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The WWI Victory Medal Series – Belgium

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    Posted 13 years ago

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    In 1914, Germany’s strategic plan for defeating France, the Schlieffen Plan, called attacking from the north by sweeping through neutral Belgium. King Albert of Belgium refused German demands to allow passage through his country, and the Belgian Army, outnumbered ten to one, managed to hold off the German offensive for almost a month. The Belgians were eventually pushed back to a small corner of their little country, but it gave Britain time to enter the war and together with France to prepare for a counter-offensive.

    No more than 350,000 Belgian Victory Medals were issued. A small number until you realize that Belgium only had a population of 7.5 million and a pre-war Army of 43,000 men. The designer was Paul Dubois, a noted Belgian sculptor. The obverse has Victory with spread wings, standing on a globe. The reverse has the Belgian coat of arms in a central laurel wreath. Surrounding it are the shields of nine Allied countries. Around the medal's edge is the bilingual text "LA GRANDE GUERRE POUR LA CIVILISATION. DE GROOTE OORLOG TOT DE BESCHAVING" (“The great war for civilization” in French and Flemish). In 1920 a law granted mothers of soldiers who were killed in action permission to wear the medals of their sons. To these medals were added a symbol of mourning: a black enameled barrette with a silver frame attached to the center of the ribbon. This came to be known as “the mother’s bar”

    The medal with the mother’s bar in the first photo and in the second and third photos is the official issue, manufactured by Establissements Jules Fonson. Designer “Paul DuBois” name appears on the front near the edge of the medal at about 5 o’clock (see arrow) On the right in the first photo is a contemporary unofficial issue that carries the Chobillon of Paris triangular Hallmark and the word “BRONZE” on the edge of the medal. Photo four shows the standard two prong device for attaching to medal.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    When a Victory medal is also a valor medal:

    For two countries, the Victory Medal could also be a Valor medal. For Great Britain, a soldier who was mentioned in dispatches of field commanders received a cluster of bronze oak leaves to wear on the suspension ribbon. Mention in Dispatches (MID) meant the soldier had distinguished himself, most often by an act of valor. In the US, a silver citation star was added to the victory medal ribbon as a citation for gallantry that did not merit the Distinguished Service Cross. In the 1930s, the Silver Citation Star became the Silver Star Medal.

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    1. scottvez scottvez, 13 years ago
      Thanks again.

      Interestingly, when the Silver Star was created soldiers were able to petition for one based off of being noted for gallentry.

      I have seen SAW Silver Stars and even a Civil War Silver Star! The initial reaction is always that they are bogus, but having read some with paperwork; I know they exist. Of course, due to collector interest there are some "created" ones as well. Care should be taken in acquiring these early Silver Star Medals.

    2. Chrisnp Chrisnp, 13 years ago
      Thanks Scott. I was wondering where everyone was yesterday, when everyone ignored Rumania. I had surgery Friday and was still feeling pretty doped up Saturday morning (and still am a little) and thought I’d posted it wrong somehow.
    3. Chrisnp Chrisnp, 13 years ago
      Although the modern Silver Star only goes back to the 1930s, and the citation star for the victory medal was only from 1918, the citation star was made a retroactive gallantry award for actions in the Spanish American War, and then extended to the Civil War. I can only assume that in those cases a citation star would be affixed to the appropriate campaign medal ribbon (The Civil War Campaign medal wasn’t established until 1905!). Once the Silver Star medal was established, holders of the citation star were eligible for the Silver Star Medal. I would not be surprised to learn that some recipients skipped the citation star all together.
    4. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 12 years ago
      Most beautiful medal!! Splendid account of a noble people, noble warriors. Somehow I missed this one.

      Chrisnp, I am puzzled. If there were 43,000 Belgian troops before World War I commenced, why do Yser scholars state that the 60,000 Yser casualties suffered by the Belgian Army represented a third (or more than a third, according to another source) of the Belgian Army's force? By my math, that seems to indicate that the pre-war Belgian Army consisted of approximately 180,000 men. I know that I'm oversimplifying here! Th, but the disparity between the numbers is startling. Thank you very much!

      I will be posting a stunning Belgian WWI Volunteer plaque by Eugène J. de Bremaecker as soon as I can snap a decent photo. (You might have noticed that I am a pitiful photographer.) Sir William Simpson, O.B.E., Retired RAF Wing Commander, told me that the plaque was very rare, and that it was the only one he had ever seen in his 15 years of collecting. I hope you'll weigh in on that when I post it. Thanks again!!! : )
    5. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 12 years ago
      Chrisnp, sorry about the 43,000 vs. 180,000. I just returned from a big meeting some distance away, and my brain is no longer functioning properly. Was awake most of the night. Thank goodness I'm not an accountant. : o
    6. Chrisnp Chrisnp, 12 years ago
      miKKo, I should have said Belgium had a standing army of 43,000 men prior to the start of the war. They also had 115,000 reservists. Men who had served in the military (an enlistment being 15 to 24 months, depending on specialty) and then had returned to civilian life were liable to be called back to duty in an emergency for up to 15 years after their discharge.

      Those men who suddenly found themselves shouldering a rifle again made up the difference between our figures.
    7. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 12 years ago
      Thank you very much, Chrisnp, for your generous comment. Yes, as you see, the brain kicked in an hour after I made my comment. It stands to reason that the army would grow after declaration of war, and I am grateful to you for explaining about the reserve system!
    8. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 12 years ago
      I have an Australian WWI victory medal which seems to have the same ribbon. Was this an internat'l ribbon for other countries as well? I would have to look better but think it is the same as mine.
    9. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 12 years ago
      Hi, Chrisnp. Could you please tell me what metal this medal is fashioned of? Is it bronze? I saw one listed as "silver", but it doesn't look like silver. Thanks!
    10. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 12 years ago
      Hi, Chrisnp. Please ignore my comment about medal content. I thought the medal was bronze but was confused by a published account that indicated it was silver. Author of same account has since corrected himself. Thanks.

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