Researching military medals and honours

Records of campaign medals for all services up to 1919 can be found at the National Archives. They also hold some Army medal rolls for campaigns between 1920 to 1939 and 1945 to 1948. See The National Archives online records for records which are now available online, including the British Army medals index 1914 to 1920, Merchant seamen's campaign medal records 1914 to 1918, Merchant seamen's campaign medal records 1939 to 1945 and Recommendations for military honours and awards 1935 to 1990.

Ancestry and Findmypast are available free of charge to members in all Surrey Libraries and at Surrey History Centre, and can be used to search British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards 1914 to 1920, UK Military Campaign Medal and Award Rolls 1793 to 1949, UK Naval Medal and Award Rolls 1793 to 1972 and UK Victoria Cross Medals 1857 to 2007, and many other military collections.

Post 1920 medals are held by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) Medal Office: Service Personnel & Veterans Agency (SPVA), Joint Administration Centre, MOD Medal Office, Building 250, Innsworth Station, Gloucester GL3 1HW. Telephone: 0141 224 3600

The Medal Office is also the authority for all questions concerning the entitlement to current campaign medals. The Office provides two main services:

  1. The issue of medals post WW1 to those entitled persons who have never received them.
  2. The replacement of medals under certain conditions for entitled personnel.

In both instances, an initial letter should be sent to the Medal Office explaining the precise request and the circumstances behind it. As much of the following information as possible concerning the original recipient or entitled person should be included and where possible backed up with photocopies only of supporting documentation (entitlement to medals is only determined from original records held by the relevant Service): full name, date of birth; service number; date of joining first unit; and date of leaving/transfer/demob. Replacement of medals are only offered to the recipient or the immediate next of kin, and then only when clear and documented proof of loss is provided.

Where a question concerns an event over seventy years ago, The National Archives at Kew should be the first point of contact.

Enquiries about decorations for gallantry and distinguished service (except those relating to Northern Ireland) prior to 1980 should be addressed to The National Archives. Almost all gallantry awards are published in the official Government newspaper, the London Gazette or, where appropriate, in its Colonial or Dominion equivalent. The National Archives has a full set of the London Gazette (ZJ1) but it is also available in some major reference libraries, and the publications can be searched on The Gazette website. There was always a delay, often a considerable one, between the gallant deed, the actual award of a medal, and publication in the Gazette. Therefore it is a good idea to consult the Gazette indexes in order to establish an exact date.

As well as the public announcement, there may survive a citation (a brief official statement of why the medal was awarded), or a recommendation (usually a fuller statement, by the commanding officer, from which the citation was written). Sometimes actual citations are published in the London Gazette, not always at the same date as the announcement. Citations for the Victoria Cross (for all services) were usually published in full. Citations and recommendations may survive in the records of each service, though this is not always the case.

For records of decorations and citations to RAF personnel, contact: MOD Medal Office, Building 250, AFPAA, RAF Innsworth, Gloucester GL3 1EZ.

More information about military records can be found on our tracing military records page.

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