Posted by: sommecourt | 08/11/2011

The Silver War Badge

During the Great War more men were wounded than died; something that is often forgotten. Some men were wounded several times, others once and so badly that it lead to their discharge from the army. Men with missing limbs back in civilian life could never be mistaken for anything but what they were – wounded ex-soldiers. But some wounds that lead to men being discharged were not so visible; and many men left the army with sickness caused by active service. In the early period of the war such men found themselves the centre of unwanted attention from over zealous patriots – often young women – who would step forward and present the seemingly fit and un-uniformed young man with a white feather, implying his cowardice for not enlisting.

In 1916 the War Office therefore introduced the Silver War Badge. Made from solid silver, the small circular badge bore the cipher of George V and the legend ‘For Services Rendered’. Each badge was numbered – a unique reference identifying the serviceman it was issued to – came with an issue slip and later a large certificate which could be framed. A badge was decided upon so it could easily be worn on civil dress, thus instantly indicating the person concerned had ‘done their bit’ (as can be seen in the photo above).

But what sort of men got the badge and for what reasons? Everyone from Brigadier-Generals to Private soldiers were awarded the badge. The reasons varied from gun shot and shell injuries, trench fever, illness caused through exposure and shell shock were all reasons given on the Silver War Badge rolls prepared by the War Office. Less common reasons included chronic alcoholism and epilepsy – both reasons for discharge stated on rolls I’ve viewed.

These Silver War Badge Rolls are available in their original form in class WO329 at the National Archives. They have also just been released by Ancestry – although you need their most expensive subscription to view them – and now can be searched and downloaded easily. Military Publishers Naval & Military Press also have plans to release the rolls as a CD Database. It has therefore never been easier to research the ‘forgotten wounded’ of the Great War.

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Responses

  1. Great blog. An old Gentleman my Dad knew as young man in his local pub was a Silver Badge holder. His service record tells the story of one mans remarkable war, Norman Nelson of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.


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