The Long, Long Trail

Pip, Squeak and Wilfred

A brief guide to British military campaign medal entitlement in 1914-1918. See also gallantry awards.

The 1914 Star, popularly known as the Mons Star.

This medal was awarded to all officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, and all men of the British and Indian Forces, including civilian medical practitioners, nursing sisters, nurses and others employed with military hospitals; as well as men of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve who served with on the establishment of their unit in France and Belgium between August 5th 1914, and midnight of November 22/23rd, 1914.

The decoration consists of a lacquered bronze star, the uppermost ray of the star taking the form of the imperial crown. Resting on the face of the star is a pair of crossed swords, and, on them, is a circular oak wreath. A scroll winds around the swords : it is inscribed with the date Aug.-Nov. 1914. The ribbon is red merging into white and then into blue. A bar inscribed "5 Aug. to 22 Nov. 1914" was given to all those who served under fire. Since the same ribbon is used with the 1914-15 Star, holders of the earlier award were permitted to wear a small silver rosette on their ribbon when the decoration itself is not worn.

The 1914-15 Star

A Star similar to the 1914 Star was issued to all personnel mentioned above, with certain exceptions, who served in a theatre of war before December 31st 1915 and who did not qualify for the earlier star.

The British War Medal, 1914-16.

It is impossible to set out all the details of qualification for this medal, but briefly, the requirement was that a member of the fighting forces had to leave his native shore in any part of the British Empire while on service. It did not matter whether he/she entered a theatre of war or not.

The medal is silver, and circular. A truncated bust of King George V is on the obverse, while there is a depiction of Saint George on the reverse. There is a straight clasp carrying a watered silk ribbon. This has a central band of golden yellow with three stripes of white, black and blue on both sides. The blue stripes come at the edges. An attempt was made to draw up a list of bars, but it was found to be an overwhelming task and was abandoned. Some 4,700,000 of these medals were struck for distribution at home, and another 600,000 in the Dominions and Colonies.

The Victory Medal, 1914-1918.

This medal was awarded to all those who entered a theatre of war (and presumably took part in the fighting, logistics or medical services). It follows that every recipient of the Victory Medal also qualified for the British War Medal, but not the other way round. 300,000 fewer Victory Medals were required than British War Medals. All three services were eligible. It is not generally known that Victory Medals continued to be awarded after the Armistice, for the British forces who saw action in North Russia (up to October 12th, 1919) and Trans-Caspia (up to April 17th, 1919) also qualified.

The medal was struck in bronze. On the obverse is a full-length figure of Victory. On the reverse is the inscription "The Great War for Civilisation". There is no clasp, but a ting attachment through which the ribbon is passed. The official description of the colour of the ribbon is "two rainbows with red in the centre". An oak-leaf emblem was sanctioned for those who were mentioned in despatches.

Pip, Squeak and Wilfred

Pip, Squeak and Wilfred

The combination of the Star, Victory Medal and War Medal was fairly commonplace. You could observe hundreds of them in Armistice Day parades, right up to the early '70's. This combination earned for itself the common nickname, 'Pip, Squeak and Wilfred'.

The Medal Rolls

A record was kept for every individual, which showed their specific medal entitlement. Luckily, these records have survived. They are known as the Medal Rolls and are available for you to see in the Public Record Office in Kew, London. The original cards were microfilmed, and the sequence of indexing was somewhat quaint, but you should be able to track down your man. You will glean quite a lot of useful information here, because the cards showed date of enlistment, regiment or corps, date of death if applicable, and occasionally some other information. Your problem will be if his name was Bill Smith, for of course there were many duplications of names. You might need to record them all, and see what else you can do to narrow down your searches.

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