Our Historical Photography Project asks what is the Silver War badge?

1 February 2017 13:00

The Silver War Badge was issued to service personnel from Great Britain and what was then its Empire who had been honorably discharged from the First World War due to sickness or wounding.

The sterling silver badge was intended to be worn only on civilian clothes (‘civvies') and never on a uniform and was initially awarded as a sign of gratitude from the monarch and taken from his supply of ‘King’s Silver‘. It bore the inscription “For King and Empire, Services Rendered”.

Black and white photo of silver badge holders with nursing staff There was a secondary need for this visible recognition in the early days of the war. Britain and the Empire suffered nearly 3 million casualties during the campaign with approximately 2 million wounded. Many of these were blinded or suffered injuries which were not as noticeable as those who had suffered disfiguration or lost limbs.

Once discharged and out of uniform, they had appeared to many in the community as possible ‘shirkers’ or conscientious objectors and suffered verbal or physical abuse with white feathers – a symbol of cowardice - being presented to them, predominantly by women who resented seeing men of military age on the streets when so many of their menfolk (husbands, sons, brothers etc.) had either been killed, wounded, were missing in action or were serving at the front.

Black and white photo of silver badgeEach badge was individually numbered on the reverse and approximately 1,150,000 were issued including those to the wounded from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. Many of our blind veterans who made such sacrifices for King and country can be seen wearing the Silver War Badge in the photographs we are researching for our Historical Photography Project.

To see more stories from our Historical Photography Project click here or check our Facebook page weekly for our #ThrowbackThursdays.