Meddling in Medals

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Most of the Redcoats who served in Western Australia came to Australia as young men with not too many notches on their guns.  In other words, they had not taken part in any major campaigns and usually had no more than ten years’ service completed. Most of them had not served long enough to discharge to pension, nor had the battle scars to claim a pension on medical grounds;  they had spent their service in Australia.   The exceptions were some of the men who served at King George Sound with the 39th Regiment of Foot and returned to England or perhaps settled somewhere else in Australia.  There were soldiers who served in Western Australia who fought in the Napoleonic Wars.  This page describes some of the medals they may have been awarded.

The Waterloo Medal 1815

Instituted: 1815

Description: Silver.

Obverse – the laureated head of the Prince Regent with the legend ‘GEORGE P. REGENT’. Reverse – the winged figure of Victory seated on a pedestal and holding a palm branch in her right hand and an olive branch in her left; below the pedestal is the word ‘WATERLOO’ within a rectangle. The date ‘JUNE 18 1815’ is in two lines underneath. The word ‘WELLINGTON’ is above the seated figure.

Designer: Thomas Wyon.

Size: 1.4in. or 37mm.

Suspension: The medals were originally issued with a steel clip on the piece through which passed a steel ring, and through which the ribbon was threaded.  Many recipients removed the method of suspension as issued and replaced it with designs of their own.

Ribbon:   1.5in. or 38mm. crimson, edged in dark blue.

Naming:  In large impressed Roman capitals. It was the first medal on which the recipient’s name was impressed around the edge by machine.

Notes:
Though styled the Waterloo Medal, it was awarded to anyone who had taken part in one or more of the following battles: Ligny, Quatre Bras, Waterloo.

This is the first medal issued by the British Government to all soldiers present.  The Military General Service Medal commemorates earlier battles but was not issued until 1848 (see below).

It is also the first campaign medal awarded to the next-of-kin of men killed in action.

A total of 39,000 medals were produced, not all of which were awarded. About 6,000 were issued to cavalry; 4,000 to Foot Guards; 16,000 to infantry line regiments; 5,000 to artillery and 6,500 to the King’s German Legion. With staff, Sappers and Miners and eight companies of the Royal Waggon Train, approximately 38,500 medals were awarded in total.

Source (in part): British Battles and Medals, Major L L Gordon. 5th edition 1979, Spink & Son Ltd.

Military General Service Medal 1793-1814

Instituted:  1847 and awarded the following year to troops up to the defeat of Napoleon in 1814. The bars mainly commemorate actions of the Peninsular War, but also include campaigns in the West Indies, Egypt, Java, and the United States.

Description: Silver 1.42 in. or 36mm diameter, suspended by a silver scrolled bar. Obverse: the Wyon diademed head of Queen Victoria and the legend VICTORIA REGINA. Reverse: depicts the Queen standing on a plinth, crowning the Duke of Wellington with a laurel wreath. The simple inscription TO THE BRITISH ARMY appears round the circumference with the dates 1793-1814 appearing in exergue.

Designer: William Wyon, R.A.

Clasps or Bars: 29 different clasps were issued.  The maximum number of clasps to one medal recorded is 15. One medal with 14 clasps was awarded to a private in the 95th Regiment; this does not tally with the medal roll but is said to be genuine [Gordon:22].

Suspension: By a plain straight swivelling suspender.

Naming:  In impressed serif capitals.

Ribbon: 1.2 in. or 31mm wide crimson, edged with dark blue.

Applications were invited from the surviving eligible veterans for the medal in 1847. Medals were awarded to the next-of-kin but only to those who applied for them but died before the medals were issued.

 

Diane Oldman 2024