Trying to identify a medal? Find out about the medals the British Red Cross has awarded to our volunteers over the years.
Please note that we cannot supply medals which have been lost and we do not hold medal rolls, i.e. the number on the reverse of badges we have issued, except for the British Red Cross war medal.
Balkan war medal
The medal was awarded to members of the British Red Cross units who served in Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro, Serbia or Turkey during the Turco-Balkan war (1912-1913) or the Balkan Allies war (1913). Awards were also granted to a number of other persons, mainly nationals of the five countries, who gave help to the units.
Number of medals awarded to British Red Cross units: 196
Number of medals awarded to others: 72
The Balkan war medal is not an official decoration.
British Red Cross war medal
The medal was awarded to members of the British Red Cross or its voluntary aid detachments who served in the UK between 4 August 1914 and 31 December 1919 and were therefore not eligible for British military medals. Those who were eligible had to undertake at least 1,000 hours of unpaid service, or be ambulance drivers and bearers who gave 500 hours unpaid service.
No diploma was issued with the medal and it was not an official decoration.
Between 41,000 and 42,000 were awarded.
Badge of Honour
This badge is awarded in three classes.
The Queen’s Badge of Honour: awarded for exceptional service of the highest order to the British Red Cross or to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Limited to 30 holders at any one time.
The Distinguished Service Badge: awarded for distinguished or exceptional service to the Red Cross.
The Devoted Service Badge: awarded for devoted or special service given to the Red Cross.
These badges are accompanied by a signed certificate, giving life membership of the British Red Cross to the recipient.
Royal red cross
The royal red cross was instituted by Queen Victoria in 1883 and was the first example of a British military order solely for women.
The decoration can be conferred upon members of the nursing services, irrespective of rank. It can also be given to anyone, British or foreign, who has been recommended for special devotion or competency while engaged on nursing or hospital duties with the navy, army or air force. Since 1977, it can be conferred on male members of the nursing scheme.
Recipients are designated ‘members’ and can use the letters ‘RRC’ after their names. The badge is in the form of a cross, in gold with red enamel. The words ‘Faith, Hope, Charity’ are engraved on the arms of the cross with the date of institution, 1883. In the centre, in relief, is the royal effigy and on the reverse, the Royal Imperial Cypher and crown.
Royal red cross, second class, was instituted during the Great War of 1914-1918. Recipients are called ‘associates’ and can use the letters ‘ARRC’ after their names. The badge is almost the same but in silver instead of gold.
Despite the title, the order has no connection with the Red Cross Movement, though a number of women members of the British Red Cross have received the award in recognition of nursing services performed with the British navy, army or air force.
Florence Nightingale medal
The medal was instituted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva in memory of the work of Florence Nightingale, to be distributed annually to trained nurses who, in the ICRC's opinion, rendered exceptional service.
During the First World War, none of the medals were awarded but in 1920 the ICRC decided to award 50 of the medals. The ICRC asked all Red Cross National Societies, including the British Red Cross, to submit recommendations. In this first distribution, 42 awards were presented, five of which were to British nurses.
The award is now made biennually and has been extended to include male and auxiliary nurses.
The merit badge was awarded to members of voluntary aid detachments who obtained the Red Cross’ proficiency badges in first aid, nursing and one other subject.
State-registered nurses were granted the merit badge if they had obtained the first aid proficiency badge and proficiency badges in two subjects other than nursing. Other specialists were granted the merit badge if they had obtained proficiency badges in first aid and nursing and a third subject other than the one in which they had specialised.
Merit badge recipients who had obtained bars to their proficiency badges in first aid, nursing and another subject were entitled to receive a bar bearing the year in which the last of the three qualifying examinations was passed.
Proficiency in Red Cross work
Members had to have three successive Red Cross first aid examinations, provided an interval of at least 12 months had elapsed between any two successive examinations, or one certificate in each of Red Cross first aid and Red Cross nursing, plus a third certificate in either, provided that an interval of at least 12 months had elapsed from the previous examination.
Additional bars were granted for each further Red Cross first aid or nursing certificate, provided that an interval of at least 12 months had elapsed between examinations.
Instituted: see below
Members had to have three successive Red Cross certificates in appropriate subjects, provided there had been an interval of at least 12 months between the dates of each certificate gained. Certificates acquired through other approved examining bodies could count towards the award. Each proficiency badge had the relevant subject on the ornamental brooch and a different ribbon for each subject.
- 1st examination - elementary
- 2nd examination - advanced
- 3rd examination - proficiency badge
- 4th and subsequent examination - proficiency bar
Proficiency in Red Cross first aid (1914), nursing (1914), hygiene and sanitation (1914), cookery (1916), administration and organisation (1929), tuberculosis course (1929), infant and child welfare (1956)
Voluntary medical services medal
Awarded to members who have completed 15 years qualifying service in the British Red Cross or the St Andrews Ambulance Corps. Service for the medal counts from the inception of the voluntary aid detachment scheme in 1909.
Recipients can receive a clasp to the medal bearing either the Geneva or St Andrews cross for each successive five years qualified service.
The medal is worn only on ceremonial occasions. On non-ceremonial occasions, a riband of the medal is worn and each additional five years’ service is represented by a silver emblem bearing a Geneva or St Andrews cross.
Twenty years of additional service is represented by a gilt emblem, which replaces three silver emblems. Second, third and fourth gilt emblems denote 25, 30 and 35 years of additional service respectively.
Special service cross
The special service cross was awarded to members for special acts of distinction or gallantry.
mainly for rescue and first aid, but it was also awarded for giving blood, continuing work although requiring hospital attention, courage shown when a colleague’s uniform was on fire and giving skin for grafting.
Blood transfusion service badge
The badge was issued in connection with the blood transfusion service and was awarded to donors who were members of the Red Cross blood transfusion service or of organisations affiliated to this service who have given ten transfusions of blood.
A bar to attach to the badge was awarded for the twentieth, thirtieth and fortieth transfusions.
A silver bar was awarded for the fiftieth transfusion, and silver and enamel bars for the seventieth, eightieth and ninetieth transfusions.
The badge was discontinued in 1946 when the National Health Service took over the blood transfusion service.
These badges were awarded to officers and members of any Branches of the British Red Cross or its voluntary aid detachments (including Overseas Branches) while a connection with the Branch was maintained.
The badges are worn on the left side with either uniform or civilian dress.
Three-year service badge
This badge was awarded to officers and members of the British Red Cross on completion of three years of service.
From 1931, a bar was awarded for every subsequent three years of service up to and including 12 years.
Ten-year service badge
This badge was awarded in recognition of long service to British Red Cross officers and members on completion of ten years of service if they still remained members of their detachment.
Each badge was numbered and engraved with the name of the person to whom it was issued.
Technical badges could be worn by members of voluntary aid detachments with professional qualifications, such as medical officers, trained nurses (overseas), chiropodists, physiotherapists, state-registered nurses, pharmacists, radiographers, hospital cook, masseurs/masseuses.