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Remembered Today:

British Troops - foreign medals


geraint
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I've often come across British troops and nurses who have been awarded French or Belgian honours - such as a Legion d'honour, croix de guerre or medaile militaire. I didn't really think about it till now, and I wonder how the French / Belgian authorities knew about the individual soldiers and their deeds. How did they know what they had done, how did they decided to awarded them; and how was the actual presentations done? I also have a local man (RN), died 1917, who was awarded the Order of St Stanislaus by the Tsar.

Did we also award gallantry medals to our Allies, or was this a pure one-sided occurance?

Any ideas as to how many British personnel (troops, nurses, civilians) were awarded such awards?

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Geraint,

Yes we did award decorations to foriegn troops. They were usually un named around the edge. There is a fairly well known photo of French soldiers wearing british MMs.

I believe the awards were passed to British authorities to distribute as they saw fit. It was really a morale boosting / building common bonds with the allies type exercise. Dont quote me but they tended to be awarded to lesser acts of gallentry ie if they were not going to give an MM to a British soldier they might give him a foriegn decoration, but sometimes they would be for the same action.

Hope that helps.

TT

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Thanks TT

Are you suggesting that the British Army were given 'batches' by, say France, to be handedout as the Army saw fit? I know of one nurse -Vera Simpson, who was awarded with a French award for action taken when the German army routed a hospital in Soissons - that was very specific - but I've no idea as to how the French knew about it!

Also, ABS Hugh Williams with his Order of Stanislaus? How did the Russians decide to award him with a posthumous award, whereas he didn't receive any British commendations?

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Some foreign medals, perhaps especially the Russian ones, seem to have been made available to the British on a reciprocal basis, and were awarded to men who were chosen by British commanders as being particularly deserving, but who did not, for some reason, qualify for a British gallantry medal. Some French Croix de Guerre were no doubt awarded on this basis too, but I also know of numbers of instances where the recipient had distinguished him or herself in operations carried out in cooperation with French forces, and the award was evidently directly recommended by the French themselves.

One particular feature of the CdG (which was in effect an MiD with related medal) was that it could be awarded posthumously, which made it especially useful for awarding to men who had lost their lives in gallant circumstances that fell short of the requirements for the Victoria Cross, the only British gallantry medal that could be awarded posthumously. Confusingly, one hears sometimes of apparently posthumous awards of 'lesser' British gallantry medals, but on investigation these turn out to be confirmations after the recipient's death of awards for which they had already been recommended.

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Geraint,

In some cases yes. However where foriegn personnel for example served with foriegn armies I am sure the awards were given direct for witnessed acts as in the case that you mention. The volunteer ambulance drivers serving wuth the French certainly recieved direct awards.

Regards

TT

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Geraint,

As you know some foriegn awards are listed in the London Gazette and some are not. I wonder if those directly awarded by foriegn govts are those not listed?

Interesting thread!

Raises a lot of questions.

Regards

TT

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TT

Interesting point that - regarding the Gazette!

Mick

- ditto about posthumous awards. The Allied medals then filled a gap which could not be provided by Britain.

If a soldier committed an act of gallantry - he was recommended by his CO (Lt Col of the Battalion), to the Brigade? Was the decision taken there, at Divisional level or higher? Did the Brigadier or higher decide on awarding the allied awards as well? (Those not awarded directly by France as mentioned above by TT).

Who actually authorised an MM or a MiD (lower level awards). Brigade or Divisional commanders? What about higher levels? - Corps or Army Commander?

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As you know some foriegn awards are listed in the London Gazette and some are not. I wonder if those directly awarded by foriegn govts are those not listed?

One of 'my' RN Siege Guns officers was killed in action on 26 April 1917 and at his funeral the following day a French general pinned a CdG with Bronze Palm on his uniform coat, which was laid on the coffin – which is, I think, just about as 'directly awarded by a foreign government' as you can get. The French citation in confirmation of the award was dated 6 May 1917 and it was announced in the LG on 17 December 1917.

Mick

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As you know some foriegn awards are listed in the London Gazette and some are not. I wonder if those directly awarded by foriegn govts are those not listed?

On a parallel thread today I have been asking about Lt Paul, of the 1st Som L I who was awarded the CdG in 1917. It doesn't appear to be in the LG and so the point made above interests me. Could he have been awarded it by the French directly and so it did not appear in the LG as suggested?

Hopefully the family will be able to shed some light on it when I see them soon. It may then go a little way to asnwering this question.

Orson

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It could be mentioned in the Battalion War Diary.

e.g.From the War Diary of the 1/8th Royal Scots.

11th November 1915-No 646 Sgt FRANK STEVENSON,"A" Coy,was awarded the Medaille Militaire, "for his coolness and bravery in attending the wounded and the efficient manner in which he commanded his platoon at FESTUBEERT on 17th-18th May,1915,when his Officer and platoon Sergeant were casualties".The presentation was made by the Army Commander at ACHEUX on the 14th November.

George

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Thanks, George

I will need to read the War Diary for the time in full myself, instead of the snippet the family has written.

Orson

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One of 'my' RN Siege Guns officers was killed in action on 26 April 1917 and at his funeral the following day a French general pinned a CdG with Bronze Palm on his uniform coat, which was laid on the coffin – which is, I think, just about as 'directly awarded by a foreign government' as you can get. The French citation in confirmation of the award was dated 6 May 1917 and it was announced in the LG on 17 December 1917.

Mick

Good bit of history ,Mick.Thanks for that.

I've found that looking from the other side of the fence,all French troops (& officers)awarded say,DSO,MC,DCM,MM etc.are online at LG.It has been a God send in my attempts at researching inter allied translators working for C/wealth units.

Dave.

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Who actually authorised an MM or a MiD (lower level awards). Brigade or Divisional commanders? What about higher levels? - Corps or Army Commander?

Geraint

MMs were awarded by Corps Commanders under delegated powers. Other awards were awarded by the C-in-C who was allowed a monthly allocation. He could also award MMs, and anyone not qualifying for anything might, but would not necessarily, be given MiD.

Divisional, Brigade and battalion (etc) commanders could recommend for "an award" but not for a specific award eg the VC or DCM. The power to allocate the awards was reserved to the C-in-C and the War Office in order to maintain the value of the awards.

Foreign awards were gazetted if it was intended to wear the decoration, as the King's permission was needed for serving soldiers to do this. Therefore, not all foreign awards were automatically gazetted.

Ron

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Ahhh! Ron - good info! Clears up a lot of things. :)

Geraint

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Geraint

Foreign awards were gazetted if it was intended to wear the decoration, as the King's permission was needed for serving soldiers to do this.

Ron

Makes me smile, somehow; a soldier having to scratch his head and decide whether or not to wear it!

:lol:

"Whatcha think Bert? Reckons as I should wear it on yon firestep?..."

"Dunno Alf. 'Sup to you pal! You won the bl***y thing. 'Ave a Woodbine whilst ya make your mind up!"

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Foreign awards were gazetted if it was intended to wear the decoration, as the King's permission was needed for serving soldiers to do this. Therefore, not all foreign awards were automatically gazetted

The man I mentioned was already dead, Ron, so he wasn't going to wear his CdG, unless having it pinned to his coat on his coffin counted as wearing it. Nevertheless – and in answer to Orson's question too – his award was gazetted.

Two further CdGs were awarded for the same action – one to the battery commander individually and another to the battery collectively. The former was gazetted but the latter was not (or at least I have never been able to find it).

Mick

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I think that many of the foreign awards that are not gazetted were not officially awarded, but rather were cases where the unit received a foreign award and the soldier thought that entitled him to an individual award (this happened quite frequently with the French Croix de Guerre) or cases where the soldier was informally told he would receive a foreign award and it was never officially awarded (this appears to have happened quite often with French awards and Russian awards from the White Russian forces). Dick Flory

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geraint,

your St.Stanislas recipient having a Welsh name reminds me that a number of Aberystwyth seamen (RNR) were awarded the St.S Medal for their service in HMS Jupiter which was serving in the Russian Arctic during the winter of 1915-16 - indeed I suspect the entire crew may have been! They were trapped in the ice for some time before being able to break through to Murmansk. Local legend states that, although their ostensible mission was to deliver food supplies to starving Russians, they were in fact transporting weapons for the Tsar's forces.

As regards other foreign awards - the Orders & Medals Research Society Bulletin Vol 24 no.2, Summer 1985, pp.94-96 includes a full list of British & Commonwealth officers & men Gazetted the United States' Distinguished Service Cross. There were 24 recipients, 3 of whose awards were authorized in 1919, 20 in 1920, and one in 1921. Thirteen of these awards appear in the LG for 17 August 1920.

As far as I can see from the article, the awards have full citations (though these were not published in the London Gazette) including specific dates and actions where earned.

One of the recipients, Lt-Col W.B.Little, East Lancs Regt. attached 6th R.Dublin Fus. is featured in an article in the OMRS Bulletin Vol 26 no.1 Spring 1997 pp.16-19. He had already earned the DSO & bar, and MC, before he was awarded the US DSC for heroism during the Ypres-Lys offensive of 17 October 1918 "when closely affiliated with American troops". The citation ends with the note "This action took place when fighting alongside the American 27th Division".

His papers also show that after the March-April 1918 German offensive his then unit, 1/5th Border Regt., being sadly depleted was formed into a MG company and attached to the US 27th "Rainbow" Division for instruction. Little as an Instructor was therefore already known to the US Army, and this together with his actions at Ypres-Lys may have influenced his selection as a DSC recipient.

Interestingly, he was also Gazetted the French Croix de Guerre avec palmes in December 1919. The US Military Attache's office in London sent his amongst other DSCs to the War Office on 12 October 1920, asking them to arrange delivery as by that late stage it was impracticable to gather the recipients for a joint presentation ceremony. The WO posted the award to Little (then combatting the IRA in County Cork) on 11 November 1920, and included in the packet his French decoration gazetted nearly a year previously. Finally, in July 1922 the WO forwarded him a "lapel ribbon button" of the DSC with the note that it could be worn at suitable functions in the US or its Embassies, with morning (but not evening) dress!

LST_164

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I think that many of the foreign awards that are not gazetted were not officially awarded, but rather were cases where the unit received a foreign award and the soldier thought that entitled him to an individual award (this happened quite frequently with the French Croix de Guerre)

In the case I cited earlier, Dick, of an RNSG battery collectively awarded a CdG, the individual men received personally-addressed copies of the citation (on plain paper, in French and in English translation provided by the French – I have an example). I don't know whether a physical medal was ever handed over, but the battery continued in operation until the last months of the war, so, if they did receive one, perhaps it was displayed in their gun emplacements (there were two, as it was a battery comprising two 9.2" naval guns in adjacent gunpits), or in their living quarters, which were in a sheltered location some distance to the rear of the battery position.

Mick

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Mick: The French Croix de Guerre when awarded to a unit was not an individual decoration, rather the decoration with palm was placed on the flag staff of the unit colors. A number of American units still carry the decoration, won in WWI or WWII, on their flag staffs today. A citation was provided to each man in the unit but it was a citation for the unit, not the individual. Only if a unit received a second award of the Croix de Guerre was there an individual award and that was in the form of a fourragère in the colors of the ribbon of the Croix de Guerre. The fourragère was worn by all men in the unit; permanently by those who were members of the unit at the time of the awarding of the fourragère and by others only while they were assigned as members of that unit. Regards, Dick Flory

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Interesting, Dick. The RNSG battery I referred to was not a conventional 'unit' (it was composed of men from the RN, RNR, RNVR and RMA) and as far I know, they didn't have anything as orthodox as 'colours'. As you say, each man received an individual copy of the collective citation.

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Having researched a bit more - the croix de guerre was awarded to both individuals (either non-commissioned men, or to commanders. It was considered a very honorific decoration, and, you are right Dick, individual members of a regiement which had been awarded the CdG wore a piece of rope the fourragere- green with red beading- to indicate that honour. It was worn draped over the left shoulder. The CdG also was worn with emblems denoting the number of recommendations made. (Like our bars). The CdG by itself for one. A brass star on the riband for two, a gold star for three. The palm leaf I believe was for 15 (there may have been brass, silver gols palm leaves for multiples.) The palm leaf was obviously a cumulation of regimental decorations, and not an individual's!

LST164

Interesting comment on the Aberystwyth men. I've not researched Hugh Williams, but my gut-reaction is that he was involved in the Russian convoys.

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Geraint,

The fourragere was a French piece and I dont believe it was worn by British units. The Fourragere was actually worn by all men of a particular unit which had been awarded the C de G. It was in different colours depending on the unit award or number of awards.

I read somewhere that the descendents of the RFA unit that won the Unit C de G citation on the Marne in 1918 still wear a small piece of coloured ribbon on their uniforms to commemorate the award.

However as statted and am willing to be corrected the Fourragere was not worn on British uniforms and was not the sole honour of individuals to wear..it was a unit honour.

Also the stars / palms indicated at what level the award was made ie divisional, Corps or Army.

Standing by to be corrected.

TT

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I've got a fourragere that was awarded to a battalion in which I served. The award was for World War II service, probably the Colmar Pocket campaign.

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There you go! Told you I would be shot down...

As an aside I bought a French tunic and side pack and contained within was a WW1 period fourragere. I cannot work out how it was attached though!

TT

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