Army Gold Medal

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Army Gold Medal and Cross
Gold Medal and Gold Cross with clasp, both obverse
TypeCampaign medal
Awarded forCampaign commands (conspicuous service)
obverse Britannia with shield, laurel wreath and palm branch
reverse name of first battle awarded, with laurel wreath
Cross: cross pattée with proud lion, battle names on arms
Clasps: laurel wreath with battle name
Ribbon: broad crimson with blue border
Presented byUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
EligibilityBritish Army field and general officers
Campaign(s)French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars 1793–1814, Anglo-American War of 1812.
Clasps27 authorised

The Army Gold Medal (1808–1814), also known as the Peninsular Gold Medal, with an accompanying Gold Cross, was a British campaign medal awarded in recognition of field and general officers' successful commands in campaigns, predominantly the Peninsular War.[1] It was not a general medal, since it was issued only to officers whose status was no less than that of battalion commander or equivalent.[2]


Naval Gold Medals had been awarded since 1794 to captains and admirals who had served in specified successful naval actions, admirals' medals being larger.[3] In 1806 a special gold medal was presented to British Army majors and above who had taken a key part in the Battle of Maida. This medal, 1.5 inches (38 mm) in diameter, shows the profile of King George III on the obverse with a reverse design incorporating Britannia and the Sicilian triskeles.[2]

A general campaign medal for the Napoleonic Wars, awarded to all British troops irrespective of rank, would only be established in 1847.[4]


The Army Gold Medal was established in 1810 to reward service at Napoleonic War battles since 1808. Like the Maida Gold Medal, it was awarded only to majors and above and, like the Naval Gold Medal, it was awarded in two sizes, with the larger to senior officers.

When the Army Gold Medal was first established, a new one was issued for each action. In October 1813, to prevent a proliferation of awards to one recipient, an order was created instructing that only one medal be worn, with a ribbon clasp denoting the battle concerned for any further award. The fourth award was to be marked by a Gold Cross, replacing the earlier medals, with the names of each of the four battles on the arms of the cross. Again, clasps for attachment to the ribbon of the cross were presented for any successive awards.[5]

The award could be made posthumously, and sent to the officer's family.[5]

The total number awarded were:[6][7]

Number awarded Clasps awarded
Large Gold Medal 88 medals 43 clasps
Small Gold Medal 596 medals 237 clasps
Gold Cross 163 crosses 241 clasps

Six or more clasps[edit]

The highest award was earned by the Duke of Wellington: a Cross with nine bars for a total of 13 actions.[8] It can be viewed on his uniform in the basement at Apsley House.

Officer Clasps Battles
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington 13 Roleia & Vimiera, Talavera, Busaco, Fuentes D'Onor, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes, Toulouse
William Beresford, 1st Viscount Beresford 7 Corunna, Busaco, Albuhera, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes, Toulouse
Sir Denis Pack 7 Roleia & Vimiera, Corunna, Busaco, Ciudad Rodrigo, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes, Toulouse
Sir Colin Campbell 6 Talavera, Busaco, Fuentes D'Onor, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Toulouse
Sir Alexander Dickson 6 Busaco, Albuhera, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, San Sebastián, Nivelle, Nive, Toulouse
Sir George Murray 6 Corunna, Talavera, Busaco, Fuentes D'Onor, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes, Toulouse


The medal came in three styles, laid out below:[6]

The Marquess of Londonderry wearing the Large Gold Medal

The Large Gold Medal, was restricted to general officers.
The medal was 2.12 inches (54 mm) in diameter, and mounted in a gold frame, glazed on both sides.
Obverse: Britannia with shield, seated and facing left and holding a laurel wreath in her right hand and a palm branch in her left. Behind her, the head of a lion can be seen.
Reverse: A laurel wreath surround, with the name of the battle engraved in the centre, although that for Barrosa was die struck.[9]
The medal was worn around the neck.
The designer was Thomas Wyon

The Small Gold Medal was awarded to officers between the rank of major and colonel.
The medal was 1.3 inches (33 mm) in diameter, mounted in a gold frame and glazed, and of the same design as the Large Medal.
It was worn on the left chest, often from a buttonhole, with the ribbon attached via a wide curved suspender.

The Duke of Wellington wearing the Gold Cross with three clasps

The Gold (or Peninsular) Cross was awarded to those who earned four or more gold medals, which it replaced. Worn around the neck, it is an ornamental cross pattée 1.5 inches (38 mm) across, with a proud lion at its centre and the four qualifying actions embossed on its arms. The obverse and reverse are the same. Any further actions were marked with a clasp.
The medal was worn around the neck with the ribbon attached via an ornate loop on top of the cross which passes through a smaller simpler ring below a straight suspender.
The designer was Thomas Wyon.

The Clasps were of a common pattern for all awards, with the name of the battle within a wide laurel wreath frame.

The Ribbon for all the awards was broad crimson with blue borders, 1.75 inches (44 mm) wide. This ribbon design had been used for the Maida Gold Medal and would later be used for the Waterloo and the Military General Service Medals and the Distinguished Service Order.

Naming. All awards had the name of the recipient engraved on the rim.

Viscount Beresford wearing the Gold Collar and Cross

A Gold Collar and Cross was awarded to Duke of Wellington and to Viscount Beresford. This cross was of a similar design to the Army Gold Cross, but with a winged figure of Victory at its centre, with suspension from a chain of alternate lions and Union Flag oval medallions. The Gold Collar and Cross was a separate and additional award to the Army Gold Cross.[10]


Following the Peninsular War, award of the gold medals and Crosses was discontinued when would-be recipients became eligible for Order of the Bath on its restructuring to three classes.[11]

In 1847 the Military General Service Medal (MGSM) was authorised, to be retrospectively awarded to all surviving veterans of the campaigns, irrespective of rank. Holders of the gold medals, crosses or additional clasps were not eligible to claim identical clasps on the MGSM.[11] The eligible battles and campaigns for the MGSM were identical, with the addition of Egypt.

The design of the cross is very similar to the later Victoria Cross[12] and is considered to have provided the inspiration.[13]


Awards, both medals and clasps, were made for the following 27 battles and campaigns:[14]

Gold Medal for the Battle of Maida, (4 July 1806), reverse

The Battle of Maida in 1806 was commemorated by a gold medal of different design.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gordon, page 45
  2. ^ a b Dorling, pages 54-55
  3. ^ Dorling, page 53
  4. ^ Mussell, page 129
  5. ^ a b "No. 16785". The London Gazette. 5 October 1813. p. 1985.
  6. ^ a b Joslin, pages 65-68
  7. ^ Gordon, page 46
  8. ^ Joslin, page 65
  9. ^ Mussell, page 127
  10. ^ Joslin, page 64
  11. ^ a b Gordon, page 48
  12. ^ Duckers, page 12
  13. ^ Iain Stewart (24 October 2007). "History of the Victoria Cross". Victoria
  14. ^ Joslin, page 68
  15. ^ "No. 16929". The London Gazette. 27 August 1814. pp. 1730–1731.
  16. ^ "No. 16887". The London Gazette. 19 April 1814. pp. 835–837.
  17. ^ a b c "No. 16934". The London Gazette. 13 September 1814. pp. 1850–1854.


  • Dorling, H. Taprell, (1956), Ribbons and Medals, A. H. Baldwin & Son
  • Duckers, Peter (2005). The Victoria Cross. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7478-0635-6.
  • Gordon, Lawrence (1979) [1947]. Joslin, Edward (ed.). British Battles and Medals (5th ed.). London: Spink & Son Ltd.
  • Joslin, Litherland and Simpkin (eds), (1988), British Battles and Medals, Spink ISBN 0907605257
  • Leslie, J. H. (1924–1925). Medals which were awarded to Officers of the Royal Regiment of Artillery for Service in the Peninsular War - 1808 to 1814.
  • Mussell, J (ed), (2015), Medals Yearbook 2015, Token Publishing. ISBN 9781908828248

External links[edit]