Te Papa holds a small collection of medals awarded to soldiers who served in the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces during World War I (1914-1918).
The medal most widely awarded was the British War Medal, which was given to all members of the forces who served overseas. The medal was awarded regardless of whether the members had entered an active theatre of war. Over 6.5 million silver British War Medals were awarded throughout the British Empire; another 110,000 were issued in bronze.
The Victory Medal was awarded to all those who had entered a theatre of war. Therefore everyone who qualified for a Victory Medal would also have been awarded a British War Medal. The Victory Medal was struck in gilt bronze, and those personnel who were ‘mentioned in despatches’ for outstanding service were entitled to wear an oak-leaf emblem on the medal ribbon. Over 5.7 million Victory Medals were issued to British and Empire personnel. Similar medals were given by the other Allied nations to their service people.
These two medals, to which service personnel were most commonly entitled, are sometimes accompanied by the 1914-15 Star. This medal was given to those who served in a theatre of war before 31 December 1915. Over two million were issued, including those issued to New Zealanders who served in Samoa and Gallipoli.
Finally, there was the 1914 Star, which went to members of the British Expeditionary Forces who served in France and Belgium during the first phase of the war, defined as 5 August to 22 November 1914.