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Crimea Medal: Details & How It Was Distributed

PostPosted: 08 Aug 2017 19:26
by BingandNelsonFan
After asking some questions about how Crimean veterans obtained their medals in a separate post on this board (see that here:, I decided to look into just how this was done. After an hour or two of plowing through old newspapers, the answer came up. In fact, more than just that simple answer came up, and it seemed worthwhile to post a number of these facts about the medal here on the forum, as they might be of interest to others.

The medal was officially instituted on 15 Dec 1854, and it was produced and put into distribution quite rapidly.
The question that started this was just how did a veteran obtain his medal? Or, how did the family of a deceased veteran obtain his medal?
Answer: The soldier or his family (if deceased) had to apply to the War Office.
--- Lists of officers and soldiers entitled to receive the Crimea Medal were sent home by, it appears, the office of the Commander in Chief of British forces. These lists were referred to the Secretary of the Board of General Officers.
--- If an officer or soldier in Britain sent in an application for his medal, then the Secretary just confirmed his name on the lists and sent the medal without question.
--- If the officer or soldier was still on active service in the Crimea, the medals were sent over to the Commander in Chief who then distributed them to the commanders of various divisions. Those commanders were then responsible for handing the medals to their men. (It appears that the first medals sent to the Crimea were sent out at the end of March or beginning of April 1855, but that the medals did not actually arrive until October). Because of the amount of men serving over in the Crimea, the government could not get all of the medals with Alma and Inkerman clasps needed shipped over together. Consequently, medals were issued in a ratio division to the commanders, proportionate to the amount of claims from men of that division. Those commanders then decided which of their men were to receive the available medals in which order. Preference was usually given for amount of time served, acts of bravery, etc. The distributions took the form of parades and/or celebration, often featuring party-style amusements in the camps.
--- If the family of a deceased officer or soldier (that family residing in Britain) applied for his medal, they the War Office first ascertained that the claim was good and that the person applying was, indeed, entitled to receive the medal. If those points were ascertained, then the medal was sent immediately, along with any effects of the deceased soldier.

Originally, the medal was only produced with two clasps/bars. One for Alma and one for Inkerman. This caused an immediate outcry on the part of the men who had served/were still serving in the war. Why was Balaklava not included in that list? Ultimately, Balaclava and Sebastopol were added, along with the Naval/Marine bar for Azoff. A great illustration of the outrage over the lack of a Balaklava bar is as follows (from "Hampshire Advertiser" 20 Jan 1855, page 2):
The following is an extract from a letter from an officer of Light Dragoons who survived the sanguinary Balaklava charge:---
"We are sending in our claims for the Crimea Medal. Mine appears with Alma and Inkermann. I wish I could add Balaklava. We all consider it a great grievance that we are to get nothing for our charge on the 25th of October. I confess I think it is 'too bad.' Our Allies are astonished. They said to an officer of the 8th a day or two ago--- 'If we had made such a charge as that, every officer and man who came out would have been decorated.' Lord Raglan said the charge was made under a misconception. What have the officers and men to do with that? They were ordered to charge the Russian guns, and most gallantly did they obey the order."

One more good example of the outrage over the lack of acknowledgement for Balaclava heroism was published in the "Hertford Mercury and Reformer" of 20 Jan 1855 (page 2):
Why not some recognition of the bravery of the men who fought at Balaklava? Letters inform us that the Crimea medal bears upon it only the words 'Alma' and 'Inkerman.' The fatal charge at Balaklava is not to be commemorated. It was a mistake --- a misconception! That may be true, but it was nevertheless an act of surpassing courage and devotion. There was no misconception on the part of the men.

The Crimea Medal was "hot news" for its day, and an interesting published tidbit was the cost of war medals issued by the government in the year 1855. The costs for that year alone were £52,500, broken down as follows:
£400 for ordinary medals
£3,200 for 8,000 Caffre war medals at 8s.
£36,000 for 72,000 Crimea medals at 10s.
£400 for 1,000 "distinguished conduct in the field" medals at 8s.
£12,500 for 25,000 Crimea medals for the navy and marines at 10s.

Of course, all of that government money had to help someone, and the majority of the Crimean medal money seems to have helped the business of Messrs. Hunt and Roskell of 156 New Bond-street, London. By February 1856 (and perhaps a bit before), they were publishing the following ad in papers across the country:
CRIMEA MEDALS.--- Messrs. Hunt and Roskell, 156, New Bond-street, London, beg respectfully to state that they are prepared to supply miniature Crimea Medals, for undress, precisely to the model of the large medal, which was intrusted to them for execution. Messrs. H. and R. have also the miniatures of the Peninsula, India, and Kaffir medals, &c.

Another interesting aspect of the importance of this medal, at the time, seems to be proof of service. That doesn't seem like much nowadays, since papers are pretty easily accessed, but in December 1854, the House of Lords was concerned about the necessity that all fallen officers' families should be able to obtain their relative's medal --- "without which the representatives of the fallen officers would not be able to show any proof of their services."

And, of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. For special service above the call of duty, a Lieutenant's dog was actually issued with the medal:
(Coventry Herald, 14 Sep 1855, page 2)
At the presentation of Crimea medals to the Royal Sappers and Miners, at Woolwich, lately, a dog belonging to the Lieutenant and Adjutant appeared on parade with a medal round his neck, which had been awarded to him for his devotion to his master while serving in the Crimea, as during his stay the Russians several times stabbed him.

I do have a few more observations and articles relating to this medal, but at the length of this post, it's probably time to hit the "submit" button. :) I'll reply with some more, which are descriptions of some of the parades in England when medals were distributed, also some soldiers' thoughts on the distribution of clasps to those not actually entitled to wear them.

Following here are a few transcriptions of related news articles which would serve as good footnotes to the points above. I hope that this information is useful to others and answers some of the questions raised in other posts.

(Elgin Courier, 6 Apr 1855, page 4)
CRIMEA MEDALS.--- The medals for distinguished service in the field were forwarded to the Crimea last week. The medal is a very handsome silver medal, with a red ribbon and blue centre. The relatives of those men who have died since their service will receive these medals. The authorities ought to advertise the names and numbers of the deceased.

(Bell's Weekly Messenger, 6 Aug 1855, page 2)
. . . Mr. Stafford asked what arrangements had been made for the distribution of medals to the relatives of those who had died in the Crimea; and whether any arrangements had been made for a more rapid delivery of medals to those soldiers who had been discharged?
Mr. Peel said, the first step taken with regard to these medals was to obtain a list of the officers and soldiers entitled to receive them. Lists had accordingly been sent home from time to time, and these lists were referred to the Secretary of the Board of General Officers. When a person in this country made application for his medal, all the secretary had to do was to ascertain that his name was on the list, and the medal was obtained without any difficulty whatever. With regard to those who were now in the Crimea, medals had been sent to the Commander in Chief to have them distributed there among the claimants. When applications were made in this country for medals by the relatives of soldiers deceased, the first duty of the War Office was to ascertain that the claim was a good one, and the next that the person applying was entitled to receive the medal. When these points were ascertained, the medal, together with the effects of the soldier, was sent; and if there had been delay in any case, it had only arisen from the necessity of the War Office determining who were the legal representatives of the soldiers.

(Hampshire Chronicle, 6 Oct 1855, page 7)
On the 20th, the anniversary of the first battle and victory in the Crimea, the medals which have arrived were distributed to a proportionate number of officers and men in the several regiments entitled to receive them. As only a limited supply of medals had arrived with clasps for Alma and Inkermann, they were issued from head quarters to each division in a ratio proportionate to the number of claimants. The selection of the recipients was left to the generals commanding the divisions, and this selection was in most instances determined by the greatest amount of services in the Crimea. The medals were distributed to officers and men at divisional parades. In the evening most of the regiments which had been particularly engaged at Alma held festive meetings, and numerous entertainments were kept up till a late hour in the various camps.

Re: Crimea Medal: Details & How It Was Distributed

PostPosted: 08 Aug 2017 21:03
by Frogsmile
Very interesting, Sarah, thank you for posting.