Arctic Star

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The Arctic Star
Arctic Star medal.jpgArctic Star medal, reverse.png
TypeMilitary campaign medal
Awarded forEntry into operational area
CountryFlag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Presented bythe Monarch of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realms
EligibilityAll Ranks
Campaign(s)Battle of the Atlantic, for service north of the Arctic Circle
Established19 December 2012
First awarded19 March 2013
Ribbon - Arctic Star.png
Ribbon bar
Order of wear
Next (higher)Atlantic Star
Next (lower)Air Crew Europe Star
RelatedAtlantic Star

The Arctic Star is a military campaign medal instituted by the United Kingdom on 19 December 2012 for award to British Commonwealth forces who served on the Arctic Convoys north of the Arctic Circle, during the Second World War.[1]

The Second World War Stars[edit]

On 8 July 1943, the 1939–43 Star (later named the 1939–1945 Star) and the Africa Star became the first two campaign stars instituted, and by May 1945 a total of eight stars and nine clasps had been established to reward campaign service during the Second World War.[2] One more campaign star, the Arctic Star, and one more clasp, the Bomber Command Clasp, were belatedly added on 26 February 2013, more than sixty-seven years after the end of the war.[3][4][5]

Including the Arctic Star and the Bomber Command clasp, no-one could be awarded more than six campaign stars, with five of the ten clasps denoting service that would have qualified for a second star. Only one clasp could be worn on any one campaign star. The maximum of six possible stars are the following:[3][5][2]

All recipients of campaign stars also received the War Medal.[15]


The Arctic Star is a retrospective award, announced in late 2012, nearly seven decades after the end of the Second World War. It was formally approved by the Queen for award to those who served on the Arctic Convoys during the Second World War, and production began in early 2013.[5]

The institution of the medal, along with the Bomber Command Clasp, was the end result of a 16-year-long campaign by Commander Eddie Grenfell, Lieutenant Commander Dick Dykes and Merchant Navy veteran Jock Dempster, who stressed that service in the arctic convoys north of the Arctic Circle was entirely different from that in the Atlantic, for which the Atlantic Star had been awarded, with different aims and different conditions which had been described by Winston Churchill as "the worst journey in the world".[16][17][18]

The Arctic Star has been controversial, since it is the first British medal to be instituted and awarded using a dead monarch's cypher or effigy, and who did not give permission for it to be instituted. The medal has also been criticised by other groups, who maintain that the veterans of the convoys had already been amply rewarded with medals for this campaign, and they should not have received special treatment over other veterans who have been denied similar recognition.[citation needed]

Award criteria[edit]

The medal was awarded for any length of operational service north of the Arctic Circle by members of the British Armed Forces and the Merchant Navy. The qualifying area is defined as 66° 32’ North Latitude and the qualifying period recognises the particular severity of the conditions experienced by those who served in the Arctic.[1][5][19][20]

The inclusive qualifying period of service is 3 September 1939 to 8 May 1945, the duration of the Second World War in Europe. Though the Arctic Star is intended to recognise the service of personnel in the Arctic convoys of World War II, other members of the military and civilians may also qualify. Eligibility is defined as follows:[18][20]

  • Royal Navy and Merchant Navy personnel must have served anywhere at sea north of the Arctic Circle. This includes, but is not limited exclusively to, those ships which participated in, and in support of convoys to North Russia. Fleet Air Arm personnel who did not qualify by sea service may qualify under the criteria applicable to Royal Air Force personnel.[18][20]
  • Air crew of the Air Forces are eligible if they landed north of the Arctic Circle or served in the air over this area. Non-air crew who performed operational service in the area, for example ground crew or those who sailed with Catapult Aircraft Merchant Ships, are also eligible.[18][20]
  • Army personnel who served on His Majesty's ships or in defensively equipped merchant ships qualify under the rules applying to the Navy or Merchant Navy. Personnel who took part in land operations north of the Arctic Circle are also eligible for award.[18][20]
  • Civilian Members of the few approved categories who qualify for Campaign Stars will be eligible so long as they met any qualifying criteria while they served in support of military operations.[18][20]
  • Foreign nationals who served in British or Dominion Forces, such as the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Australian Navy, are eligible for the Arctic Star so long as the individuals have not been recognised by a similar award from their own governments.[18][20][21]

Eligibility for the Arctic Star does not affect an individual's eligibility for any other previously awarded campaign medals, nor does it automatically entitle individuals to any further awards.[18][20]


The set of nine campaign stars was designed by the Royal Mint engravers. The stars all have a ring suspender which passes through an eyelet formed above the uppermost point of the star. They are six–pointed stars, struck in yellow copper zinc alloy to fit into a 44 millimetres diameter circle, with a maximum width of 38 millimetres and 50 millimetres high from the bottom point of the star to the top of the eyelet.[20]


The obverse has a central design of the George VI Royal Cypher "GRI VI", surmounted by a crown. A circlet, the top of which is covered by the crown, surrounds the cypher and is inscribed "THE ARCTIC STAR".[20]


The reverse is plain.[20]


The medal was awarded unnamed, although some recipients chose to have their medals privately engraved.[22]


The ribbon is 32 millimetres wide, with a 3½ millimetres wide Air Force blue band, a 6 millimetres wide Navy blue band, a 4 millimetres wide red band and a ¼ millimetre wide black pinstripe band, repeated in reverse order and separated by a 4½ millimetres wide white band. The three colours represent the forces which were involved in the campaign, light blue for the Air Forces, dark blue for the Navy and red for the Merchant Navy, while the central white band, edged in black, represents the Arctic.[1]

The design was submitted by the Ministry of Defence to the Royal Mint Advisory Committee. Their recommendation was submitted to the Queen for approval.[18]


The first Arctic Stars were presented to forty World War Two veterans on 19 March 2013, in London. As many as 120,000 veterans or their next-of-kin are believed to be eligible for the Arctic Star.[17][23][24] As at 19 July 2018, the Ministry of Defence had issued 18,637 Arctic Star medals to eligible veterans on a self-nomination basis.[25]

On 28 September 2014, Håkon Nilsen, who served as torpedo commander on HNoMS Stord and took part in eighteen Murmansk convoys as well as the Normandy landings, was the first and only Norwegian war veteran to be awarded the Arctic Star posthumously.[26]

Order of wear[edit]

The order of wear of the Second World War campaign stars was determined by their respective campaign start dates and by the campaign's duration. This is the order worn, even when a recipient qualified for them in a different order. The Defence Medal and War Medal are worn after the stars.[27] The Canadian Volunteer Service Medal is worn after the Defence Medal and before the War Medal, with other Commonwealth war medals worn after the War Medal.[27]

The Arctic Star is therefore worn as shown:[27]

Atlantic Star Arctic Star Air Crew Europe Star

South Africa[edit]

On 6 April 1952 the Union of South Africa instituted its own range of military decorations and medals. These new awards were worn before all earlier British decorations and medals awarded to South Africans, with the exception of the Victoria Cross, which still took precedence before all other awards. Second World War medals awarded to South Africans continued to be worn in the order shown above, with the Africa Service Medal worn after the War Medal.[31][32] Although instituted after 1952, the Arctic Star was a retrospective award, therefore its position in the South African order of wear followed the above order.[31]


  1. ^ a b c Maddox, David (26 February 2013). "Arctic Star medal for Russian Convoys veterans". The Scotsman. Johnston Press. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  2. ^ a b Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals in Time of War (May 1945). "Campaign Stars and the Defence Medal (Regulations)". London: HM Stationery Office. Retrieved 1 August 2010.
  3. ^ a b Stephen Stratford Medals site: British Military & Criminal History, 1900 to 1999. 1939–45 Star (Access date 1 April 2015)
  4. ^ War Service (Decorations) – Statement in the House of Commons by Winston Churchill on 3 August 1943 (HC Deb 03 August 1943 vol 391 cc2091-3) (Access date 9 April 2015)
  5. ^ a b c d e The National Archives – Ministry of Defence – Arctic Star and Bomber Command Clasp (Access date 1 April 2015)
  6. ^ a b New Zealand Defence Force – The 1939–45 Star Eligibility Rules Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine (Access date 12 April 2015)
  7. ^ a b New Zealand Defence Force – The Atlantic Star Eligibility Rules Archived 15 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine (Access date 4 April 2015)
  8. ^ a b New Zealand Defence Force – The Air Crew Europe Star Eligibility Rules Archived 15 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine (Access date 12 April 2015)
  9. ^ a b New Zealand Defence Force – The France and Germany Star Eligibility Rules Archived 15 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine (Access date 12 April 2015)
  10. ^ a b New Zealand Defence Force – The Arctic Star (Access date 12 April 2015)
  11. ^ a b New Zealand Defence Force – The Africa Star Eligibility Rules Archived 15 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine (Access date 12 April 2015)
  12. ^ a b New Zealand Defence Force – The Pacific Star Eligibility Rules Archived 15 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine (Access date 9 April 2015)
  13. ^ a b New Zealand Defence Force – The Burma Star Eligibility Rules Archived 15 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine (Access date 12 April 2015)
  14. ^ a b New Zealand Defence Force – The Italy Star Eligibility Rules Archived 27 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine (Access date 12 April 2015)
  15. ^ Captain H. Taprell Dorling (1956). Ribbons and Medals. London: A.H.Baldwin & Sons. pp. 97–98.
  16. ^ Transcript of Arctic Star Medal Presentation speech by Prime Minister David Cameron on 19 March 2013 (Access date 7 April 2015)
  17. ^ a b "Convoy veterans given first Arctic Star medals". BBC. 19 March 2013. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Arctic convoy heroes can begin applying for their WW2 campaign medal now". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  19. ^ "Recognition for veterans of Arctic Convoys and Bomber Command". GOV.UK Announcnements. Ministry of Defence. 19 December 2012. Retrieved 14 March 2013.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Birkenhead Returned Services Association - Military Medals - The Arctic Star (Access date 7 April 2015)
  21. ^ New Zealand Defence Force - Breaking Medals News - Applications Open For The Arctic Star And The Bomber Command Clasp Archived 21 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine (Access date 7 April 2015)
  22. ^ W.E. Clark & Son - Engraving the Arctic Star Archived 18 May 2015 at the Wayback Machine (Accessed 8 May 2015)
  23. ^ Bannister, Sam (19 March 2013). "Veterans presented with their Arctic Star medals in London". The News. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  24. ^ Elitemilitaria - WW2 British Australia Arctic Star Medal by MOD Firmin w/pin clasp (Accessed 8 May 2015)
  25. ^ MoD, Defence Business Services (Secretariat) (25 July 2018). "Statistics of Arctic Star Medals issued" (PDF). UK Government. Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 July 2019. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  26. ^ Håkon Nilsen honoured posthumously, Stavanger Aftenblad, 9 October 2014, part 2, p. 10.
  27. ^ a b c "No. 40204". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 1954. p. 3538.
  28. ^ Captain H. Taprell Dorling. Ribbons and Medals. p. 97. Published A.H.Baldwin & Sons, London. 1956.
  29. ^ New Zealand Defence Force - The Defence Medal Eligibility Rules Archived 15 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine (Access date 21 April 2015)
  30. ^ New Zealand Defence Force - The War Medal 1939-45 Eligibility Rules Archived 29 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine (Access date 22 April 2015)
  31. ^ a b Government Notice no. 1982 of 1 October 1954 – Order of Precedence of Orders, Decorations and Medals, published in the Government Gazette of 1 October 1954.
  32. ^ Republic of South Africa Government Gazette Vol. 477, no. 27376, Pretoria, 11 March 2005, OCLC 72827981