Representatives of the Allies at the Paris Council in March 1919 approved the issuance by each member nation of a medal to commemorate the victory over the Central Powers. The medal was to be in bronze with a mount and color similar to the French War Medal of 1870. Each nation’s medal was to have a figure of Victory on the obverse. The British version of the medal was authorized by Army Order 301 of 1919 and issuance of the medal began in May 1920. The medal was originally issued with a dark-chocolate brown color and a rather fragile barrel-type suspension (hereafter referred to as the Type I Victory Medal)(Figure 1). Soon after the Type I Victory Medal was issued many complaints were received indicating that the dark color of the medal obscured the detail of the design and that the fragile barrel-type suspension was too fragile. By July 1920 the War Office had approved a version of the medal that was lighter in color with a suspension that was an integral part of the medal (the Type II Victory Medal)(Figure 2).
The following four figures compare the two types of the medal in terms of the color and surface features of the medal (Figure 3), the suspension (Figure 4), the suspension ring (Figure 5) and the engraver’s name (Figure 6).
Initially data seems to indicate that over 75 percent of the Type I Victory Medals were issued to those who received the 1914 Star (Figures 7 and 8).
The Type I Victory Medal was issued from May 1920 through the end of December 1920. The Type II Victory Medal was approved by the King in December 1920 and the first Type II medals were issued on 1 January 1921. For British officers the date of issue of the Victory Medal to each officer is indicated in the “Remarks” column on the medal rolls for the British War Medal and Victory Medal (Figure 9: available at the National Archives and www.ancestry.com. The same information is also found on a British Army Officer’s medal index card. Any Victory Medal issued through 31 December 1920 should be a Type I Victory Medal and any issued after 31 December 1920 should be a Type II Victory Medal.
In the figure above, note that in the “Remarks” column for the medals issued to four of the five officers listed it states that “VM returned” and “VM re-issued with a date following. This indicates that the Victory Medal for the officers named were returned to the War Office because that officer did not like the dark chocolate-brown color and/or the suspension for the medal separated from the medal. If the medal was reissued to the recipient prior to 31 December 1920 the medal was the original Type I medal that had been lightened in color and the suspension reinforced with additional solder (herein referred to as the Type IR Victory Medal)(Figure 10). If the medal was reissued to the recipient after 31 December 1920 it would have been a new Type II Victory Medal. Unfortunately, the medal rolls for the British War Medal and Victory Medal to other ranks of the British Army do not usually indicate the date of issue of the medals but there is every reason to believe that the dates of issuance of the various types of Victory Medals to other ranks should conform to the that for the officers.
Figure 11 is a comparison of the Type I and Type IR Victory Medal. Note that the Type IR Victory Medal is lighter in color (often reddish in appearance) and the barrel-type suspension has often been reinforced with solder. The suspension ring will either be broken or reconnected with a silver-colored solder.
The second part of this topic will discuss the recently-issued Type III British Victory Medal.