See one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Orders, Decorations and Medals, awarded to the men and women of the British Armed Forces.
The collection was originally housed in the Officer’s Mess at the Royal Artillery Barracks, Woolwich, with limited public access.
The Medals Gallery contains a selection from the over 7,000 piece collection, which is made up almost exclusively of gunner awards. The bulk of the medal collection is unfortunately not on display, but it can be viewed on request.
The displays include Britain’s highest award, the Victoria Cross, bestowed on 62 members of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, and a rare Military Cross with 3 bars (awarded four times to one man), of which there are only three examples in the Army.
More important than the medals are the acts of the people that have deserved recognition. The Medals Gallery presents these stories of courage, resourcefulness, leadership and endurance, together with the orders, decorations and medals bestowed on them.
How the medal collection started
The Royal Artillery Medal Collection traces its origins to the early 1880′s when Captain Neville Lloyd Walford, a serving Gunner officer, began to collect ‘War Medals’. His collection was bequeathed to the Royal Artillery Institution when he died in 1901. Since then the RAI and now the Royal Artillery Historical Trust have continued to collect medals relating to gunners. Over the years it has grown through donations and bequests from families of the recipients, (including medals from Brigadier Harry Latham’s collection) also a small number of purchases and a few loans.
The collection serves as a memorial to those who have ‘Served the Guns’ since the foundation of the Royal Artillery in 1716, and to the tens of thousands who laid down their lives.
What you can see in the Medals Gallery
The Victoria Cross is the highest award for bravery, which ranks above all Orders, Decorations and Medals. Instituted in 1856, it was awarded specifically for valour in the face of the enemy. A total of 62 VCs have been awarded to members of the Royal Regiment of Artillery to date, the first Artillery recipient being Lieutenant Colonel Collingwood Dickson VC. See Mark Smith, Curator, talking about the VC to the Western Front Association here.
Lieutenant Colonel TFS Southgate RA was awarded the Military Cross in 1942, before the Distinguished Flying Cross was authorised to be awarded to all military fliers. He served in Anti Aircraft Command, where one of his tasks was to observe the effects of Anti-Aircraft Gun fire. To do this he trained as an Air Gunner and flew on operations over Europe as a member of a bomber crew with Number 9 Squadron, Royal Air Force, of Bomber Command.
Orders of General Sir Alan Cunningham GCMG KCB DSO MC
The Orders, Decorations and Medals of General Sir Alan Cunningham GCMG KCB DSO MC, recognise his diplomatic service; Knight Grand Cross of St Michael and St George, and his military service; Knight Commander of the Bath. Orders of chivalry like the two above are conferred for acts of gallantry or for services and cannot be awarded posthumously. Also on display are his Distinguished Service Order, Military Cross, his foreign orders from Belgium, Jordan and the Holy See, and other awards.
Campaign Medals with clasps
Since 1847, some medals have been awarded with separate clasps fixed to the ribbon denoting the areas or actions in which the recipient served. One of these is the Punjab Medal which was awarded for the campaign in the Punjab between 1848 and 1849. A total of 3 clasps were awarded with this medal, MOOLTAN, CHILIANWALA and GOOJERAT.
Viewing medals not on public show
If you would like to see items from the collection not on public display, please contact the curator by email, phone 020 8855 7755, or ask a member of staff.