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Silver War Badge (WWI)

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The Silver War Badge 1914-1922

About the WWI Silver War Badge

The WWI sterling silver War Badge (SWB) bears the royal cipher of GRI (for Georgius Rex Imperator; George V, King and Emperor) and around the rim "For King and Empire; Services Rendered". Each WWI SWB was uniquely numbered on the reverse, for example 'B186968'.The SWB may be the only evidence of WWI service if service records have been lost.

The WWI SWB was not a wound badge; it was awarded for honourable war service to those too old to serve or for long term sickness, wounds, or permanent disability. The badge was also awarded in retrospect to personnel discharged in 1914 or 1915, who met the criteria.

This badge was first issued in the UK and the British Empire from 1916 until 1922. Some 1,150,000 badges were issued and entitlement was gained on leaving the service [honourable discharge] through being disabled by wounds or sickness, and by old age (militarian.com, 2018).

Further information can be found at The Imperial War Museum: uniforms and insignia.

Why, What and How

During the First World War: apparently able-bodied young men, who were not wearing the King's uniform, were wrongly presented with white feathers. Inscribed with 'For King and Empire...Services Rendered' and worn as a brooch: the SWB was instituted to protect service personnel from accusations of cowardice and nationwide harassment.

Introduced w.e.f. 12th September 1916 (Greatwar.co.uk), the SWB was to be worn on the right breast in civilian attire only. Entitled men and women could wear the various issues and types awarded over the years; members of the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy had the prefix RAF and RN (QARANC website).

The King's Badge (WW2)

The King's Badge (KB) was awarded in WW2 and should not be confused with the WWI SWB. The WW2 King's Badge is a large silver lapel badge, authorised by the Ministry of Pensions in the early part of the Second World War. Signifying veterans: the KB also included the initials GRI for Georgius Rex Imperator, in this case referring to King-Emperor George VI.

Initially issued to service personnel discharged from active service: it was to be worn only on civilian clothing. Some 8,000 of these badges had been awarded by the end of 1941. It did come with a certificate, but the KB was not serially numbered. Eventually, eligibility was widened to the Home Guard, police and civil defence services. More info at Wikipedia.

The WWI King's Certificate

These certificates were unconnected with the Silver War Badge although many qualified for both. Most Silver War Badges were accompanied by a King’s Certificate of Discharge, designed by Sir Bernard Partridge in 1916. The regulations appear in Army Order 138 and 139 of May 1918. Personnel were not entitled to the King’s Certificate on Discharge, if they had not served in an overseas Theatre of War (Forces War Records).

WWI SWB Research and Records

  • Records are held under TNA Series WO 372: British Army medal index cards 1914-1920. These records are index cards created by the Army Medal Office towards the end of the First World War. They record the medals that men and women who served in the First World War were entitled to claim.
  • Causes and dates of discharge can often be found in Service Records. If someone was discharged during the war and awarded a Silver War Badge, then this information might appear on their Medal Index Card and/or the Silver War Badge List.
  • If a service record has been lost or destroyed, a Silver War Badge record may be the only evidence left. Because the WWI badges were individually numbered it is possible to trace the recipient of a badge, from its number, using online resources.
  • Most of the silver badges were accompanied by a King’s Certificate, but subject to separate regulations. See The Long, Long Trail (LLT) website.
  • About 1,150,000 badges were issued with certificates; a roll of the recipients of the War Badge can be found under TNA Reference MT 9/1404 (Awards Code 6): Silver War Badges - List of recipients) at the National Archives, Kew.
  • Specific records of interest can be searched (£) under WO 372: War Office Service Medal and Award Rolls Index, First World War.
  • Records of the issuing of the British War Medal, the Mercantile Marine Medal, and the Silver War Badge to merchant seamen and officers in the First World War, can be searched at TNA Discovery medal records 1914-1918.
  • You can search the Silver War Badge rolls (WO 329) on Ancestry (£) by recipients’ name or by badge number.
  • The SWB rolls and lists can also be searched via subscription on FindMyPast or on Forces War Records, and there are lists of names on the Lives of The First World War (£) website.

Note:

For King's Badges instituted for 1939-45: these badges were not numbered and admin now lies with the War Pensions Agency, who no longer make initial issues. They might, however, replace 1939-45 lost badges after confirming eligibility.


Wikis and External References

Army Service Numbers 1881-1918; Silver War Badge Roll: http://armyservicenumbers.blogspot.com/2011/11/silver-war-badge-roll-on-ancestry.html.

ARRSEpedia Medal Cards and Medal Rolls: https://www.arrse.co.uk/wiki/Medal_Cards_and_Medal_Rolls#Sources_of_Additional_Information.

British Army medal index cards 1914-1920: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/british-army-medal-index-cards-1914-1920/.

British soldiers’ WWI pension records information (WO 364): http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/soldiers/how-to-research-a-soldier/british-soldiers-pension-records/ and The UK National Archives.

Forces War Records: Silver War Badge & Kings Certificate Of Discharge WW1; https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/blog/2015/12/10/the-silver-war-badge-and-kings-certificate-of-discharge.

Great War Forum For King and Empire Services Rendered: https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/138378-for-king-and-empire-services-rendered/.

Records of the Silver War Badge: http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/soldiers/how-to-research-a-soldier/campaign-medal-records/records-of-the-silver-war-badge//

Silver War Badge Award Certificate: http://gmic.co.uk/topic/36743-silver-war-badge-award-certificate/.

Silver War Badge Roll 1914 - 1920: https://search.livesofthefirstworldwar.org/search/world-records/silver-war-badge-roll-1914-1920.

WWII King's Badge on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King%27s_Badge.

WWII King's Badge: eligibility widened in 1944: http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/homefront/medals/kingbdge.html.


All sources accessed June - July 2018.