From the moment Cain killed Abel, mankind entered into armed combat, brother against brother, family against family, tribe against tribe and nation against nation. History is littered with armed conflicts, from bible times “Mighty Men” and “Men of Fame” are recorded, as well as regiments and standards. In ancient Egyptian times, it is recorded that regiments of crack chariot troops were picked from the rank and file. Later in Roman times, standard bearers were chosen due to their bravery, and given the honour of taking care of and protecting the regimental emblem or standard. In medieval times, squires were rewarded with knighthood, and knights with lands for valour and courage. But it was during the wars of the 18th & 19th century that badges and then medals, came more to the fore.
It was during the Napoleonic war that the first real medal was given on masse to British troops, (this was the Waterloo medal, which was named to each holder). Among Great Britain’s allies, the German states also issued a Waterloo medal and the first bravery medal was also issued. This medal crossed over ranks and was the first to be extended from private to general. The award was the Prussian Iron Cross of 1813.
As the Western armies looked East, South and West, countries like Great Britain, Germany, France, Spain and Portugal extended their empires, at the same time issuing campaign medals to their armies. These awards from Great Britain are usually named along the edge, whilst others, such as Germany and France issued an award document with the award. It was not until the outbreak of WWI that man’s ability to annihilate whole areas became a tragic reality. Millions of men died on foreign soil, nations were engolfed within a space of a few months. Fighting had changed since the beginning, weapons of war had become more effective, guns could cut down hundreds of men in minutes, shells could travel miles and explode and aeroplanes could drop bombs, ships could pound others with guns that could also hit land targets, and with all these new weapons of war, new trained men with new uniforms and new insignia were instituted. Medals were issued not just for campaigns but for bravery and courage, not just for fighting but for saving and surviving. When World War two broke out in September of 1939, the new armies of the world had encompassed the air force, and new types of troops, like paratroopers, u-boats and u-boat crews, commando’s and marines, came in the picture and the list goes on. All these units have their own insignia. Some countries like Germany during WWII, gave out campaign shields and cuff bands and combat badges for taking part in armed combat, and when you see some of the photographs of these veterans, you can work out their arms of service, where they have fought and if they have been wounded and decorated for bravery.
Finland was attacked by the USSR and for such a small country, managed to hold and even beat, the red army in places. Many from Europe flocked to Finland to aid this country with men from England, Germany, France and America as well as Sweden and Denmark fighting side by side against the USSR. All these men were awarded with badges or medals before being sent home to their respective countries. It has been noted that Heinrich Himmler was watching the struggle with the USSR and got his idea of opening up the Waffen SS to these Nordic Peoples and it was a for runner of NATO. Many English soldiers were in Finland with one of them being Christopher Lee, the well known actor.
With British WWII Medals it’s a shame that most are unnamed, so the history of these if there is no supporting paperwork, is lost. A 1939 Star could be awarded to a battle of Britain Ace or a Home Guard member, but you wouldn’t know which it was, so a little history has been erased. The firm of Jamie Cross is Non-political & items offered for sale are for historical interest and investment only. We have a nice collection of German War Medals, British Army Medals and Military Medals for Sale.