1939 - 1945
The Medal for Military Valour
The Al Valore Militar Medals were originally instituted in 1883 and could be awarded, for bravery, in three classes : gold, silver and bronze.
A new design was created during WW2, under the RSI-government (Italian Socialist Republic 1943-45) - never officially recognized by the Italian Republic afterwards. It replaced the Savoy arms with a Roman shortsword on branches of laurel and oak. The sword's hilt was inscribed "ITALIA".
Finally, a new, postwar, type came about on 19 April 1945 whereby the obverse showed a 5-pointed star in a cogwheel, within a wreath. Underneath is a scroll with "REPUBLICA ITALIANA".
In all these cases the circumscription "AL VALORE MILITARE" was maintained, as was the reverse.
The Cross for War Merit/The Cross for Military Valour
The Cross for War Merit was originally instituted in 1918 with an obverse having a 5-pointed star on a rayed background (some sources will refer to this side of the medal as being the reverse) and a reverse bearing the crowned letters "V.E. III" (King Victor Emanuel III) on its top cross arm. The obverse was never changed but in 1941 a first alteration was made, to the reverse.
Later in the war, in 1943, the ribbon was changed to blue and the sword device discarded. Finally, in 1949, the crown and royal cypher were replaced by the interlaced letters "RI" (Italian Republic) and the reverse was altered to read "AL VALORE MILITARE".
Models with slightly different inscriptions are in existence, e.g. "AL VALOR MILITARE" and "VALORE MILITARE" and the quite unofficial "VALORE DI GUERRA".
The Order of the Roman Eagle
This civil and military order was awarded to foreigners for meritorious services to Italy, in five classes and two medals. It was instituted on 14 March 1942.
Picture material on any of the classes would be very welcome !
The Medal for the Campaign against France, 1940
Two types, both bronze medals, exist for this award commemorating the short campaign against France in June 1940. The first type has Prince Umberto on its obverse and a flying Victory holding an inscribed shield on the reverse. The second type has a climbing soldier and "VINCERE !" on the obverse, the reverse is identical to the first type medal's. Both medals also have the same white and red striped ribbon and are to be considered unofficial medals !
Thanks to Paolo Angi for the pictures of these medals.
The Honour Badge of the Patriotic Volunteers of Freedom
There's no medal for this award which was instituted on 3 May 1945. The badge consists of a ribbon with the gilt letters VL (Volontari della Libertą) superimposed on the ribbon or woven into it). The badge was awarded to partisans who had served for a minimum of three months in a unit recognized by the National Liberation Committee.
The Medal for Volunteers of the War, 1940-45
Instituted on 21 April 1948, this medal can be found on different ribbons. The original decree stipulates the claret ribbon as for the WW1 Volunteer's Medal but two other ribbons are known to exist - they are to be considered unofficial : both are purple, one with a centre of four green and three red stripes, the other with three green and two red stripes in the middle (both thus incorporating the War Commemorative Medal's colour scheme).
The official model's reverse has the inscription "VOLONTARIO DI GVERRA MCMXL-MCMXLV". A type with the years in Arabic figures has also been reported to exist.
Earlier, on 27 January 1944, this medal - similar in design but without the years inscribed on its reverse - was also awarded to those that crossed enemy lines into Allied liberated territory before 8 September 1943 and put themselves at the disposal of the Italian National Government.
The War Commemorative Medal 1940-43
Instituted on 17 March 1948 as a ribbon only, this medal was awarded from the 1950's onwards to personnel of the Italian armed forces, frontier guards, Red Cross and certain categories of civilians, for their services between 11 June 1940 and 8 September 1943. The ribbon can carry bars for each year of service : 1940, 1941, 1942 or 1943.
The figure on the obverse represents Roma, from the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
A variation of this medal, created in the same year, is also known :
The Medal for the War of Liberation
Instituted on 17 November 1948 as a ribbon only, this medal was originally designed with a female figure seated on the left and a kneeling man on the right and with the inscription "CAMPAGNA DI LIBERAZIONE". However, a revision on 4 April 1950 amended this to having the same medal as for the War Commemorative Medal but with the changed reverse of "GVERRA 1943-45". The ribbon can carry bars for each year of service : 1943, 1944 or 1945.
The Badge of Honour for the Mutilated in War
A silver badge (34 x 30 mm) was instituted in 1951 for those mutilated in the war and is worn on the left breast. An Italian Social Republic version is supposed to exist as well.
The Medal for the Mothers or Widows of the Fallen
This medal, with the self-explanatory title, is in bronze.
Semi-official or Unofficial Medals
Numerous other medals relating to Italy's participation in WW2 exist and must be called semi-official or unofficial. Three of them are depicted below.
The Commemorative Medal of the Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia, 1941-42
Awarded to the members of the Italian Expeditionary Corps that fought with the Germans on the Eastern front.
The Medal for the Italo-German Campaign in North Africa
Also known as the "Afrikakorps Medal". This medal was struck on the intiative of an Italian Army Corps fighting in North Africa together with their German allies. It was given only to Germans but, in 1944, a German Army High Command order prohibited the wearing of any Italian decorations, mentioning especially this particular medal to be amongst them.
The medal, made by Lorioli of Milan, was in bronze but some silvered medals were struck as well, presumably for high-ranking officers.
The 11th Army Cross
This cross is a commemorative award for the Albanian front. It was worn under the flap of the left breast pocket of the Italian military uniform.
The Arditi Cross
Another interesting award is the Arditi Cross, awarded by the F.N.A.I. (Federazione Nationale Arditi d'Italia).
Three types exist : the original cross which appeared in the first half of the 1920's and was awarded to WW1 veterans of the Arditi units (assault corps). Its obverse is almost identical to the left picture above, with a slightly different suspension, the reverse text reads "A RICORDO / DEI GLORIOSI CORPI D'ASSALTO / ARDITI D'ITALIA / A NOI" with a maker's mark underneath. See Senior Corporal Giorgio Falconi's group for more on this type.
A second type was created in 1934, of a totally different design : black enameled cross with an upright sword in a laurel wreath in the centre, on the horizontal arms is the abbreviation "F.N.A.I." while on the vertical arms one can read "ARDITI D'ITALIA". The reverse has "A NOI !" over the horizontal arms, the death's head with knife on the upper arm and the fascist emblem on the lower arm.
The third type, as depicted above, dates from the 1980's and was awarded to wounded veterans of the assault corps units, as indicated by the reverse inscription.
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Copyright Hendrik Meersschaert 2002, 2004 ©