War Medal 1939 - 1945


The War Medal 1939–1945 was a British decoration awarded to all full time service personnel of the Armed Forces wherever their service during the war was rendered.  Operational and non-operational service counted provided personnel had completed 28 days service between 3rd September 1939 and the 2nd September 1945. In the Merchant Navy there was the requirement that 28 days should be served at sea.

Personnel who were eligible for a campaign star yet who had their service cut short by death, wounds or capture by the enemy, still qualified for this medal. Eligible personnel who had been mentioned in dispatches during the War were entitled to wear a bronze oak leaf emblem on the ribbon.

The UK War Medals were made from cupro-nickel, whilst the Canadian War Medal are made from silver.

Those War Medals issued to UK personnel were not officially named. However, those issued to Australian and South African personnel were officially named.

It is sometimes described as the "Victory Medal" for World War II, although that is not its correct name.


Materials:   The majority of the British medals and clasps are made of solid silver, though some were issued 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.

Type -         Campaign Medal.

Eligibility - British and Commonwealth forces.

Awarded for - Campaign service.

Campaign -         World War Two 1939-45.

Designer – Edward Carter Preston.

Clasps -Single oak leaf emblem for a mention in Dispatches.

Ribbon -32mm, narrow red stripe in the centre, with a narrow white strip either side, broad red stripes at either edge and two intervening stripes of blue.  This is to represents the colours of the Union Flag.

War Medal 1939-45 ribbon
War Medal 1939-45 ribbon

Description -The obverse shows the crowned coinage effigy of King George VI, facing left, and the legend ‘GEORGIVS VI D:G:BR:OMN:REX ET INDIAE:IMP.’

The reverse shows a lion standing on the body of a double-headed dragon. The dragon’s heads are those of an eagle and a dragon to signify the principal occidental and oriental enemies. At the top, just right of centre are the dates ‘1939/1945’ in two lines.

The medals were issued unnamed; except those awarded to personnel of the Canadian Merchant Marine, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Royal Indian Army, South African and Australian forces, which were named on the rim.


A single bronze oak leaf emblem is worn to signify a Mention in Despatches and a silver oak leaf is worn to signify an award of a King's Commendation for Brave Conduct. There is no bar other than these emblems.


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


Major L L Gordon ‘British Battles and Medals’

< gov.uk/medals-campaigns-descriptions-and-eligibility>

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

<en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ War_Medal_1939%E2%80%931945 >

Which are released under the terms of


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