Obverse (top left) and reverse (top right) of the medal. Ribbon: crimson with dark blue edges each approx. 7 mm wide
|Awarded by United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland|
|Awarded for||Campaign service|
|Description||Silver disk 37 mm wide|
It was announced in the London Gazette on 23 April 1816 that in a memorandum from Horse Guards on 10 March 1816 by the Prince Regent that The Waterloo Medal was conferred upon every officer, non-commissioned officer and soldier of the British Army (including members of the King's German Legion) who took part in one or more of the following battles: Battle of Ligny (16 June 1815), Battle of Quatre Bras (16 June 1815), and the Battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815).[a]
The medal was issued in 1816–17 to every soldier present at one or more of these battles. They were also credited with two years extra service and pay, to count for all purposes. The soldier was known and described as a "Waterloo Man". The obverse of this medal bears the effigy of the Prince Regent with the inscription "GEORGE P. REGENT", while the reverse depicts the seated figure of Victory with the words "WELLINGTON" and "WATERLOO" below and the date "JUNE 18 1815". The ribbon passes through a large iron ring on top of the medal. The medal is made of silver and is 37 mm (1.5 in) wide with a crimson ribbon edged in dark blue. A total of 39,000 of these medals were made with 6000 issued to cavalry; 4,000 to guards; 16,000 to line regiments; and 5,000 to artillery. In addition, there was the usual contingent of supply personnel, and a 6,500 strong contingent of the King’s German Legion (a total of 37,500). Not all 39,000 were issued.
This was the first medal issued by the British Government to all soldiers present during an action. The Military General Service Medal (MGSM) commemorates earlier battles, but was not issued until 1848. The Waterloo Medal was also the first campaign medal awarded to the next-of-kin of men killed in action. It was designed by Thomas Wyon after a design competition. The medal is unusual in that the head of the Prince Regent (later to become George IV in 1820) is depicted, whilst all other campaign awards depict a bust of the reigning king or queen.
At the time the medal was granted, it was anything but popular in the British Army. Veterans of the Peninsula War felt aggrieved that those who were present at Waterloo – many of them raw recruits, who had never seen a shot fired before – should receive such a public acknowledgement of their achievements. Meanwhile those who had undergone the labours and privations of the whole war, had had no recognition of their services beyond the thirteen votes of thanks awarded to them in Parliament. There was no doubt some truth in this discontent on the part of the old soldiers; at the same time British military pride had hitherto rebelled against the practice common in Continental armies, of conferring medals and distinctions on every man, or every regiment, who had simply done their duty in their respective services.
It was also the first medal on which the recipient's name was impressed around the edge by machine. This work was carried out by two of the Royal Mint workmen, Thomas Jerome and Charles Harrison. It impressed, somewhat heavily, large serifed capitals into the rim with the space at each end filled up with "stars". Any engraved Waterloo Medal is re-named and any unnamed example has either had the name erased or is a specimen medal which has been mounted.
Other Waterloo medals
- This medal for British and King's German Legion troops
- Brunswick Waterloo Medal
- Hanoverian Waterloo Medal
- Nassau Waterloo Medal
- Prussian Waterloo Medal
- Those stationed with in reserve under Sir Charles Colville at Hal were also entitled to the medal if they were members of the following regiments, or portions of regiments: 35th Foot, 2nd Battalion; 54th Foot, 1st Battalion; 59th Foot, 2nd Battalion; 91st Foot, 1st Battalion. These regiments were not, however, allowed to assume the word "Waterloo" on their colours, as appears by a War-Office Order, dated 23 December 1815.
- Gordon, Major Lawrence L. (1979). Joslin, Edward C, ed. British Battles and Medals (5th ed.). London: Spinks & Son. ISBN 978-0-907605-25-6.
- NMP staff (2014). "Review of Waterloo Medal Roll". Naval & Military Press. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
- Raugh, Harold E. (2004). The Victorians at War, 1815–1914: An Encyclopedia of British Military History. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-57607-925-6.
- This article incorporates text from a work in the public domain: Royal Numismatic Society (1869). "On English and Foreign Waterloo Medals". The Numismatic Chronicle. 9. Royal Numismatic Society (Great Britain).