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ON BRITISH SILVER MILITARY WAR-MEDALS.
By J. Harris Gibson Esq.
(READ 12TH JANUARY, 1865.)
The object of this evening's paper is not to tell over again the
many victories which have been won by British arms since medals were first awarded ; but simply to notice the medals themselves, descriptively and with regard to classification. I shall therefore proceed with the few remarks I intend to make according to the following arrangement :Medals or honorary distinctions granted to British
soldiers by Charles I and the Protector. The Peninsular medal. Waterloo Medals given for Actions and Campaigns in India, closing
with the Mutiny, 1857-8. The China Wars of 1842 and 1860. The Kaffir War. The Crimean Campaign. Medals for long service, meritorious and distinguished
conduct. It is not certain that many of the medals of Queen Elizabeth and James I, wbich are known to exist, were actually granted to be worn as military or naval decorations ; though, from their character and appearance, I think we may infer that they were originally intended to be worn as badges commemorative of some great military or naval achievement.
Their oval form, and the fact that they have either loops or rings attached to them, would seem to lead to no other conclusion. But as so little is known of the early history of our military medals, I will leave them, with the hope that some abler pen may some day remove the obscurity in which they at present remain, and pass on to those which claim our more immediate attention.
The first medal of which we have any authentic account, as having been conferred by royal favour and worn as a military decoration, was granted by King Charles I, in 1643, to soldiers who distinguished themselves in forlorn hopes. The badge was of silver and represented His Majesty and Prince Charles.
It is also recorded that an especial mark of favour was conferred upon one Robert Walsh (who commanded a troop of horse at the battle of Edge Hill, 1642), for recovering the King's colours taken by the enemy and capturing two pieces of cannon ; he received the honour of knighthood from the King, who commanded that a medal of gold should be made, which decoration Walsh afterwards received.
On the 3rd September, 1650, Cromwell's army defeated the Scots at Dunbar : for this service it was ordered that silver medals should be given to each of the officers and men. These medals, which are oval, have on the obverse the bust of Cromwell in armour; behind the bust is a distant representation of bis army; above is the legend :WORD
3RD, 1650. The reverse represents the interior of the Parliament House—the members are sitting, with the Speaker at their head. There are two sizes of this medal: the larger, in all probability, was given to those in command, the smaller to the common or private soldier.
The Dunbar medal was eugraved by Thomas Simon, who
was sent into Scotland to consult Cromwell upon the design furnished by the Committee for the army.
However, the practice of bestowing honorary distinctions for services in the many naval and military operations of our country is but of recent date. It is only a few years since a general order was granted for the distribution of medals to those surviving officers and men of both services who took part in the long protracted wars between this country and France, America and the hostile nations of India—from the declaration of war with France, in 1793, to the triumphal entry of Wellington into Toulouse, April 12th, 1814, and the siege and storming of Bhurtpore, January, 1826.
This extraordinary delay, or unpardonable neglect, on the part of those high in authority, caused no little disappointment among those who considered that they should be the recipients of some distinguishing badge or order of merit, to be worn not only in commemoration of gallant achievements, but as a reward for their faithful and long professional services.
It is well known-for much publicity was given to the factthat the “old Peninsular Men," the heroes of Assaye and Laswarree, and the gallant tars who fought at St. Vincent, the Nile, Copenhagen and Trafalgar, had no medals. Every likely opportunity was made use of to stimulate a tardy Government. The accession of William IV, for example, brought forth a plentiful correspondence. It was recommended that—“The army and navy should unite and humbly “and respectfully request one of the royal dukes to solicit from
His Most Gracious Majesty a boon for both services at the “ beginning of the reign; that he would bestow an order of “merit upon all officers and men who have fought the battles
• Col. Mac Kinnon, in bis Origin and Services of the Coldstream Guards, speaks of the medal as having been struck in gold. He says-—" Parliament voted ss the officers and men which did this excellent service should be presented with 6 gold and silver medals."
“of their country.” The writer goes on to say—“It is very "vexatious to honourable feelings, when we go into society
at home and abroad, to meet foreigners of nearly all nations “ covered with medals and orders, when we, who have had the
pleasure of licking them in every part of the world, have “neither orders nor medals.”
The seven years of King William's reign passed away; the ranks of those old warriors, the survivors of a hundred fights, gave way before the irresistible march of Time; they who had so successfully contended with the combined fleets of France and Spain, who had upheld the supremacy of British arms in the East, and taught Napoleon's marshals so terrible a lesson, had at last to yield to the universal conqueror, with no mark of their glorious services, except the honourable scars obtained by their own bravery on the field of battle.
It was not until the 1st of June, 1847 (the date of the general order), that Her Most Gracious Majesty granted silver medals, with clasps for the victories enumerated on the opposite page.
The clasp for the war in Egypt, ending 1801, was not included in the general order of the 1st June, 1847; but was afterwards granted under an order dated 12th February, 1850, to those who were still alive and had served with the army in that war.
The medal was struck from a design by W. Wyon, R.A., and represents Her Majesty in the act of crowning, with a victor's wreath of laurel, Field-marshal Wellington, who kneels before her. The legend is—“TO THE BRITISH ARMY;" and in the exergue, 1793-1814. The obverse is a beautiful and well designed diademed head of Victoria ; underneath is the year 1848, the date of issue; the legend reads“VICTORIA REGINA.” It is worn with a crimson ribbon, edged with blue. The medals vary only in the clasps or bars attached, and are to be found with from one to fourteen to
Country in which the Battle
General Commanding the Enemy.
Major-Gen. Sir J. Stewart Gen. Regnier. 2. Roleia Portugal - August 17, 1808.
Lt-Gen. Sir A. Wellesley - G. Laborde.
Lt.-Gen. Sir A. Wellesley Marshal Junot.
December, 1808 .
Lord Paget, afterwards Mar- Debelle. 4. Benevente
January, 1809 .
quess of Anglesea
January 10, 1809
Marshals Victor & Sebastiani
- January and February, 1810 Sir Geo. Beckwith
Massena, Ney and Regnier.
Lt.-Gen. Sir T. Graham Marshal Victor. 11. Fuentes d'Onor Spain
May 7, 1811 · Lord Wellington
Marshal Massena. 12. Albuera - Spain - May 16, 1811
Gen. Janssens (Dutch).
- January and February, 1812 - Lord Wellington
- Gen. Viellande.
Marshal Marmont. 17. Fort Detroit North America
August, 1812 -
- Gen. Hull.
Jos. Bonaparte, Ml. Jourdan.
- August and September, 1813 Wellington
- Major-Gen. De Wattville
Major-Gen. Boyd. 24. Nive France
December 9 to 13, 1813 Generals Hill and Beresford Marshal Soult. 25. Orthes France February 27, 1814 - Wellington
Marshal Soult. 26. Toulouse
France - April 10, 1814 . Wellington
Marshal Soult. 27. Egypt
Sir Ralph Abercrombie * Cavalry actions.