30,000 Medals a Day – The Army Medal Offices (A.G.10/A.G. 4, M.S. 3 and A.M.O.) 1917-1961 – A Source Book

A.G. 10/A.G.4, M.S. 3 and Q.M.G. 7 1917-1935 (The list of sources – including analysis follows the introduction)

The figure quoted in the title comes from the War Office official Hampden Gordon’s brief exploration of the history and working of the War Office up until 1935 (Hampden Gordon (1935) The War Office. Putnam: London. p. 137), discussing the work of A.G. 10 (Medals) Branch at the War Office at the height of its work in the years 1919-1922. It is interesting to compare Hampden Gordon’s figure of 30,000 per day with A.G. 10’s own 1919/1920 estimates of a required output of 40,000 medals per day (see pages below). A.G. 10 was a part clerical and part industrial organisation which at its peak employed something like 600 staff (many temporary) mainly to distribute Campaign medals.

In a April 1923 newspaper article we can see (excluding medals sent to the Dominions) the scale of the effort involved:

‘…More than 14,000,000 war medals [Editor’s note: includes the medals and ribbon sent to the Dominions], with over 1,800 miles of ribbon, have been issued by the War Office since early in 1919..

This enormous amount of work is remarkable in view of the fact that during the past two years the staff of the medal branch has been reduced to less than half its original strength…

Figures given by the War Office [Editor’s note: what follows are the figures for medals issued to British service and related personnel] show that the following decorations have been engraved and issued to officers, nurses, rank and file in the time stated: —

.360,000 1914 Stars…145[000] Clasps to Stars…1,780,000 1914-15 Stars…4,700,000 British War Medals and 4,510,000 Victory Medals… ‘41,000 Military Crosses…33,000 Distinguished Conduct Medals…129,000 Military Medals, 29,000 Meritorious Service Medals…[and]…126,000 Emblems to those mentioned in Dispatches…Furthermore, 1,150,000 Silver War Badges have been issued to individuals discharged on account of wounds or sickness.’

From ‘War Decorations: 14,000,000 Medals & 1,800 Miles Ribbon’, Northern Daily Mail 19 April 1923.

Another newspaper article based on the same War Office information, adds in the April 1923 figures for the issue of the Territorial Force War Medal, ‘24,500 (see ‘The Issue of the War Medals, 1800 Miles of Ribbon Required, The Evening Telegraph 19 April 1923).

More figures from Hampden Gordon further illuminate the money spent and effort that had been made both during and after the War (to circa 1934/5) to get soldiers and ex-soldiers the Campaign and Service medals they were entitled to:

‘1914 Stars                                                   366,200

Clasps to the 1914 Star                             150,000

1914-15 Stars                                            2,083,000

British War Medals                                 5,700,000

Victory Medals                                         5,145,000

Territorial Force war Medals                   34,000 [Editor’s note: In the original figure Hampden Gordon seems to have added an extra 0, which has been removed, the figures for the issue of British War Medals to the British Army also look too high and the figure for Victory Medals too low]

For Gallantry and Meritorious Service

Military Crosses                                              41,000

Distinguished Conduct Medals                    33,000

Military Medals                                             129,000

Meritorious Service Medals                          29,000

Emblems for Mentions in Despatches      126,000′

[Editor’s note: Hampden Gordon does not include a figure for the issue of Silver War Badges up to the end of 1919].

Adding the 1934/5 figures from Hampden Gordon together gives a total of 11,877,500 medals issued by 1934/5 (Hampden Gordon (1935) The War Office. Putnam: London. p. 137) .

A quick comparison of the April 1923 and 1934/5 Hampden Gordon figures shows that by April 1923 whereas there were still a number of Campaign medals to be issued, in the case of Gallantry and Service medals (plus the emblem) their issue for WW1 was basically complete.

There were of course a whole series of General Service Medals and Gallantry and other awards associated with interwar actions involving the British Army.

Hampden Gordon also makes an interesting comment on the size of the WW1 Medal Card Index by 1934/5, he states that the card index covered more than 8 million names (Ibid) which again seems much too high a figure, even including the Women’s Medal Cards.

The Postwar Army Medals Branch 1953-1961

C.S. 20 Army Medal Cards from WW2 have not yet been released to the National Archives. Unlike WW1 Campaign medals, all WW2 Campaign medals had to be claimed, by other ranks as well as by officers. Information about the holdings of these cards in 1961 can be found by clicking here. It is also interesting to compare the 2014 figure for the number of C.S. 20 cards held in the index 1,561,800 (for freedom of information requests related to C.S. 20 WW2 Medal Cards please click here) and the information given in the 1957 War Office report on the Army Medal Office. The original holding of the Cards by Army Record Offices before their passing on to the Army Medal Office at some point before 1957 perfectly fits with the system adopted for the distribution of Campaign medals after WW2, with no rolls submitted to the War Office and verification of claims directly from service records. A backlog of several hundred thousand C.S. 20 cards awaiting filing (they are filed alphabetically by surname, see link to F.O.Is. on C.S. 20 Cards above) existed in 1957 according to the Report (to read an edited version of the report please click here).

The collection of 1,820 feet of A.F. W 3066 Home Guard Enrolment forms, which had been kept by the Army Medal Office to check claims for the WW2 Defence Medal, are also of great interest (for more information on the holdings of this form in 1961 please click here).

Sources – including Analysis (to go to the relevant sources please click on the links):

  1. A Selection of Campaign Medal Issue Related Army Orders and Army Council Instructions (1917-23)
  2. Correspondence about the Organisation of A.G. 10 Medals Branch 1917 to 1920
  3. Correspondence about the Organisation of A.G. 10 Medals Branch 1920 to 1921
  4. Correspondence about the Estimated Cost of War Medals & Clasps 1919 (also includes information on the organisation and costs of A.G. 10 Medals Branch)
  5. 1921 War Office List Entry for A.G. 10 Medals Branch
  6. 1920 War Office List Entries for M.S. 3, M.S. 3 (A), M.S. 3 (B) and M.S. 3 (D) (includes information on the role of the War Office division which dealt with Honours, Gallantry Awards and Foreign Awards presented to British soldiers)
  7. 1920 War Office List Entry for Q.M.G. 7 (the War Office division responsible for issuing medal ribbon, ribands and instructions on how medals plus chevrons/wound stripes were to be worn on Army uniforms)
  8. War Office List 1920 Other Divisions Involved in Medal and Honours Work: C. 2., F. 3. and F. 5.
  9. Sir William Robertson’s (ex-Chief of the Imperial General Staff) 1921 View (a speech reported by a newspaper) of Women Working at the War Office (including in A.G. 10 Medals Branch)
  10. Interim Report of the Committee on Record Offices 1921 (Includes detailed information on Medal Cards kept by Record Offices and the re-organisation of Medals related work)
  11. 1948 Home Guard Record Destruction Schedule
  12. 1957 War Office Report on the Army Medal Office (A.M.O.) Droitwich
  13. Great War Medal Rolls and Other Records Held by the Army Medal Office in 1961
  14. Medal Rolls, Cards and Other Records Held by the Army Medal Office in 1961 (including post WW2 medal records)
  15. WW2 (C.S. 20) Army Medal Cards – Information from Freedom of Information Requests (F.O.Is.)