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General Interest
  

Médaille Militaire (Military Medal)

The Médaille militaire (Military Medal) was first instituted in 1852 and is a decoration of the French Republic .

The was originally created by Emperor Napoléon III, who may have taken his inspiration in a medal issued by his father, Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland. The Military Medal is issued to any non-commissioned officer or enlisted personnel who distinguishes himself by acts of bravery in action against an enemy force. Commissioned officers are not eligible. An interesting feature of the médaille is that it is also the supreme award for leadership, being awarded to generals and admirals who had been commanders-in-chief. This particular médaille is considered superior even to the grand cross of the Légion d'honneur. After the First World War, the Military Medal was also issued for receiving wounds in combat.

The Médaille militaire is one of the rarest French decorations to be bestowed upon foreigners. During the Second World War, the Médaille reached its highest numbers of foreign bestowals, most often to members of the British Army as well as to the United States military. The general's médaille was awarded to Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Josip Broz Tito, as supreme commanders of the UK, US and Yugoslav military forces, but not to the effective military leaders, though Dwight Eisenhower received one as President of the United States in 1952.

In addition to the individual medal, the Médaille militaire is also authorized as a unit award to those military commands who display the same criteria of bravery as would be required for the individual medal. The médaille is displayed on the flag of these units. It is one of the rarest unit awards in the French military.

This unit award should not be confused with the fourragère de la médaille militaire, which is a cord suspended from the shoulder of a military uniform worn by members of units which had been mentioned in despatches. A fourragère aux couleurs du ruban de la médaille militaire (fourragère in the colours of the ribbon of the médaille militaire) is worn by units which had been mentioned four times, a fourragère aux couleurs de la légion d'honneur et de la médaille militaire (fourragère in the colours of the ribbons of the légion d'honneur and the médaille militaire) for units mentioned twelve times. Ten American units can wear the fourragère de la médaille militaire.







The left hand image shows a Médaille Militaire modèle charnière from WW1 with the normal yellow and green ribbon. The right hand image shows a similarly dated medal with the tri coloured ribbon showing the recipient was also awarded the Croix de Guerre with a Star citation and he was also awarded the Médaille des Blessés Militaire for those wounded in action.




The first type is called le “Prince President” or the “Modelè Presidénce” and dates from 1852-1853. It can be identified easily because the Napoleonic Eagle has its wing tips fixed to the body of the medal. The far left image is the obverse and the near left image is the reverse. This is the rarest Médaille militaire to find.




The second type is called “Modèle Second Empire” and dates from 1853-1870, this is the model that was awarded during the Crimea and then later in the Franco-Prussian war. Note that in this model the Eagle Wings are not attached to the body of the medal. The far left image is the obverse and the near left image is the reverse.




The third type is called “Versaillais” and dates from 1870-1873. In this model the Eagle has been replaced with a Trophy of arms which has a pair of canons on the reverse. Note there is no articulation between the Trophy of arms and the medal it is made in one piece. The far left image is the obverse and the near left image is the reverse.




The fourth type is called “de la Marine” and dates from 1870-1878. In this model the Canons on the reverse of the Trophy of arms are surmounted by a cuirass (breast plate) and the medal is articulated by means of a loop and ring suspension. The far left image is the obverse and the near left image is the reverse.




The fifth type is unnamed and dates from 1870-1878. In this model the reverse of the Trophy of arms has lost the cuirass (breast plate) and the loop and ring suspension is mounted higher up towards the canons. The far left image is the obverse and the near left image is the reverse.




The sixth type is unnamed and dates from 1878-1910. In this model the Trophy of arms becomes single sided. The articulation is still by loop and ring. The far left image is the obverse and the near left image is the reverse.




The seventh type is called “la charnière” and dates from 1910-1950, this is the model that was awarded during the Great War and World War Two. Articulation is now by way of a hinge and the Trophy of arms still has a blank reverse. The far left image is the obverse and the near left image is the reverse.




The eighth type is called “des generaux” and also dates from 1910-1950 the same period as the seventh type but was made in far fewer numbers. It has the double sided Trophy of arms but has lost the cuirass and has reverted to loop and ring articulation. The far left image is the obverse and the near left image is the reverse.




The ninth type is called “le 4ème/5ème Republic” dates from 1951 through to today although it seems to be replaced by the next model which we have called the tenth type. The 1870 date on the obverse has disappeared and been replaced with a small star, articulation is by way of a loop and ring. This is the model that was awarded during the Indochina war and the North African conflict. The far left image is the obverse and the near left image is the reverse.




The tenth type “le 4ème/5ème Republic” and is dated from 1951 to today it is very similar to the ninth type but has three small stars on the obverse in place of one, articulation is by way of a loop and ring but the ring forming part of the lower medal is square in shape. The far left image is the obverse and the near left image is the reverse.




There are we think, probably about another 20 variants of the Médaille Militaire and we will add details to this article as images become available.


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