The Sutlej Medal was a campaign medal instituted 17th April 1846, for issue to officers and the men of the British Army and Honourable East India Company who served in the Sutlej campaign of 11th December, 1845 to 9th March, 1846. This is also known as the First Anglo-Sikh War.
The Sutlej Medal was the first campaign medal with bars to be given to both officers and men to denote soldiers who fought in the major battles.
The first action of which the recipient took part was given in the exergue on the reverse of the medal, of which four types had to be issued. This was the first time this had been done in the case of a battle. The four different types contain the exergues of either (1) “MOODKEE 1845,” (2) “FEROZESHUHUR 1845,” (3) “ALIWAL 1846,” or (4) “SOBRAON 1846.” A solider that had been in every action received a medal with the exergue “MOODKEE 1845,” plus three bars, a soldier who had been engaged in only the last encounter received a medal with the exergue “SOBRAON 1846,” without bars.
The First Anglo-Sikh War was caused by the unexpected invasion of the Punjab by the Sikh Army, which crossed the Sutlej on 11th December, 1845 to capture Ferozespore and Ludhiana. Commander-in-Chief Sir Hugh Gough’s Army was taken by surprise and was forced to march the distance of 150 miles to encounter the Sikh army, which outnumbered to British by five-to-one at Moodkee on 18th December, 1845. After very heavy fighting and large losses on both sides, the Sikh Army withdrew. On the 21st December, 1845, General Gough who was reinforced with two British battalions went to attack the main Sikh strong hold at Ferozeshuhur. Again there was a serve battle in which British forces lost one in six of their fighting force before the Sikhs were defeated. Then just a month later, another Sikh army crossed the border to the village Aliwal, on 28th January, 1846, where British forces commanded by Sir Harry Smith fought for three hours before the Sikh Army was routed. The 16th Lancers distinguished themselves in this battle by charging and breaking the enemy, losing over 100 men in the process.
The last action of this campaign in the First Anglo-Sikh war was fought on 10th February, 1846 at Sobraon, where the Sikh Army entrenched themselves over two miles, with a forces of 34,000 men and 20,000 reserves. Though Sir Gough and his Army of Europeans and native troops fought well and the enemy fled in total disorder. After the Sikhs were defeated in four major battles and they final complied to sign a treaty at Lahore on 22nd February, 1846.
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 – Dark blue centre with crimson edges
Type – Campaign medal
Eligibility – British and Honourable East India Company forces.
Awarded for – Campaign service.
Campaign – Sutlej 1845-46. First Anglo-Sikh War.
Established – 17th April, 1846
Designer – Wyon, R.A.
Suspension – Ornate / An ornamental swivelling suspender.
Naming – Indented in capital letter or light Roman skeleton lettering.
Total Awarded – Not known.
Clasps – Three
Description – The obverse of this silver campaign medal is the diademed head of Queen Victoria with the legend “VICTORIA REGINA”, and similar to that of the First China War. The reverse of the medal is the standing figure of Victory, facing to the left. In her outstretched right arm she holds a wreath in her hand and an olive branch in her left. At her feet is a pile of captured war trophies. The legend “ARMY OF THE SUTLEJ” is written around the circumference. There are four different exergues which contain either of the following, (1) “MOODKEE 1845,” (2) “FEROZESHUHUR 1845,” (3) “ALIWAL 1846,” or (4) “SOBRAON 1846.”
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.
FEROZESHUHUR: 21st December – 22nd December, 1845.
The Battle of Ferozeshah was fought on 21st December and 22nd December, 1845 between the British and the Sikhs, at the village of Ferozeshah in Punjab. The British were led by Sir Hugh Gough and Governor-General Sir Henry Hardinge, while the Sikhs were led by Lal Singh.
The British emerged victorious, but the battle was one of the hardest-fought in the history of the British army.
ALIWAL: 28th January 1846.
The Battle of Aliwal was fought on 28th January 1846 between the British and the Sikhs. The British were led by Sir Harry Smith, while the Sikhs were led by Ranjodh Singh Majithia. The British won a victory which is sometimes regarded as the turning point of the First Anglo-Sikh War.
SOBRAON: 10th February, 1846.
The Battle of Sobraon was fought on 10th February 1846, between the forces of the British East India Company and the Sikh Khalsa Army, the army of the Sikh Empire of the Punjab. The Sikhs were completely defeated, making this the decisive battle of the First Anglo-Sikh War.
Major L L Gordon ‘British Battles and Medals’
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