Some pertinent, details of London issued Czechoslovak gallantry and campaign medals awarded to Czechoslovak airmen during WW2. They were manufactured by Sprink and SOns, London, for the Czechoslovak Government in Exile who were based in London during WW2. Subsequent versions of these medals, issued in Prague post WW2, may differ to the specifications listed in this article, fuller details of each medal regarding and WW2 and post-WW2 usage can be found on wilkepedia or other resources.
Medals listed in descending order.
Medals are worn on the left side of the recipients chest. The most important medal, or senior medal, is worn on the right of the group. If a number of medals are worn they are often overlapped or mounted on a backing piece, this is known as court-mounted. Gallantry medals, awarded for bravery, are given greater importance over campaign medals.
Válečný kříž 1939 [Czechoslovak War Cross 1939]
Award Criteria :
Válečný kříž 1939 can be awarded to Czechoslovak citizens in their home country, to the units and members of the Czechoslovak military abroad, as well as units and members of Allied military forces, who participated in WW2 and in which they demonstrated an outstanding and successful act in action or in command, during which they were personally exposed to the endangering their own life, or during which their life was sacrificed.
As of 15 April 1948, the Válečný kříž 1939 could be awarded also to foreigners, military or civilian groups and “symbolically representing groups of deserving persons.”
A bronze cross of equal length with pointed arms, in the centre of arms crossed swords.
On the obverse side, in the centre is the Coat of Arms of Czechoslovak.
On on the reverse are provincial emblems in circles; central is the coat of arms of Bohemia and at the points of each of arms or the cross are the emblems of: Slovakia, top; Moravia, left; Silesia, right and Ruthenia, bottom.
Around the circle with the coat of arms of Bohemia is the year 1939.
The ribbon consists is approximately 39mm wide showing 21 vertical thin red, white and blue stripes.
The Válečný kříž 1939 issued in Britain between 1940 – 1941
had slightly lighter blue stripes.
The Válečný kříž 1939 is physically awarded only once, for the first award, each subsequent award of the decoration is marked on the recipient´s ribbon by a bronze lime-tree leaf.
The Válečný kříž 1939 was instituted by a Czechoslovak Government in Exile, London, decree of 20 December 1940 and the decree was ratified on 26 January 1946 by the Czechoslovak Minister of the Interior. The statutes of the Order were modified on 18 January 1949.
The Válečný kříž 1939 was instigated in remembrance of the struggle for the liberation of the Czechoslovak Republic from the enemy occupation after 15 March 1939.
The Válečný kříž 1939 was awarded for life. At the same time, the decorated person received a diploma entitling him to wear the Válečný kříž 1939.
In case of death, the Válečný kříž 1939 is left as remembrance to the family or relatives. However, nobody is allowed to wear the Válečný kříž 1939, who was not awarded it. The Válečný kříž 1939 could be conferred by the Czechoslovak, or the Minister of Defence, or the Military Commander if they were authorised to do so by the President.
Za chrabrost před nepřítelem [For gallantry against the enemy]
Award Criteria :
Za chrabrost před nepřítelem can be awarded to Czechoslovak citizens in their home country, to the units and members of the Czechoslovak military abroad, as well as units and members of Allied military forces, who participated in WW2 and in which they demonstrated an outstanding and successful act in action or in command, during which they were personally exposed to the endangering their own life, or during which their life was sacrificed.
A bronze medal of 33 mm diameter, with a edge thickness of 2 mm rising to 2.5 mm in its centre.
The obverse has a centrally positioned lions head, facing left, with a vertical sword superimposed over it. At the top of the sword is the Slovak inscription “ZA CHRABROST” [“For Valour”], at the base of the sword is a semi-circle of liden leaves.
On the reverse is embossed “PRAVDA VÍTĚZÍ 1939 ” [“Truth wins 1939”] with a semi-circle of liden leaves in the lower half.
Ribbon is 39 mm wide, consisting of eleven vertical red, white and blue stripes; the two blue being the widest, the five white the narrowest and the four red being of two different width, the widest being on the outside edges of the ribbon.
The Za chrabrost před nepřítelem is physically awarded only once, for the first award, each subsequent award of the decoration is marked on the recipient´s ribbon by a bronze liden-tree leaf.
The Za chrabrost před nepřítelem was instituted by a Czechoslovak Government in Exile, London, decree of 20 December 1940 and the decree was ratified on 26 January 1946 by the Czechoslovak Minister of the Interior. The statutes of the Order were modified on 18 January 1949.
The Za chrabrost před nepřítelem was instigated in remembrance of the struggle for the liberation of the Czechoslovak Republic from the enemy occupation after 15 March 1939.
The Za chrabrost před nepřítelem was awarded for life. At the same time, the decorated person received a diploma entitling him to wear the Válečný kříž 1939.
In case of death, the Za chrabrost před nepřítelem is left as remembrance to the family or relatives. However, nobody is allowed to wear the Za chrabrost před nepřítelem , who was not awarded it. The Za chrabrost před nepřítelem could be conferred by the Czechoslovak, or the Minister of Defence, or the Military Commander if they were authorised to do so by the President.
Za zásluhy / Medal of Merit
Award Criteria :
Awarded to members of the Czechoslovak military for outstanding contributions to the Czechoslovak military, not necessarily in in combat roles. It could also be awarded to members of the Allied forces, and in special cases also to civilians.
The medal has two grades and can be awarded only once. The first grade; Za zásluhy 1. stupně / Za zásluhy I Grade was usually awarded to aircrew while the second grade; Za zásluhy 2. stupně / Za zásluhy II Grade would usually be awarded to ground staff.
The London version of this military medal was awarded between 1943 and 1945 and came in two grades; Za zásluhy 1. stupně / Za zásluhy I Grade [silver] and Za zásluhy 2. stupně / Za zásluhy II Grade [bronze]. Both medals have a diameter of 33 mm with a small lip on the edge.
Depicts the three heads of Czechoslovak soldiers, in helmets, facing towards the left hand side of the medal. Above the heads is the inscription ‘ZA ZÁSLUHY’ [‘MERIT], below the heads is ‘Č.S.R.’
Depicts a vertical linden branch with leaves against a background of circle of rays.
The medal is hung from the ribbon by two crossed swords 21 mm x 14 mm, in the same metal as the medal.
Ribbon is 34 mm wide 38 mm long, is mid-blue in colour with a 8 mm wide white bar 2 mm in from the ribbons outer edge.
The ribbon is the same for both medals but a Grade I award also has a 5 mm diameter silver star.
During the period 1940-41 the Czechoslovak military primarily in combat roles against the Germans was the Czechoslovak RAF airmen. During that period the highest award Czechoslovak military award was the Válečný kříž 1939 and was awarded for deeds of bravery and gallantry against the enemy.
But there was a problem as those who served with distinction, in non-combatant roles – ground-crew, technical staff, administrators, medical staff etc, – there was no medal to recognise their meritorious role.
The Za zásluhy was instigated by the Czechoslovak Government in Exile, London, on 20 April 1943 to accommodate these meritorious non-combatant. It was ratified by the post WW2 Czechoslovak government, Prague, on 5 March 1946. Initially intended for award only to non-combatants for meritorious service, later during the war it was expanded to two grades so that those in combatant roles could also be in receipt of this award.
Pamětní medaile československé armády v zahraničí / Memorial Medal of Czechoslovak Foreign Army abroad.
Award Criteria :
The medal was awarded to personnel of the Czechoslovak Army abroad during WW2. It could also be awarded to personnel of the Allied armies, which took part in the liberation struggles on the soil of the Czechoslovak Republic and further on to those, who were serving either in the Czechoslovak Army abroad or in the Czechoslovak Air Force units abroad, and who had served for the period of at least two months.
There are three versions of this medal; London 1943-1945, Prague 1945 and Prague 1945 -1947.
London 1943-1945 variant :
A light bronze, 36 mm diameter wreath of liden leaves. Central in the wreath is a downward facing sword, its tip meeting with the bottom edge of the wreath, its handle protruding above the top edge of the wreath. In the London 1943-1945 version of this medal, the medal is hung from the top of the sword handle to the ribbon by a small ring which is concealed within the ribbon. By the tip of the sword, in silver metal, is the Czechoslovak lion with the Slovak crest on its chest.
On the reverse side is the embossed inscription, going around the outer rim of the wreath of ‘ČESKOSLOVENSKÁ ARMÁDA V ZAHRANIČÍ’ [Czechoslovak Army Abroad] and at the bottom, ‘1939’ above ‘1945’ embossed on the outer rim of the wreath.
Prague 1945 variant :
The tip of the sword handle is thinner with the hanging ring contained within the ribbon.
Same as the London 1943 – 1945 variant.
Prague 1945 – 1947 variant :
The sword handle has a small ring mounted at its end through which holds the ribbon hanging ring. Hanging ring is protruding below the medal ribbon.
‘ČESKOSLOVENSKÁ ARMÁDA V ZAHRANIČÍ’ is engraved into the medal. At the bottom, also engraved is ‘1939 1945’ now alongside each other.
The ring hanging the medal protrudes below the ribbon.
Ribbon is 37 mm wide, rosy red, black side stripes 4 mm wide and away from the edge of 4 mm.
There are also a variant of this ribbon width with a width of 44 mm, which is brick red in colour with 5 mm wide strips spaced from the edge of 5 mm.
|Clasp :||Abbreviation for :||English:|
|VB||Velká Britanie||Great Britain|
|SSSR||Svaz Soviětských Socialistických Republik||Soviet Union|
|SV||Střední Východ||Middle East|
Some of the Czechoslovak RAF airmen had originally served in the British Army in the Middle East thus qualifying them for a Střední Východ (Middle East) clasp.
The Pamětní medaile československé armády v zahraničí medal was instigated by a decree of the Czechoslovak Government in Exile, London, dated 15 October 1943, which was completed by a decree dated 21 February 1945. The decree was ratified by the Czechoslovak Government’s decree of 1 March 1946.
The Medal was bestowed by the Minister of the National Defence of Czechoslovakia.
The recipient of the Medal also, at least in the post-war era, by a decree.
The assistance of the Czech Medals and Orders Society http://www.vyznamenani.net and others who prefer to remain anonymous, is very much appreciated.