On 5 April 1916, The London Gazette published the Royal Warrant (dated 25 March) instituting a new decoration, the Military Medal (MM), for non-commissioned officers and ordinary soldiers. The first awards of the medal were announced on 7 April to 32785 Serjeant F W Mallin and 5422 Acting Bombardier J J Pope, for actions during the German bombardment of the Hartlepools on 16 December 1914.
The decorations available to officers had been extended as early as 28 December 1914 with the creation of the Military Cross or MC, due to the many acts of gallantry in the first months of the war. Until the Military Medal was instituted, however, the only awards for most other ranks were the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM), or a Mention in Despatches.
The decision to institute a new medal seems to have arisen purely in discussions between the King and Lord Kitchener. A file from 1918 (WO 32/3431) relating to the subsequent extension of the Military Medal to warrant officers (who though eligible for the MC had barely been awarded any) remarks:
‘The record [relating to decisions around the creation of the MM] is very incomplete, as decisions appear to have been arrived at verbally between the King and Lord Kitchener.’
The paper trail that does exist in the public record is largely to be found in three files now held at The National Archives:
These files are somewhat interlinked. In particular, WO 32/4960 and MINT 20/572 are often entirely complementary, with one having the file copy of a letter where the original is in the other (having been received from the originating department).
The main substance of the trail begins on 5 February 1916 with an note to ‘Creedy’ (Herbert James Creedy, Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for War) from ‘Ponsonby’ (Frederick Edward Grey Ponsonby, Keeper of the Privy Purse to King George V) stating that the King has approved of a new medal ‘for soldiers only’, to be called the Military Medal. Continue reading »