Collectors are often confused about the rank used in the naming of British Great War stars and medals as often that rank is different than the rank held during the service for which the medal or star was awarded. Below are the rules for the four most common Great War stars and medals and examples of how those rules were applied.
The 1914 Star:
Small slips of paper often found within the box in which the 1914 Star was issued contain the following statement: “The rank engraved on this “1914 Star” is the permanent rank held on disembarkation with the Expeditionary Force, any subsequent promotion granted are not shown on the Star.”
Major Charles Pulteney Cullerne, RFA
Cullerne was commissioned on 12 May 1900 and promoted to Captain, RFA on 16 November 1910. He disembarked at Havre, France on 15 October 1914 as a Captain and Officer Commanding, 9th Brigade Ammunition Column, RFA in the Meerut Division. On 30 October 1914 he was promoted to Major, RFA and was wounded by a sniper at Philosphe on 1 October 1915. Note that the medal roll for his 1914 Star and date clasp (Figure 1) indicates that his Victory Medal is to be named to him in the rank of Captain (the rank in which he disembarked in France), rather than the rank of Major to which he was promoted during the qualification period for the 1914 Star. Figure 2 shows his 1914 Star in named in the rank of Captain.
The 1914-1915 Star:
The rule determining the rank of to be included in the naming of the 1914-1915 Star is the same as for the 1914 Star: “The rank engraved on this “1914-15 Star” is the permanent rank held on disembarkation with the Expeditionary Force, any subsequent promotion granted are not shown on the Star.”
Major Harold Frederic Wade, RFA
Wade was commissioned in the Royal Field Artillery on 16 July 1912 and was promoted to Lieutenant, RFA on 29 August 1914. He disembarked at Havre, France on 19 April 1915 with the 2nd Northumbrian Brigade, RFA and was appointed an Acting Captain on 28 July 1915. Even though he was an Acting Captain during the qualifying period for the 1914-1915 Star the medal roll (Figure 3) indicates that his medal was issued in the rank of Lieutenant, the rank he held at time of disembarkation, and his star is so named (Figure 4).
The British War Medal and Victory Medal
A slip of paper included in the box of issue of the British War Medal and Victory Medal (Figure 5) states:
“To avoid unnecessary correspondence, kindly note that the Regtl. particulars inscribed on the British War & Victory Medals are those held on first disembarkation in a theatre of war. The rank is the highest attained, PROVIDED IT WAS HELD IN A THEATRE OF WAR OR OVERSEAS PRIOR TO 11.11.18. This rule is completely different than that for the 1914 and 1914-1915 Stars as it indicates that the rank on inscribed on these medals should be the highest rank held in a theater of war, no matter whether the rank is permanent, temporary or acting. Note, though, that higher rank is gained and held outside of a theater of war that rank will not appear on the medal.
Lieutenant William Harold Budgen, RGA
Budgen was commissioned in the Royal Garrison Artillery on 27 January 1917 and disembarked at Havre, France on 30 April 1917 where he served with 24th Heavy Battery, RGA. On 14 October 1917 he was invalided to England suffering from heart strain and after recovery was attached to the Ministry of Munitions in London until the end of the war. Even though he was promoted to Lieutenant, RGA on 21 July 1918, his British War Medal and Victory Medal are named in the rank of 2nd Lieutenant (Figures 6 and 7) as that is the highest rank that he held in a theater of war.
Lieutenant Arthur Sexton, RGA
Sexton served in France as a Sergeant in 202nd Siege Battery, RGA from 2 December 1916 to 10 October 1917 and then returned to England to attend an RGA Cadet School, eventually being commissioned in the Royal Garrison Artillery on 1 May 1918. From 20 August 1919 to October 1919 he served in 143rd Heavy Battery, RGA with the Army of the Black Sea in Russia and Turkey. Even though he held the rank of 2nd Lieutenant before the end of the war his medal is named to him as “Sergeant” (Figures 8 and 9) as that is the highest rank that he held in a theater of war.
Naming oddities and errors in ranks
Occasionally unusual ranks may be found inscribed on Great War stars and medals.
Q.M. & LIEUT.
The British War Medal and Victory Medal to Lieutenant George Heard, RGA, late Sussex Regiment, are named to him as “Q.M. & Lieut.” (Figure 1o). He was commissioned as a Lieutenant (Quartermaster) in the Royal Garrison Artillery on 17 May 1916 and was posted as Quartermaster of the RGA Base Depot and Le Havre, France.
R.M. & CAPT.
The 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal to Captain Charles Edward Caddington, RFA were named “R.M. & CAPT.” (Figure 11). Caddington was commissioned as a Riding Master and Lieutenant, RFA on 15 May 1901 and served a Riding Master from then until being appointed Adjutant, 62nd Brigade, RFA in August 1914.
Errors in naming
Occasionally the person operating the machine impressing the naming on Great War stars and medals selects an incorrect letter causing an error in the rank that is impressed. Two examples are the 1914-1915 Star to Riding Master and Captain Charles Edward Caddington his rank is erroneously impressed “R.M. & CAFT” (Figure 12) and the British War Medal to Captain Wilfred Basil Haslehust, RGA in which the rank is shown as “GAPT.”) (Figure 13).