© Hendrik Meersschaert, 2002 - 2017
THE VERDUN MEDALS
The Verdun Medal is by far and large the foremost unofficial French commemorative medal as far as popularity and esteem are concerned. The French government, as do most, instituted medals to commemorate campaigns, not battles or events within a campaign or war. It was, therefore, left to the city of Verdun itself to create a token of its gratitude to honour those courageous military that prevented the town from falling into German hands in those violent first three years of World War 1.
A very brief historical review is in order to situate this medal in its proper context. Please click on the picture underneath :
The Verdun City Council, in refuge in Paris, created the medal on 20 November 1916 with the following text:
"Aux Grands Chefs, aux Officiers, aux Soldats, à tous, héros connus et anonymes, vivants et morts, qui ont triomphé de l'avalanche des barbares et immortalisé son nom à travers le monde et pour les siècles futurs, la Ville de Verdun, inviolée et debout sur ses ruines, dédie cette médaille, en témoignage de sa reconnaissance.
Paris, le 20 novembre 1916
L'Adjoint faisant fonction de Maire
Signé : BEYLIER"
"To the Great Leaders, to the Officers, to the soldiers, to all heroes known or anonymous, living or dead, that have triumphed over the barbarous avalanche and immortalised its name over the entire world for centuries to come, the City of Verdun, unsacked and upstanding on its ruins, dedicated this medal, as token of its gratitude.
Paris, 20 November 1916
The temporary Mayor,
Entitled to the medal will be veterans of the French or Allied armies that were serving, between 31 July 1914 and 11 November 1918 in the Verdun sector, between the Argonne and Saint-Mihiel, in the area that was under artillery bombardment.
A committee was founded to examine all applications and the medal's awards were entered in a "Golden Book" started on 27 August 1922.
In the meantime the engraving of the bronze medal was entrusted to S.E. Vernier in 1917. However, other engravers saw fit to produce their own designs which were then commercialised, probably to veterans as duplicates or to others as (sometimes undeserved) mementoes. We are, therefore, confronted with at least 8 wearable Verdun Medals (some of which have variations !). A number of table medals is also known to exist.
Please click on the appropriate picture for further information.
Vernier Augier Prudhomme Revillon Anonymous René
The official Verdun medal (Vernier) has no clasp and the Augier model's clasp has been described. At least four other clasps are known and can be either in bronze or silvered. All have the word "VERDUN" and differ only slightly as to dimensions of the clasp and/or the letters. Three of these have a smooth background; on the fourth, and more common one, "VERDUN" is represented against a grainy background.
Other French Verdun medals
A number of other French medals related to the Verdun battles exist but should not be confused with the "proper" Verdun medals. Amongst them are the Rasumny and Steiner medals.
From sources in France, I have learned that these "popular medals" were sold as a mementos to the general public for the benefit of Verdun veterans and/or veterans' societies. They originally were found with tri-colour ribbons (red-white-blue, the French colours) but later adopted the Verdun ribbon. This probably caused them in the end to be viewed as belonging to the Verdun medals series .
German awards for Verdun
Germany also recognized the Verdun battles by a non-official decoration as well as creating an equally unofficial clasp.
Medals awarded to the City of Verdun
On 13 September 1916, President Poincaré handed the city's council the honours bestowed on the town by foreign heads of state and the French government in a ceremony which was attended by Generals Joffre, Pétain and Nivelle and many other dignitaries :
The Russian St. George Cross, the British Military Cross, the French Legion of Honour and the War Cross with palm, the Italian Gold Medal for Valour, the Serbian Gold Obilitch Medal, the Belgian Order of Leopold I - Military Division - Knight class and a Montenegro Miloch Obilitch Medal.
Symboles et Traditions, No. 74 (1975) - La Médaille de Verdun, by Dr. P. Roger
Guide Illustré Michelin des Champs de Batailles - La Bataille de Verdun 1914-1918 (Edition 1919)
Das Fort und das Beinhaus von Douaumont, der Bajonettgraben (Edited by Combier, 1986)