Pictures of World War I

Each Worth 1000 Words…

Courage, Valor, Bravery, And Love Of Country – A Soldier’s Medal

World War 1 saw its fair share of heroes. Many a man went to their death giving everything they had for the safety of their country and loved ones. Any soldier who went to war showed some level of bravery; just the act of’ going over the top’ would later be described as the most frightening act any soldier could perform. Exceptionally brave behaviour was rewarded by the various allied countries in order to highlight individual achievements and reward soldiers and officers for their valor. In cases where the act of bravery resulted in death, awards were posthumously granted.

1914-1918 Allied Medals

The British system for honoring bravery used three different types of awards: honors, decorations, and medals. Honours were used to recognize the value of a soldier’s contribution of service or for a specific achievement. Decorations were used to identify a specific act that required acknowledgement. Medals highlighted bravery and service that went over and above what could be expected or in rare cases could be used to reward good conduct.

Britain’s highest award was the Victoria Cross, a medal that was established in 1865 by Queen Victoria herself. Over 600 of these were awarded for bravery and valour during the Great War, and nearly one third of these were awarded posthumously. Other notable awards included the Order of the British Empire, the Distinguished Service Order, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Military Cross, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

France would offer four different medals and decorations for service in the war. The Legion of Honor, or Légion d’Honneur, an award that was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, was considered to be the highest French honor bestowed for gallantry. The Military Medal (Médaille Militaire), War Cross (Croix de Guerre), and the Medal of Honor (Médaille d’Honneur) were other forms of recognition.

The Medal of Honor was the highest American military decoration. It had been created for the American Civil War and because it required such an extreme amount of bravery it was often posthumously awarded. The Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal were new medals created by Congress under President Woodrow Wilson and were awarded to men who served above and beyond the call of duty.

Canada would move to honor its men who travelled overseas and fought in the war. The 1914-1915 Star was created to acknowledge the sacrifice of any man who went overseas and participated in any theatre of war over those two years. Canada would also issue the Victory Medal to soldiers who fought during the war and to any civilians or military medical service members who worked in similar conditions.

Germany & Austro-Hungarian Honours

Medals were not just a tool for our allied countries. Germany also awarded their soldiers with medals and other honours, identifying the exemplary sacrifices in their units. Germany had some 40 odd different types of medals that they awarded to their army members, significantly more than what was offered among the allied forces.

The highest conferred award was the Cross for Distinction in War (Kreuz für Auszeichnung im Kriege). The second class of this award was granted for an exemplary act of bravery, and in cases where there were repeated acts or a pattern of sacrificing behaviour, the first class version of this cross was awarded. The Friedrich Franz Cross and the Friedrich Order were the next highest awards that could be earned in Germany.

The German-Prussian Iron Cross was another award that deserves an honorable mention. This was awarded without concern for class and differentiated only by how the symbol was worn; the first class was pinned to the left side of the uniform and the second class hung on a ribbon. The Iron Cross was awarded to many men, with some 220,000 first class and over 5 million second class recipients.

Austria-Hungary also awarded their servicemen with different honors for acts of heroism. The highest award was the Military Order of Maria Theresa, reserved for commissioned officers and so rarely awarded that only 131 men received it over the span of the war. The Order of Leopold and the Order of the Iron Crown were also highly coveted symbols of heroism.

Awarding of Military Distinctions

Soldiers who were fortunate enough to survive the bravery that earned them a decoration would most often have it awarded by a senior officer. Many ceremonies, both formal and informal, at home and abroad, were held in order to recognize the feat. These pictures show that sometimes, awards were given in the field when soldiers were surrounded by their peers and in a way that ensured they could get back to fighting, if necessary. All armies acknowledged that it was important to award the soldier where possible; in cases where it was not, allied forces did their best to ensure families and friends of those who had fallen learned of the brave sacrifice through posthumous awarding and ceremonies.


World War 1 Medals, Awards, Badges, and Commendations Pictures