Military General Service Medal

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Military General Service Medal
Military General Service Medal 1847 BAR.svg
Obverse (top left) and reverse (top right) of the medal. Ribbon: 31mm, crimson edged with dark blue.
Awarded by United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Type Campaign medal
Eligibility British Army.
Awarded for Campaign service.
Campaign(s) French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars 1793–1814, Anglo-American War of 1812.
Description Silver disk, 36mm diameter.
Clasps 29 authorised.
Established 1 June 1847

The Military General Service Medal (MGSM) was a campaign medal approved in 1847, for issue to officers and men of the British Army.[1][2]

The MGSM was approved on 1 June 1847 as a retrospective award for various military actions from 1793–1814; a period encompassing the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Anglo-American War of 1812. Each battle or action covered by the medal was represented by a clasp on the ribbon; twenty-nine were sanctioned[3] and the maximum awarded to one man was fifteen.[4] The medal was never issued without a clasp.

Ambrotype of an unknown English Peninsular War veteran and his wife taken possibly 1860. The Military General Service Medal has five campaign clasps.
The Naval General Service medal with a obverse of Queen Victoria
The Naval General Service Medal with a reverse {pictured}

The Duke of Richmond, who had fought at Waterloo, was chiefly responsible for the belated institution of the Military General Service Medal for all survivors of the campaigns between 1793 and 1814. (There had only hitherto been a Waterloo Medal.) He campaigned in Parliament and also enlisted the interest of Queen Victoria, who persuaded a curiously reluctant Duke of Wellington that junior and non-commissioned officers and private soldiers deserved this recognition.[5][6] Senior officers had received the Army Gold Medal thirty years before.

A point to note is that the medal was only awarded to surviving claimants; one had both to have survived until 1847 and then to actively apply for it. A combination of factors, from general illiteracy to limited publicity for the new medal meant that many did not. There are substantially fewer medals issued compared with the number of men who served during this period.[7]

The medal was awarded only to surviving claimants; next of kin could not apply for a medal on behalf of a deceased relative. However, the medal was awarded to next of kin of those claimants who had died between the date of their application and the date of presentation. In total there were 26,091 awarded.[8]

This medal and its naval counterpart, the Naval General Service Medal, were amongst the first real British campaign medals, the first to be issued to all ranks just for "being there". An earlier Army Gold Medal had been awarded to field officers for their successful commands; they were not eligible to claim identical clasps on the MGSM. To distinguish between the two medals, the MGSM was referred to as the "silver medal".



  1. ^ Although a handful of awards were made to officers and men of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, on attachment to the army, British Battles and Medals, p. 83.
  2. ^ Including officers and men of the King's German Legion, Brunswick Oels and Chasseurs Britanniques, but not other foreign troops in British service.
  3. ^ Medals Yearbook 2005, p. 133.
  4. ^ Two men were awarded medals with fifteen clasps, twelve men qualified for fourteen clasps and forty-four for 13 clasps, Military General Service Medal Roll, DNW, Colin Message. (External Link)
  5. ^ Stanley C. Johnson, A Guide to Naval, Military, Air-force and Civil Medals and Ribbons, 1921, pp 58-61
  6. ^ It was awarded to those that were junior officers during the period 1793-1814. James Schoedde (14 clasps) had been a Captain in the 60th by 1814, but eventually become a Lieutenant General.
  7. ^ By 1847 the King's German Legion, Brunswick Oels and Chasseurs Britanniques had been disbanded and the men had returned home to the German states; very few were aware that they were entitled to the medal.
  8. ^ Military General Service Medal Roll, DNW, Colin Message. (External Link)


  • Mackay, J and Mussel, J (eds). Medals Yearbook — 2005, (2004), Token Publishing.
  • Joslin, Litherland, and Simpkin (eds), British Battles and Medals, (1988), Spink

External links[edit]