How to look for records of... Merchant seamen’s campaign medal records 1914-1918

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What are these records?

These are records of the issuing of the British War Medal, the Mercantile Marine Medal and the Silver War Badge to merchant seamen and officers in the First World War.

They consist of over 155,000 index cards (catalogue references BT 351/1) and, for the Silver War Badge, a list of recipients (catalogue reference MT 9/1404).

How do I search the records?

You can download the entire list of 155 recipients of the Silver War Badge (MT 9/1404) for a single fee. You will need to scroll through the downloaded PDF file to locate the merchant seaman that you are interested in. The recipients appear in badge number order.

You can search for the British War Medal and the Mercantile Marine Medal records (BT 351/1) by name in Discovery, our catalogue, by filling in the form below.

You do not have to fill out every field to search these records.

What information do the records contain?

British War Medal and Mercantile Marine Medal index cards

The index cards, in BT 351/1/1 and BT 351/1/2, provide the following information:

  • name
  • place of birth
  • year of birth
  • medals, ribbons and clasps issued (a date next to any of these indicates that the award was issued)
  • the mercantile marine office (‘M.M.O.’) to which the medals were sent (in some instances a home address may be noted in this section)
  • discharge/RS2 number(s)

Ribbons were issued in lieu of medals until the medals were minted. Clasps were awarded for taking part in a particular battle or action.

The reverse of the card contains the date the award(s) were confirmed and the address to which the medals and ribbons were sent.

Occasionally a card will confirm that the seaman did not receive any medals. In these cases it is most likely that the merchant seaman did not fulfil the necessary criteria needed in order to be issued with a medal.

Silver War Badge list

For each merchant seaman the Silver War Badge list records:

  • name
  • badge number
  • ship served on
  • incapacity/reason for being awarded the medal

Why were medals awarded?

There were different qualifications for each type of medal:

  • Mercantile Marine Medal – awarded to those who served at sea for at least six months, and on at least one voyage through a danger zone
  • British War Medal -automatically awarded to all recipients of the Mercantile Marine Medal
  • Silver War Badge -awarded to those who were no longer fit for sea service

What do the records look like?

To get an idea of what the records look like, have a look at the medal card of Hassan Abbas, who was awarded the Mercantile Marine Medal and the British War Medal, and the following example of a Silver War Badge record.

Medal card of Hassan Abbas (0.72MB)

Silver war badge record example (2.47MB)

Image of medal card for Hassan Abbas (TNA ref: BT 351/1)

Medal card of Hassan Abbas (TNA ref: BT 351/1)

An example of a Silver War Badge record (TNA ref: BT 351)

An example of a Silver War Badge record (TNA ref: BT 351)