Campaign Awards for the Second World War (1939-1945)
General service within the British and Commonwealth armed forces during the Second World War was rewarded by a series of eight stars and two circular medals. Although eight stars were issued, a recipient could only wear a maximum of five stars, further entitlement was identified through clasps sewn on to the ribbon. Only one clasp was allowed on any one star.
When a ribbon bar only is worn, such clasps are represented by a silver rosette, although the clasp for the Battle of Britain clasp is represented by a gilt rosette, and the 8th and 1st Army clasps are represented by the numbers ‘8’ and ‘1’ respectively.
The ribbons are believed to have been designed personally by King George VI and all have symbolic relevance to the medal they accompany.
A summary of the Stars, along with their relevant clasps are as follows:
All of the stars follow the same basic design: a 6 pointed star with a circular centre housing the GRI/VI monogram. At 12 o’clock on the circle there is a crown and around the foot of the circle is inscribed the description of the star. The reverse of all the medals are plain, but sadly, due to cost issues these medals were issued unnamed to British forces. This is a real shame and as a consequence these stars have perhaps lost something of their historical relevance and the connection to the people that earned them, unless of course they happen to form part of a known group of medals with providence.
WW2 medals were not given out automatically, service personnel were expected to request them. They were then sent out via the post in small brown packets with a type written many didn’t and even today new requests are handled by the MoD all the time, indeed many of the medals and stars are still being officially produced.
Distinguished Service Medal, G.VI.R. 1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star (with France and Germany clasp), Africa Star; War Medal 1939-45
Author with The History Press, Great War 100 app telling the story of WW1 via infographics.