Researching a soldier
Records of the Silver War Badge
The Silver War Badge was instituted in 1916 and awarded to men who were honourably discharged under certain regulations which are shown below. It was also awarded in retrospect: that is, to men discharged in 1914 or 1915 who otherwise met the criteria.
The Silver War Badge, sometimes wrongly referred to as the Silver Wound Badge, was instituted from 12 September 1916 under Army Order 316. It is a circular badge with the legend “For King and Empire – Services Rendered” surrounding the King George V cypher. The badge had a pin for wear as a brooch.
The badge was awarded to all of those military personnel who had served at home or overseas during the war, and who had been discharged from the army under King’s Regulations. Expiry of a normal term of engagement did not count and the most commonly seen reason for discharge and issue of the badge is KR is 392(xvi), meaning the soldier had been released on account of being permanently physically unfit.
It was possible to be awarded a badge if the man had not served overseas – and if his service record is now lost this may be the only remaining evidence of service for such a soldier.
The King’s Certificate of discharge
It seems that most badges were accompanied by a King’s Certificate although strictly these were issued subject to separate regulations.
Army Orders 138 and 139 of May 1918 cover the award of the “King’s Certificate” and “King’s Second Certificate” to officers and men respectively. In the case of the latter, they had to have been discharged under Paragraphs 392 (xvi) or (xvia) of King’s Regulations “on account of disabilities contracted” following service overseas in a theatre of operations “with an Expeditionary Force in the present war” or “on account of disablement certified to be directly attributable to the action of the enemy e.g. air or naval raids” and in the case of those serving with the flying services, “disablement certified to have been caused or aggravated by military service while engaged on flying duty in connection with operations against the enemy”. Thus entitlement to the badge did not necessarily entitle a man to the award of a certificate whilst those awarded a certificate would most certainly have been entitled to a badge.
King’s Regulations 392
There are various different ways in which someone could have been discharged from the army under the King’s Regulations. They are:
- (i) References on enlistment being unsatisfactory.
- (ii) Having been irregularly enlisted.
- (iii) Not likely to become an efficient soldier (with subclauses as below)
- (a) Recruit rejected both by Medical Officer and Approving Officer
- (b) Recruit passed by Medical Officer, but rejected by a Recruiting Officer stationed away from the headquarters of the recruiting area, or by Approving Officer
- (c) Recruit within three months of enlistment considered unfit for service
- (cc) Recruits with more than three months service considered unfit for further military service
- (d) Recruit who after having undergone a course of physical training is recommended by an examining board to be discharged, or in the case of a mounted corps is unable to ride
- (e) Soldier of local battalion abroad considered unlikely to become efficient
- (f) Boy who, on reaching 18 years of age, is considered to be physically unfit for the ranks
- (iv) Having been claimed as an apprentice.
- (v) Having claimed it on payment of £10 within three months of his attestation.
- (vi) Having made a mis-statement as to age on enlistment (with subclauses as below)
- (a) Soldier under 17 years of age at date of application for discharge
- (b) Soldier between 17 and 18 years of age at date of application for discharge
- (vii) Having been claimed for wife desertion (with subclauses as below)
- (a) By the parish authorities
- (b) By the wife
- (viii) Having made a false answer on attestation.
- (ix) Unfitted for the duties of the corps.
- (x) Having been convicted by the civil power of_____, or of an offence committed before enlistment.
- (xi) For misconduct.
- (xii) Having been sentenced to penal servitude.
- (xiii) Having been sentenced to be discharged with ignominy.
- (xiv) At his own request, on payment of _____ under Article 1130 (i), Pay Warrant.
- (xv) Free, after ____ years’ service under Article 1130 (ii), Pay Warrant (with subclauses as below)
- (xva) Free under Article 1130 (i), Pay Warrant
- (xvb) Free to take up civil employment which cannot be held open
- (xvi) No longer physically fit for war service.
- (xvia) Surplus to military requirements (having suffered impairment since entry into the service).
- (xvii) -
- (xviii) At his own request after 18 years service (with a view to pension under the Pay Warrant).
- (xix) For the benefit of the the public service after 18 years’ service (with a view to pension under the Pay Warrant).
- (xx) Inefficiency after 18 years’ service (with a view to pension under the Pay Warrant).
- (xxi) The termination of his ____ period of engagement.
- (xxii) With less than 21 years’ service towards engagement, but with 21 or more years’ service towards pension.
- (xxiii) Having claimed discharge after three months’ notice.
- (xxiv) Having reached the age for discharge.
- (xxv) His services being no longer required.
- (xxva) Surplus to military requirements (Not having suffered impairment since entry into the service).
- (xxvi) At his own request after 21 (or more) years’ service (with a view to pension under the Pay Warrant).
- (xxvii) After 21 (or more) years’ qualifying service for pension, and with 5 (or more) years’ service as warrant officer (with a view to pension under the Pay Warrant).
- (xxviii) On demobilization
The most commonly seen reference to to KR392xvi, for men who were discharged on medical grounds having been wounded or taken seriously ill.
The man’s details were entered into an issuing roll, similar to the campaign medal rolls. The War Badge rolls carry useful information: indeed vital information if the service record can not be found. The man’s date of enlistment, number, rank, regiment, unit at time of discharge, date and cause of discharge, whether he had served overseas and sometimes his age are given.
- The reference to the roll in which the man is entered is given as “SWB List” or “List” or “Action taken” on the medal index card.
- Tip: sometimes the man has a separate SWB index card.
- Tip: the SWB cards are not always indexed using the man’s full name: try his surname and number if known, or his surname and initial.
- The rolls are held in original format at the National Archives. They have also been digitised and can be seen at Ancestry.
See also Interpreting a Medal Index Card
The badges were individually numbered. It is possible to trace the recipient of the badge from its number using the online resource at Ancestry.