Campaign medal records

What can I find from medal records?

Every soldier qualified for at least one campaign medal if he left his native shore to serve overseas.The medal records generally do not have age, address, next of kin or similar information. But they are vital records that can reveal much about the man’s service, especially if the man’s army service record can not be found.

Eligibility

See this page for details of the medals and what a man had to do in order to qualify. Essentially if a man went overseas at any time, even if he did not enter into a theatre of war, he will have been eligible for one or more medals and there will be records of their issue.

The campaign medal rolls

The man’s details were entered into an issuing roll, one per type of medal (although the British War and Victory Medals were usually issued from the same roll). The man’s numbers, ranks, regiments and sometimes dates in theatre are given.

Part of a page from the roll of the British War and Victory Medals for men who served with the Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment). National Archives WO329/651. Crown copyright.

Part of a page from the roll of the British War and Victory Medals for men who served with the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment). National Archives WO329/651. Crown copyright.

  • The rolls are available online at Ancestry
  • They are held in original format and can be viewed at the National Archives in series WO329
  • The Naval & Military Press sells a DVD containing transcripts of all of the rolls
  • Most infantry units are given in the rolls, but units of men in the larger Corps are rarely quoted unless they went overseas very early.

The medal index card

An index was created in the form of a card system, giving the reference(s) to the roll(s) into which the man’s details were entered.

  • The index cards have been digitised and can be found at the National Archives website (in black and white), at TheGenealogist (also in black and white) and at Ancestry (in colour)
  • Findmypast has a transcript but this does not always carry all of the detail shown on the card
  • Note that in some (rare) cases the card appears at either National Archives or Ancestry but not both
  • See Interpreting a medal index card
  • Tip: a man sometimes has two or more index cards

Silver War Badge

If a man did not qualify for medals he may have qualified for the Silver War Badge, which had a similar roll system of recording. See this page for details.