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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Medal ribbons enquiry


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I suppose this may come under the heading of 'daft query of the day', but a question from my young godaughter set me wondering too.

Medal ribbons - The WWI British War Medal for example - blue, black, white, gold, white, black, blue, so my question is, is there a reason/protocol/convention or whatever for choosing the particular colours for a medal ribbon, for the order in which those colours appear or the width of the colour? And who decides?

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Not a daft question at all.

I can't help with the BWM.

The riband adopted for the Victory Medal includes all the colours of the rainbow in a shaded and waterd effect to avoid any controversy as it was issued to a number of allied nations.

The riband of the Mercantile Marine Medal represents the steaming lights of a ship underway.

The War and Campaign Medals of WW2 all have ribands with a particular meaning.


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Wasn't the Double Rainbow of the VM ribbon chosen as it is the international sign of Peace?

I believe the BWM ribbon colours are/were meant to signify the following...

Blue, Rain.

Black, Death.

White, Smoke.

Brown, Mud.

The "Star", Red/White/Blue is meant to represent the colours of Both the UK and France.

And, as said, the Mercantile Marine, Red/Green represents the Port and Starboard of a ships navigation lights, with a central strip of White to represent Steam from a ships funnel.

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All ribbon suggestions have to be submitted to the Monarch, in WW2 George VI made some of the suggestions himself.

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My handy little 'Observer's Book' is silent on the BWM and Victory, but for WW2 Defence it says green for British Isles, orange flames for bombing and black for black-out. It confirms what is said above about the colours of the Mercantile Marine Medal.


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The Ribbands of the WW2 Stars & Medal are:

1939 - 1945 Star: Three equal stripes of dark blue, red and light blue, symbolising the Royal and Merchant Navies, the Army and the Royal Air Force

Atlantic Star: Three stripes of shaded and watered dark blue, white and sea green, symbolising the Atlantic Ocean

Air Crew Europe Star: Pale blue, representing the sky, with black edges with inner narrow yellow stripes symbolic of night flying and enemy searchlights.

Africa Star: Pale buff to represent the desert sands, with a narrow dark blue stripe on the left, a wide central red stripe and a narrow pale blue stripe to the right. These are symbolic of the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force.

The Pacific Star: Red edge stripes, a narrow central yellow stripe flanked by wider green, and thin dark blue and light blue stripes. The dark blue, red and light blue symbolize the Navy, Army and Air force. Yellow and green symbolize the forests and beaches.

Burma Star: A red central stripe with dark blue/orange/dark blue edge stripes. The orange symbolises the sun and the red the British and Commonwealth forces.

The Italy Star: A green central stripe bordered by white stripes, with red edge stripes. Symbolic of the Italian national colours.

France & Germany Star: Red white and blue, symbolic of the Union Flag, and the French and Dutch Tricolours

1939-45 War Medal: Red, white and blue stripes - Symbolizing the Union Flag.


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