© Hendrik Meersschaert 2017
WORLD WAR II ORDERS, DECORATIONS AND MEDALS OF VARIOUS COUNTRIES
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"
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.
In fact, a new award can be said to have been created in 1941 : by a decree stating that the reverse is to show the wording "CROCE AL VALOR MILITARE", the Cross for Military Valour was created. It hung from the blue white-striped ribbon as before with a sword emblem for gallantry placed on it. One year later, in 1942, the word "Croce" was dropped.
Later in the war, in 1943, the ribbon was changed to blue and the sword device discarded.
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. Originally, the obverse had the Savoi shield on the eagle's breast but in March 1944 this was dropped from the design. Military awards can be recognized by the crossed swords behind the obverse eagle.
The classes were : Grand Cross, Grand Officer, Commander, Officer, Knight and the Silver and Bronze Medals.
The Medal of Merit for Service in the Fire Brigade
Instituted on 16 March 1942 to reward important services rendered whilst showing ardour, capability and zeal that could not be recognized by the award of the Civil Bravery Medal.
The Fire Brigade Long Service Cross
Instituted on the same day as the above Merit Medal, this cross was awarded for 15 years of good services. Additional periods of 5 years were recognized by bars on the ribbon.
The National Security Voluntary Militia's Long Service Cross
Originally created in 1933 for 10 years of good services within the militia (as indicated on its reverse : "Dieci Anni"), it became necessary in 1943 to create a decoration for 20 years service. Due to the critical wartime situation the decision was made to not strike a new cross with a 20 year reverse but instead to institute a ribbon device. This device, a Roman swords coloured red, was instituted on 28 January 1943.
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 Libertà) 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, created 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 Merit Medal for Crossing Enemy Lines after 8 September 1943 (depicted above right, suspended from one of the aforementioned unofficial ribbons).
The War Commemorative Medal 1940-43
This award was instituted on 4 November 1941 as a ribbon only and awarded as a medal from 6 May 1959 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.
An unofficial variation of this medal is known :
The Medal for the War of Liberation
This award was instituted on 21 April 1945 as a ribbon only and awarded as a medal from 6 May 1959 onwards to personnel of the Italian armed forces, frontier guards, Red Cross and certain categories of civilians, for minimum 3 months service after 9 September 1943, excluding - of course - service in the "Social Italian Republic". The ribbon can carry bars for each year of service : 1943, 1944, 1945 and possibly even 1946. The latter year would then refer to services in defusing bombs, mine clearance, etc. but seems never to have been effectively awarded or manufactured.
Here also, an unofficial variation of this medal is known :
The Badge of Honour for the Mutilated in War
The silvered badge (34 x 30 mm) originally instituted in 1916 for those mutilated in the war was altered to bear the letters R.I. (Republicca Italaina) and is worn on the left breast. An Italian Social Republic version is known to have existed as well.
The Medal of National Gratitude to the Mothers of the Fallen
Originally instituted in 1919, this bronze "Medal of Honour for Mothers of The Fallen in War" with its self-explanatory title, was re-created on 10 January 1943 under the above new name.
Semi-official or Unofficial Medals
Numerous other medals and crosses relating to Italy's participation in WW2 exist and must be considered semi-official or unofficial. A few of those are shown on a separate page which can be accessed by clicking on the ribbon bar below :