1939 - 1945
The Irish Republic remained neutral in the entire WW2 conflict but her military and auxiliary forces were engaged in its defence throughout the war, which the Irish referred to as the Emergency.
The Military Medal for Gallantry (An Bonn Mileata Calmachta)
Instituted in three classes in December 1944 to recognize acts of outstanding bravery, this bronze medal was not actually awarded during WW2, the first award being made in 1960, during UN-service in the Congo. For the purpose of recognition : the obverse of this cross carries the Gaelic inscription "DE BHARR CALMACTA" (For gallantry) while the reverse reads "AN BONN MILEATA CALMACHTA" over a scroll having the recipient's name. Small circular devices, worn on the ribbon, were created to differentiate between the classes of this medal : two such emblems on the 1st class ribbon, one for the 2nd class and none for the 3rd class. The ribbon itself is dark green with crimson edges and hangs from a bronze brooch with a Celtic scroll design.
The Emergency Service Medals 1939-1946 (An Bonn Seirbhise Eigeandala)
For service with good conduct between 3 September 1939 and 31 March 1946, a series of eleven bronze medals was instituted on 6 October 1944. All have the same obverse but their reverses indicate the organisation in which the recipient served. There are also two types of ribbon, again linked to the particular reverse of the medal.
The obverse represents a walking Eire, wearing a cloak, holding a sword downwards and with an Irish wolfshound on a leash. Around the top edge is the inscription "RE NA PRAINNE" (Emergency Period) followed by the designer's name in very small lettering : Lawrence Campbell R.H.A. The reverse has a laurel spray between the dates 1939 and 1946 and above is the title of the organisation in which service (either one or two years, depending on the organisation) was done. The medals are unnamed and worn from a ribbon with either a single broad white centre stripe or two narrower white centre stripes. A top bar "SEIRBHIS NAISUNTA" (National Service) should always be present while a bronze bar with the dates 1939, 1946 on either side of a laurel spray, indicates each two years of additional service. The top bar has the manufacturer's name on the reverse.
The organisations concerned are :
Reverses for the 1st Aid Division, Local Defence Force and Air Raid Precautions organisations
Reverses for the 2nd Line Volunteer Reserve, Local Security Forces and Defence Forces organisations
|26th Battalion reverse||Naval Reserve reverse|
The Merchant Marine Medal 1939-1946
Instituted at the same time as the Emergency medals, this bronze medal was awarded to military personnel for 6 months of continuous service in Irish merchant ships. The obverse is identical to the above medal, including the top bar and also same ribbon bar as for the Emergency medals applies, again for each 2 years' additional service. The reverse, however, shows a steamship with a sailing ship on the left horizon and the inscription "AN TSEIRBHIS MHUIR-TRACTALA" (The Merchant Marine Service) and the dates 1939-1946 above a laurel spray. Its ribbon is blue with a white centre stripe.
In recent years a second version was decided on, having a different ribbon of light blue-dark blue-white-darkblue-light blue. This medal, instituted in the late 1990's is awarded to those that saw service as civilians on Irish merchant vessels or to fishermen that continued their activities during the war.
The Service Medal (An Bonn Seirbhise)
Instituted on 13 September 1944, this bronze medal was awarded for 10 years' service in the regular Defence Forces. It hangs from a blue ribbon with a top bar "SEIRBHIS". For an additional 5 years of service a ribbon bar showing a laurel spray is added while the ribbon then changes to blue with a golden centre stripe. Only the one bar can be awarded even if service in the forces largely exceeds 15 years. The obverse of the medal shows Eire placing a wreath on the head of a kneeling soldier with "AN BONN SERBHISE" on the left. The plain reverse has "THE SERVICE MEDAL" around the edge and shows the number and name of the recipient.
Missing pictures of the medals or medal reverses are very much welcomed !
Pictures marked "AK" provided by Andy Kelley, pictures marked "CC" courtesy of the Ceallach Collection - Special thanks to Norman Dixon for his valuable help on the subject and picture material.
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Copyright Hendrik Meersschaert 2002 ©