The 1939-45 Star was a campaign medal awarded to British and Commonwealth soldiers who served in the Second World War. This article will is divided into the following parts:
- A history of the 1939-45 Star
- How a soldier qualified for the 1939-45 Star
- Description of the 1939-45 Star
- Are there any medal records for the 1939-45 Star?
Are you researching a British soldier who served in the Second World War? You may be interested in my Second World War Soldier Research Service.
The 1939-45 Star
A History of the 1939-45 Star
The 1939-45 Star was instituted on 8 July 1943 and was originally known as the 1939-43 Star. King George VI announced the creation of the medal along with the Africa Star in a speech on 25 June 1943:
This victory, I have decided to commemorate by the issue in the near future of a star to be known as the Africa Star, while another, to be known as the 1939-43 Star, will be the reward of those in all my Services who have taken part in hard fighting in other theatres of war.
Ribbons for the medal began to be sent to soldiers by the end of 1943 and if you have a photograph of a soldier wearing the ribbon it must date from late 1943 onwards. While the ribbon began production in 1943, the 1939-45 Star wasn’t produced until after the war.
How did a Soldier Qualify for the 1939-45 Star?
The vast majority of soldiers who qualified for the 1939-45 Star did so after completing six months of operational service. Like other Second World War medals, there were a lot of special rules and exceptions which meant that soldiers could qualify after serving less time in an operational theatre.
- If a soldier served on certain operations they qualified regardless of their length of service. For example, a soldier who took part in the Dieppe Raid on 19 August 1942 automatically qualified for the medal.
- If a soldier was Mentioned in Despatches or awarded a gallantry medal they automatically qualified for the medal.
- Time spent as a prisoner of war counted towards the award of the medal.
If you would like to know the exact award criteria of the medal I would recommend looking on the New Zealand Defence Force website: 1939-45 Star award criteria.
Description of the 1939-45 Star Medal
Description: Six-pointed star.
Obverse: Cypher of King George VI surmounted by a crown. Inside a circlet surrounding the cypher are the words THE 1939 – 1945 STAR.
Reverse: Plain for British service personnel.
Ribbon: 32 mm in width consisting of three equal stripes of navy blue, red and light blue representing the navy and merchant marine, army and air force.
Clasps: There were two clasps issued for wear on the ribbon: Battle of Britain and Bomber Command. The Battle of Britain clasp is rare and very sought after with one recently sold at auction for £2,200! The Bomber Command clasp was only issued in 2013.
Are there any medal records for the 1939-45 Star?
There are no separate medal records for the 1939-45 Star but you’ll often find a soldier’s medal entitlement recorded on their service record. The extract below is from my great-grandfather’s service record and shows he qualified for the 1939-45 Star, Africa Star with Eighth Army clasp, Defence Medal and War Medal 1939/45. Applying for a soldier’s service record is often the only way to discover their medal entitlement. I’ve written a separate article looking at medal records and how to confirm a soldier’s medal entitlement: What medal records are available for WW2 British Army Soldiers? If a soldier qualified for the 1939-45 Star it should be recorded on a soldier’s service record.
Stuck researching a soldier who served in the Second World War? I offer a Second World War Soldier Research Service.