For bravery in the field (MM register)

For Bravery in the Field
Great War British Army Recipients of the Military Medal 1914-1920: a Register
by Peter Warrington
published 2014 by The Naval & Military Press Limited
ISBN 978-1-78331-138-5
Paperback, large format, 641pp
Cover price £33.50
Reviewed by Chris Baker

The Military Medal was introduced in 1916 to recognise bravery in the field by those of non-commissioned rank. Only some 1.5% of serving personnel received the award, although this amounts to more than 88,000 individuals. Researching the MM is not an easy task, especially if the soldier’s own service record is not available and even then it often gives scant detail. The awards were announced in the “London Gazette”, which for some years now has been available online, free of charge and is searchable – although many of us who have tried it sometimes find the search results somewhat unreliable. Researchers have found a pattern in that the date of the “Gazette” was often around three months after the act of bravery, and in some cases the award is mentioned in the operational record (war diary) of the man’s unit or the higher formation under whose command it came. In other words, it is often possible to determine an approximate date of the brave act. Much less easy is to find quite why the MM was awarded, for citations were not published and in most cases are hard to find. Service records, war diaries, local newspapers and letters or memoirs or the best sources but even they are not guaranteed to provide the information.

To date, there has not even been a single list of MM awards. ‘For bravery in the field’ corrects this. I can only applaud the work that must have gone into Peter Warrington’s compilation of what appears to be a complete list, for the book comprises 640 pages listing the recipients in alphabetical order or surname and forenames. It must have taken a considerable amount of work to produce. For someone researching lots of soldiers it provides a quick reference to check whether the soldier was a recipient of the medal. Each entry gives his name, rank, number, regiment and unit (the latter in most cases, although not all). The entry for the man also shows whether he was the recipient of other awards including a mention in despatches, and the date of his death if it was during the Great War. As such it is a very handy work of reference. It remains to be seen whether a heavy book in a large format paperback format will stand up to the rigours of frequent handling.

‘For bravery in the field’, though, falls short of being a genuinely valuable research tool. As a minimum I would have liked to have seen the “Gazette” date, alongside the man’s name; and ideally I would have liked to see listings organised by regiment (although accept that would double the size of the work if in printed form). I understand that Howard Williamson, author in recent years of two splendid works on researching medal recipients (and much more) is working on a complete MM directory that will not only give the “Gazette” date but the citation too, from wherever they can be found. This would be the holy grail for MM researchers but represents a gargantuan effort for which we will need to wait. In the meantime, ‘For bravery in the field’ provides a very useful listing.