awarded for – Campaign Services.

Campaign – Second Opium War

Established – 6th March 1861

Designer – Wm. Wyon, R.A.

Suspension – (Ornate) exactly the same as that for the Mutiny Medal, namely by a horn-shaped suspender, which is attended to the piece by a high swivelling claw.

Naming – The medal issued to the Royal Navy were unnamed, a few of those to the marines and Indian Marine are, however, to be found named as those to the Army, namely in neat indented Roman capitals.

Clasps – Six

Description – 36mm diameter, in silver with a cusped/ornate swivelling suspender of the same design as the Indian Mutiny Medal.  Obverse: - The diademed head of Queen Victoria and the legend “VICTORIA REGINA”.  Reverse: A collection of War trophies with an oval shield, with the Royal Arms in the centre, all positioned under a palm tree.  Above is the legend “ARMS EXPOSCERE PACEM”.  In the exergue is the word “CHINA”.


Clasps are commonly, though not strictly correctly, also referred to as ‘bars’.  They are single-faced metal bars carried on a ribbon attached to the medal, indicating service in a particular campaign or battle.  The clasps carry side flanges to enable them to be attached to the medal and riveted to each other, so that new ones can be attached as earned.  Usually the first earned Clasp is borne nearest to the medal, so that the latest earned should be at the top, though they can be found in the wrong order. 

Fatshan 1857                                                                                                  25th May – 1st June, 1858.

This bar was awarded only to Navel and Marine personnel from H.M. Ships Bustard, Calcutta, Coromandel, Forester, Haughty, Hongkong, Hornet, Plover, Starling, Staunch, and Tribune.

Canton 1857                                                                                                   28th Dec, 1857 – 5th Jan, 1858.

Awarded to Navel personnel on H.M Ships: Acorn, Actaeon, Calcutta, and Cruiser. Esk, Furious, Highflyer, Hornet, Inflexible, Nankin, Niger, Racehorse, Samson, Sanspareil, Sybille.

Taku Forts 1858                                                                                               20th May, 1858.

This bar was only awarded to Naval and Marine personnel from H.M Ships: Bustard, Calcutta, Cormorant, Magicienne, Nimrod, Opossum, Slaney, Staunch.

Taku Forts 1860.

For regiments present and H.M.S Ships: Clown, Drake, Janus, Prince Arthur and Woodcock; Indian Marine ships Coromandel and Ferooz.

Pekin 1860                                        

Awarded for regiments present: Dragoon Guards, Bengal Cavalry and Punjab N.I


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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