For most collectors, British world war two medals and stars are a frustration. These awards were issued un-named, so unless you can get some corroborating material, or the awards come with a named medal, it’s very hard if not impossible to find what the recipient did to achieve these awards. Unlike German world war two medals and badges, given for individual campaigns or areas, the British stars and war and defence medals were a blanket affair so to speak. Let’s take the 1939-45 stars as an example.
This award was issued to all the armed forces, which served in the Second World War from 3rd September 1939 to 2nd September 1945 and had served in the army, RAF ground crews or navy for six months in an operational area. Or for two months for RAF air crew as long as they were involved in flying operations against the enemy. Merchant seamen were also eligible for this award with the added requirement of a minimum of one voyage through an operational area like the North Atlantic. If the serviceman was killed in action, he or she was automatically entitled to the award. The only bar awarded to this award is the rare battle of Britain clasp with limited service dates of between 10th July to 31st October, and to be in a specific squadron it is a very hard clasp to acquire.
Next came, the Atlantic Star given to those who saw service between 3rd September 1939 to the 8th May 1945. To qualify you had to have been awarded the 1939-45 star first but the service lengths were the same. Those who qualified for the Atlantic star, the France and Germany star or the air crew Europe star were awarded the star they qualified for first and had a bar added with the award’s title.
The rarest of all the stars is the air crew Europe and you had to be a member of an Air crew between 3rd September 1939 to 5th June 1944 to qualify if you had done 4 months of service with two months of flying from bases in the UK.
The Africa Star is the next on the list with the qualifying dates between 10th June 1940 to 12th May 1943. This star again was only awarded after you had qualified for the 1939-45 star but unlike the others, only one days service was needed to be awarded this one. The star has 3 bars that signify service or unit attachment like 1st Army, 8th Army, or North Africa 1942-43.
The Pacific star was next in line and this was for service between 8th December 1941 to the 2nd of September 1945, being closely followed by the Burma star given for service from 11th December 1941 to the 2nd of September 1945/ You could only qualify for the one and were awarded a bar with the others award title to it, for example Burma, or Pacific.
With the war in Africa turning, the allies moved on to Italy and a star was awarded to those who saw service on this peninsular between 11th June 1943 to 8th May 1945. The last star in the series is the France and Germany Star given for service between 5th June 1944 to 8th May 1945. As with all these stars, you had to have qualified for the 1939-45 stars first.
Then comes the Defence Medal given to all services including the fire service and air raid wardens etc. This medal was awarded for service between 3rd September 1939 to 2nd September 1945. Finally comes to the War Medal which only needed 28 days of service to be given.
So although all the theatres of war were covered but you cannot tell from the medal group if the man was a merchant sea man in the Arctic convoys who would be awarded the 1939-45 star, Atlantic star, war and defence medals, or a navy pilot again with the same group. But once you have a clue, like a long service award or box with awarded information, it brings the awards to life.