The Star was awarded for a minimum of one day service in an operational area of North Africa between 10 June 1940 and 12 May 1943. The whole of the area between the Suez Canal and the Strait of Gibraltar is included, together with Malta, Abyssinia, Kenya, the Sudan, both Somalilands and Eritrea. The areas not bordering the Mediterranean only qualified for the Africa Star from 10 June 1940 to 27 November 1941.
Members of the Australian Imperial Force qualified for the Star for service in Syria from 8 June 1941 and 11 July 1941.
The creation of the Star was announced in July 1943, and in August it was announced that the first uniform ribbons would be issued to qualifying personnel later in that year – the medals themselves were not intended to be issued until after the end of hostilities. Some issues to overseas troops were delayed, but many had been received by the end of the year, and were worn throughout the remainder of the war.
The Africa Star is a six–pointed star of yellow copper zinc alloy, with a height of 44mm and a maximum width of 38mm.
The obverse has a central design of the Royal Cypher of King George VI, surmounted by a crown. The cypher is surrounded by a circlet containing the words ‘The Africa Star'.
The reverse is plain, although Stars issued to Australian, Indian and South African personnel have recipient names impressed.
The ribbon for this medal, along with those of the other Second World War campaign stars, is reputed to have been designed by King George VI. The sand of the desert is represented by pale buff, the Royal Navy (and Merchant Navy), British Army, and Royal Air Force are represented by stripes of dark blue, red, and light blue respectively.
Regulations issued in 1945 only allow one clasp to be worn with the Star, being the first clasp the recipient qualified for.
Awarded for service with the 8th Army between 23 October 1942 and 12 May 1943. An '8' is worn on the ribbon in undress to denote this bar. This award is controversial because Eighth Army was created in October 1941 and fought in Africa for a year before the award service requirement. The award dates from the start of the El Alamein battle that ultimately led to the German eviction from Africa. Reportedly General Bernard Montgomery refused to allow Eighth Army soldiers who fought under his predecessor, General Auchinleck, from October 1941, and even his first few months of service starting in August 1942 to wear the award.
Awarded for service with the 1st Army between 8 November 1942 and 12 May 1943. A '1' is worn on the ribbon in undress to denote this bar. Some clasps consist of a small plate saying '1st ARMY' across the full width of the ribbon.
North Africa 1942–43
Awarded for service with the 18th Army Group Headquarters between 15 February 1942 and 12 February 1943, or navy and merchant navy in shore service, or Royal Air Force service in specified areas from 23 October 1942 to 12 May 1943. In undress, a rosette on the ribbon denotes this bar.
Clasps are of yellow copper zinc alloy and are sewn directly to the face of the medal ribbon. The figure '1', '8' and rosette devices are silver and are worn centrally on the ribbon bar. Only one device may be worn.
^Despite regulations to the contrary dating from 1945, both 1st and 8th Army clasps were awarded inter alia to Dwight Eisenhower (listed on the Eisenhower Presidential Library website) and Field Marshal Harold Alexander (visible in his photograph shown on the Churchill Society website) and here. Regulations did change during the war and this may provide an explanation for what otherwise appears to be an anomaly.