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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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War Memorials



1. THE 1914 STAR AND THE 1914-15 STAR

by Duncan Brownlie



UK and Commonwealth Great War service medals were worn in the following order of precedence:

 1914 or 1914-15 Star

British War Medal

Mercantile Marine Medal

Victory Medal or South African Victory Medal

Territorial Forces War Medal



This bronze star was sanctioned in April 1917 for soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force (including the Royal Flying Corps) and Imperial forces, who had served in France or Belgium between the 5th August and midnight on the 22nd/23rd November 1914.  Service at sea or in any other theatre of war did not count.


Some 370,000 were struck, mostly to soldiers of the Regular Army, Territorial Forces and called-up Reservists.  However, nursing and medical staff and civilian practitioners who satisfied the award criteria also qualified.  Recipients also included men and women of the various civilian volunteer medical and ambulance units, such as the ‘Florence Fiennes Hospital’ or ‘Millicent Sutherland Ambulance’, active in the area at the time.  The rarest examples must be to the volunteers of the ‘Ambulance Manners’ organisation, eight of whom were awarded the 1914 Star.

Men of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve serving ashore in France and Belgian with the Royal Naval Division (RND) also qualified.  The RND had been sent by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, to reinforce the Belgian Army under siege at Antwerp between the 4th and the 10th October 1914, and served throughout the war on the Western Front and Gallipoli.


Due to the time it took to mobilise, train and transport Imperial and Dominion troops from their homeland to Europe, most did not reach the Western Front until after the qualifying period for this medal was over.  The vast majority of 1914 Stars to Imperial troops are to men of the Indian Division, which landed in France in September 1914.  However, some 160 are known to have been awarded to Canadian personnel, most of whom were medical staff.


The obverse of the medal bears a central scroll with the date 1914.  Above and below this are two smaller scrolls bearing the inscriptions 'AUG' and 'NOV'.  The reverse is impressed with the recipient’s name and details.

1914 Star

The 1914 Star 

also known as The Mons Star

©New Zealand Government Crown Copyright. Used (with thanks) to illustrate the object in question where no free equivalent is available or could be created that would adequately give the same information.


This award became commonly known as the ‘Mons Star’, though the recipient did not necessarily have to be at the battle or the retreat from Mons to qualify.  The ribbon is red, white and blue silk, the colours being chosen to represent the colours of the allies.  The colours are shaded and watered into each other and worn with the red nearest the centre of the chest.


In October 1919 a bar was authorised to all those who had come under actual fire between the qualifying dates.  The official criteria was that to be eligible the recipient had to have been within range of German field artillery during the qualifying period.

This bar bears the inscription ‘5th AUG. – 22nd NOV. 1914’ and was sewn directly onto the ribbon through small holes in each corner.  Some 145,000 were issued.


All those who were awarded a bar were entitled to wear a silver rosette on the ribbon-strip.  In practice however, many who were not awarded the bar also wore the silver rosette on their ribbon-strip.  This was often done by ex-servicemen eager to differentiate their ribbon from that of the 1914-15 Star, which was identical.  It is also fairly common to find the rosette incorrectly sewn onto the ribbon of a 1914 Star in place of (or as well as) a bar, irrespective of whether a bar was awarded or not.


Recipients were automatically entitled to the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Why the bar?

It seems rather unusual that a bar was issued to those who served under fire between 5th August and the 22nd November 1914, when so many men were later to be killed in a further four years of war.  I had in my collection a 1914 Star and bar trio to a Guardsman who served just 99 days in France in 1914, before returning home to serve out the rest of the war in England.  And such examples are not unusual.

The bar to the 1914 Star is unique however, in that it represents the original British Expeditionary Force (BEF), famously referred to by the Kaiser as, 'that contemptible little army' and known ever after as the Old Contemptibles.

This small British army of pre-war professional soldiers and reservists, bore the brunt of the German onslaught from late August to November 1914.  From their first engagement with the enemy at the Battle of Mons (23rd August), the BEF fought a continuous and gallant retreat, inflicting heavy losses on the oncoming German forces.  The German advance was finally halted at the Battle of the Marne (7th - 10th September), the BEF fighting side by side with the French.

The qualifying period for the bar ends with the First Battle of Ypres (19th October - 22nd November) where, during the Battles of Langemarck (21st - 24th October), Gheluvelt (29th - 31st October) and Nonne Bosschen (11th November) the Germans came to within a breath of breaking the British line and winning the war.

The bar therefore represented a time of crisis when the war lay in the balance and following devastating and costly battles, the original BEF emerged in November 1914 utterly decimated.




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