Campaign Medals of the Great War

Medals of the Great War Part 2 – Pip, Squeak and Wilfred

Mr QM, Going Postal
Pip, Squeak and Wilfred. Daily Mirror 13 June 1938

Those of you who read the articles but not the comments may recall that my last article, ‘The 1914 Star (AKA The Mons Star or Pip)’ mentioned that there were three other medals in the group commonly issued to those who fought in the Great War and were irreverently known as ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’ after three comic strip characters, a dog, a penguin and a rabbit, which were immensely popular in the immediate post-war era and coincided with the issue of the medals. You may also recall that the cartoon scripts were written by Bertram J. Lamb and illustrated by Austin Bowen Payne first appearing in the Daily Mirror 12th May 1919. Both of these men served as officers in the Great War and the naming of the characters in the strip is due to Austin Payne’s wartime batman who for unknown reasons was known as “Pip-Squeak”. ‘Pip’ could be either the 1914 Star or the 1914-15 Star which look similar but were actually very different medals with the same ribbon of red, white and blue colours of the flag of the United Kingdom in shaded and watered bands and were awarded for different eras of the war.

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The 1914-15 Star AKA ‘Pip’ (The other one)

The 1914–15 Star is a campaign medal which was awarded to officers and men of British and Imperial forces who served with any unit in any theatre of the Great War against the Central European Powers during 1914 and 1915. The actual qualification dates are from 3 August 1914 to 31 December 1915 after which, conscription was in place through the Military Service Act 1916 although the first conscripts weren’t take in until the following March. It because of the numbers of volunteers, especially the Pals Battalions, that the medal became strongly associated with those who volunteered as a result of Lord Kitchener’s recruitment campaign of August 1914. Excluded from eligibility for the 1914-15 Star were those who had already qualified for the award of the 1914 Star, those who qualified for the award of the Africa General Service Medal and those who qualified for the award of the Khedive’s Sudan Medal of 1910. Just as with the 1914 Star, the 1914–15 Star was never awarded on its own and recipients of this medal were also awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

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The Pals parade in Preston Flagged Market. 7 September 1914

Also initially excluded were those who were eligible for the proposed Gallipoli Star (originally to have been called the ANZAC Star), which was to have been awarded exclusively to New Zealanders and Australians in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who served in the Gallipoli
Campaign from 25 April 1915 to 9 January 1916. Despite approval by George V, many MPs and newspapers protested because it was a medal that could not be awarded to other Commonwealth troops who took part in the operation and in 1918, the award was cancelled and eligible soldiers were awarded the 1914-15 Star instead for service at Gallipoli between 25 April 1915 and 31 December 1915, service in Egypt between 5 November 1914 and 31 December 1915, and service during the capture of German Samoa on 29 August 1914. In 1990 the Gallipoli Star was privately produced as a commemoration with 200 copies being presented to remaining Gallipoli veterans and 1800 sold to collectors.

Like the 1914 Star, the 1914-15 Star was not awarded alone. The recipient had to have received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. The reverse is plain impressed with the recipient’s service number, rank, name and unit. It is a bronze four-pointed star with two crossed swords, blades pointed upwards with the points and hilts forming what appear to be four additional points to the star. The swords are overlaid by an oak leaf wreath with the cypher of George V at the base of the wreath and a scroll around the swords inscribed 1914–15 and ensigned by a crown. It is remarkably similar to the 1914 Star except for the omission of AUG and NOV, and the scroll across the centre being inscribed 1914-15.

An estimated 2,366,000 medals were awarded to soldiers and supporting personnel of British military forces and the various forces of the British Dominions, India and the colonies including 283,500 to the Royal Navy and 71,150 to Canadians.

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The British War Medal AKA ‘Squeak’

The British War Medal instituted on 26 July 1919, is the campaign medal which was awarded to officers and men of British and Imperial forces that either served in a theatre of war or entered service overseas between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918 which were the dates of the day following the British declaration of war against the German Empire and the armistice. Eligibility for the award of this medal was later extended to cover service in 1919 and 1920 in mine clearance at sea as well as participation in operations in North and South Russia, the eastern Baltic region, Siberia, the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Unlike the 1914 Star and the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal could be awarded to all officers and men of British and Imperial forces who had served for the prescribed period of 28 days on operations during any stage of the war, or who had died on active service before the completion of this period. Some consideration was given to the potential award of clasps to commemorate particular battles and theatres of operations and some 68 clasps were proposed for naval recipients and 79 for the Army. While the naval clasps were authorised in August 1920, none were awarded and the idea was dropped in 1923.

Two versions of the medal were produced. About 6.4 million were struck in silver and 110,000 were struck in bronze, the latter for award to Chinese, Maltese and Indian Labour Corps. The front of the medal depicts a bareheaded effigy of King George V facing left by Sir Bertram Mackennal (an Australian sculptor and medallist) and the reverse shows Saint George naked on horseback and armed with a short sword, with the horse trampling on a Prussian eagle and the emblems of death, a skull and cross-bones. The background details contain ocean waves in celebration of the Navy and to the right upper rim is the risen sun of victory. The years 1914 and 1918 appear on the perimeter in the left and right fields respectively. The recipient’s service number, rank, name and unit are impressed on the rim which is common on campaign medals presented to UK service personnel today.

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Allied Victory Medal AKA ‘Wilfred’

The Victory Medal (also called the Inter-Allied Victory Medal) is a United Kingdom and British Empire First World War campaign medal, celebrating victory by the allies and was designed by W. McMillan. The proposition of a common award was first made by French Marshal Ferdinand Foch who was supreme commander of the allied force during the war. The copper medal, lacquered in bronze was issued within the British Empire as a result of an international agreement at the Inter-allied Peace Conference which took place immediately before the Treaty of Versailles. The obverse in the British Empire medal shows the winged figure of ‘Victory’ which was adopted by all other medals by the allied nations with minor variations. The reverse has the words ‘THE GREAT / WAR FOR / CIVILISATION / 1914-1919′ in four lines, all surrounded by a laurel wreath and the text was translated into the appropriate language for the issuing country. The dates of the war were in every case were 1914 to 1918, except that of the British Empire, which gave the dates as 1914 – 1919 as in the illustrated medal as was also awarded to members of the British Naval mission to Russia 1919 – 1920, and for mine clearance in the North Sea between 11 November 1918 and 30 November 1919.

As well as the United Kingdom, a significant number of allied and associated countries involved in the conflict against the Austro-German alliance issued a Victory Medal. The British design and ribbon was adopted by Belgium, Brazil, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Romania, South Africa and the USA with the exceptions of Japan and Siam where the concept of a winged victory was not culturally relevant. The 39mm wide ribbon has an iridescent colour scheme similar to a rainbow, with the violet moving through to a central red stripe.

To qualify for the Victory Medal recipients would have been mobilised for war service in the United Kingdom or the British Empire, in any service, and to have entered a theatre of war between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918. Women also qualified for this and the earlier two medals, for service in nursing homes and other auxiliary forces. Interestingly, the eligibility for the Victory Medal was more restrictive and not everyone who received the British War Medal (‘Squeak’) also received the Victory Medal (‘Wilfred’). However, in general, all recipients of ‘Wilfred’ also received ‘Squeak’ and all recipients of ‘Pip’ also received both ‘Squeak’ and ‘Wilfred’. For those who only received ‘Squeak’ and ‘Wilfred’, it was nonsensical to refer them as such, so they became known as ‘Mutt’ and ‘Jeff’, another popular cartoon of that era. Approximately 5.7 million victory medals were issued with the recipient’s service number, rank, name and unit impressed on the rim.

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Mutt and Jeff Comic Strip Advertisement from Overland Monthly, January 1916

Part one (The 1914 Star (AKA The Mons Star or Pip))

© Mr QM 2018