1 September 2010

Crimea War Medal

15th December 1854

275,000 medals were awarded to all those who took part in the campaign against the Russians on the Crimean peninsular and on the surrounding waters.

The medal was also issued to some French personnel, some of these medals not bearing the 1854 date. These medals are sometimes found with the clasps, Traktir, Tchernaia, Mer d'Azoff and/or Malakof. French medals were issued un-named.

36mm diameter silver medal. The obverse portrays the diademed head of Queen Victoria, the legend VICTORIA REGINA, and the date, 1854. The reverse depicts winged Victory crowning with a laurel wreath, a Roman warrior armed with a shield in his left hand, and short sword in his right. The word CRIMEA is positioned vertically - reading from bottom to top, on the left.

The obverse of the medal was designed by William Wyon RA (1795-1851) and the reverse by his son, Benjamin Wyon (1802-1858).

27mm wide; light blue with yellow edges.

Ornate swivelling suspender unique to this medal.

Medals were originally issued unnamed but could be returned for naming free of charge. Those medals that were returned were engraved in indented or square capitals. British Battles & Medals suggests - based on a memo held in The National Archives - that all medals sent out to the Crimea were unnamed whilst those issued in the UK were named.

Men who served aboard HMS London, HMS Niger, HMS Rodney and HMS Wasp had their medals officially impressed. There are also examples of medals which have been unofficially engraved.

Five ornate oak leaf and acorn clasps were issued and these are detailed below. Clasps were supposed to be arranged in order from the bottom up - Alma, Balaklava, Inkermann, Sebastopol - although there are many examples of medals with incorrectly ordered clasps. The maximum number of clasps found on any one medal is four.

In addition, unofficial clasps for TRAKTIR, MAMELON VERT, MALAKOFF, MER D'AZOFF and KINBURN are sometimes found on medals awarded to French troops.

The award of an Alma clasp was announced at the same time as the award of the medal itself. It commemorated the deeds at Alma on the 20th September 1854.

The award of the Balaklava clasp was sanctioned on the 23rd February 1855 and commemorated the battle on the 25th October 1854.

Like the Alma clasp, the award of the Inkerman clasp was announced at the same time as the award of the medal itself. It commemorated the battle of Inkermann on the 5th November 1854.

The Sebastopol clasp was sanctioned on the 13th October 1855 and commemorated the siege which began on the 11th September 1854 and ended almost exactly one year later on the 9th September 1855.

The Azoff clasp was only awarded to Naval personnel who served in the Sea of Azoff between the 25th May and the 22nd September 1855.

Because many medals were issued before the last clasp was distributed, there is evidence of a variety of fittings, or indeed omissions if men did not bother to fit the clasp at all.

The reason the date 1854 appears on the obverse of the medal is that the medal was originally awarded to commemorate the battles of Alma and Balaklava only. There has been some interesting discussion on the British Medals Forum about the different dies used for the Crimea War Medal and the variation in how the date 1854 appears. Read the thread HERE.

Obverse image courtesy of Spink, reverse image courtesy Dix Noonan Webb. British Battles and Medals and The Medal Yearbook (Token Publishing Ltd) have been invaluable in putting together the information.

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