British campaign medals or service medals are very collectible and most of us will be familiar with the British War Medal and Victory Medal from the Great War. Less well known perhaps are the ‘Stars’, ie the 1914 or ‘Mons’ Star and the 1914-1915 Star.
As with all service medals, the Stars were issued to participants in the relevant campaigns and for, for obvious reasons, fewer of these medals were awarded when compared to the War and Victory medals. Having said that, they appear comparatively frequently on the market for sale and sometimes with the recipient’s other service medals, the full set of Mons Star, War and Victory Medals being affectionately known as ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’.
The 1914 or Mons Star was incepted in 1917 for issue to all officers and other ranks who served in France and/or Belgium between 5th August 1914 and midnight on 22nd November 1914, ie the start of the war and the final day of the 1st Battle of Ypres. The other main battles in this year were, of course, Mons (after which battle the medal became known) and Le Cateau emblem.
Most of the 365,622 were issued to the original members of the British Expeditionary Force who sailed for France at the start of the war. These servicemen later became known as the ‘Old Contemptibles’.
The medal itself is an instantly recognisable bronze star with four points and a crown on the upper arm of the star. There are also crossed swords circled with a wreath of oak leaves. The Royal Cypher of King George V appears on the lower arm of the Star and in the middle sits a scroll inscribed ‘AUG 1914 NOV’. The back of the medal will have the recipient’s name, rank, serial number and unit engraved but you may often find that this has been worn away in medals often worn with pride.
This period of the Great War is often overlooked in our struggle to comprehend trench warfare. However, it included the only ‘encounter’ battles of the War, at least until late 1918. Defeat would have had catastrophic consequences for the BEF and, although short, the battle at Le Cateau was particularly intense and critical to delay the German advance during the British retreat from Mons. Thereafter the First Battle of Ypres saw the lines drawn for the ensuing years of trench warfare.
The 1914-15 Star was approved in 1918 for issue to all officers and other ranks who served in a ‘theatre of war’ between 5th August 1914 and 31st December 1915. Those in receipt of the Mons Star were not entitled to receive the 1914-15 star as well. 2,366,000 were awarded to participants in, amongst others, the Second Battle of Ypres, Aubers Ridge and Loos. Unlike the Mons Star, it was also awarded to the Royal Navy.
The medal is almost similar in appearance to the Mons Star although the scroll across the middle is engraved ‘1914-15’. It will also be inscribed on the reverse with the recipient’s name, rank and serial number. The ribbon for both medals is also identical, being vertical red, white and blue stripes.