Medals of the Month - October 2020
The Mysterious World War 1 Unofficial Medals.
L - R: (1) Unofficial Belgian Veterans of King Albert Medal, (2) Unofficial Gallipoli Star, (3) Unofficial Somme Medal.
The Museum has a number of medals in its collection not officially issued by a government. Here are three that relate to World War One.
Cross of the Veterans of King Albert I (Croix des Veterans du Roi Albert I) 1909-1934
The Cross of the Veterans of King Albert I is an unofficial medal and was made available by purchase in the late 1960s and 1970s to all Allied veterans of the First World War who had served in Belgium during that war, or to their next of kin.
The medal is a gilt metal Maltese Cross with scroll and swivel crown suspension; the face with a circular central medallion bearing the helmeted head of King Albert I. The reverse side is inscribed LES VETERANS DU ROI ALBERT 1 ER 1909-1934. (THE VETERANS OF KING ALBERT I 1909-1934).
The Gallipoli Star
The Gallipoli Star is also an unofficial campaign medal.
A Gallipoli medal (ANZAC Star) was proposed by Lieutenant General Sir William Birdwood* in 1917 but despite being approved by King George V, it was never issued. British parliamentarians and the media protested as it was only to be awarded to ANZAC troops and not to other British Empire troops who had taken part the Dardanelles Campaign in Turkey. Consequently, the award was cancelled in 1918 even after ribbons, although not medals, had been shipped to Australian and New Zealand. Instead, eligible participants were awarded the official 1914 - 1915 Star.
The medal was designed by R.K. Peacock as an eight-pointed bronze star (representing New Zealand and the seven territories of Australia) surrounding a silver disc. On the disc are the words Gallipoli 1914-15 surrounded by the King's crown.
In 1990, Ross Smith (a Warrant Officer veteran of the Vietnam War) manufactured the medals and presented them as a personal gift to the remaining 200 Gallipoli veterans still alive at that time and offered the remaining 1,800 medals to collectors.
* British commander of the Australian Imperial Force for most of the First World War. General Birdwood also commanded the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipoli, and in September 1915 took command of the entire British Dardanelles army.
The Somme Medal. (Medaille Commemorative des Batailles de la Somme)
The Somme Medal is also an unofficial campaign medal and was provided for those who were able to show that they had participated in any of the battles in the Somme department of France between 1914 and 1918.
The medal is made from bronze and features two soldiers from antiquity with a French cockerel behind the British lion in the foreground on one side. Above the warriors is a nymph which represents the Somme. The figure is reclined with her left forearm resting on an urn, out of which flows the Somme river.
Text beneath the warriors reads BATAILLES DE LA SOMME JVILLET-NOVEMBRE MCMXVI (BATTLES OF THE SOMME, JULY-NOVEMBER 1916). The reverse side is plain with text only reading COMBATTANTS DE LA SOMME 1914-1918-1940 (COMBATANTS OF THE SOMME 1914-1918-1940).
Lest We Forget
Members of the public are most welcome to visit the Australian Army Museum of New South Wales to see these medals and many other interesting objects. Please click here for visiting arrangements.
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