Medals of Italy

Page © 1998 Micheal Shackelford

The kingdom of Italy, much like Germany, had been formed in the mid 19th century out of various states, some of which had Orders and awards of their own. Those of House of Savoy took on a sort of national character (similar to Prussia within the new Germany), but the others were not discontinued. While the chivalric orders listed below had little exposure during World War I, we include them here since they do show up in formal photographs of war-era prominent people (both Italian and non-Italians).

- Ordine della SS. Annunziata (Order of the Annunziata). Established by Count Amadeo VI of Savoy in 1362. Italy's highest honor came in only 1 class: Knights (15 at its foundation, then 20, and an unlimited number since the 18th c.). The open-work gold 'medallion' depicted the Annunciation (The angel Gabriel telling Mary about the Incarnation) The badge was worn on a gold collar, so there was no ribbon for the Order. Awards reserved for Heads of State and notable personnages (even non-Catholics and non-nobles). Discontinued with the fall of the monarchy.

- Ordine dei SS. Maurizio e Lazzaro (Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus). A combined Order. The Order of Saint Maurice (est.1434) represented by the white enamel cross 'botoné' and the Order of Saint Lazarus, represented by the green enamel maltese cross set saltire.
There were 5 classes, worn in the customary ways. All but the lowest class had a crown atop the upper arm. The ribbon was deep green moire. Conferred by the King for distinguished service in civil or military affairs.No longer conferred after 1946.

- Ordine Militare di Savoia (Military Order of Savoia) - Established by King Victor Emmanuel I of Sardinia in 1815 . Awarded for especially distinguished service in war.
5 classes-- worn in the usual styles -- Grand Cross, Grand Officer, Commander, Officer, Knight. The first three classes had the royal crown above the cross. The Officer class had the cross suspened from a 'trophy' of flags. The lowest class, the Knight, suspended the cross from a simple ring. The Knight class could be awarded to soldiers and sailors. The ribbon had three equal stripes of navy/red/navy.
With the fall of the monarchy, this Order was retained, but renamed the 'Order of Military Merit of Italy."

Medaglia Al Valore Militare (Military Medal for Valor) Awarded to the military for exceptional valour which did not warrant the award of the Military Order of Savoia. This medal was instituted in March 1833 by King Albert of Sardinia in three classes : gold, silver and bronze and was meant for award to army and navy personnel.
- In 1836 and 1927 similar medals were created for resp. navy and air force. When awarded, the recipient's name was written on the reverse of the medal. During World War I the words "GUERRA DI 1915-1918" (War of 1915-1918) were written above the recipient's name.
- The medal's obverse has changed a number of times : the WWI obverse bears the royal weapon of Savoia under a crown. During WWII, the "Italian Socialist Republic" the arms and crown were replaced by a Roman short sword, point upwards, on a background of laurel and oak leaves. After WWII, these were replaced by a five pointed star within a cogweel and "REPUBLICA ITALIANA" at the lower rim.

- Croce al Merito di Guerra (War Merit Cross) Awarded to members of the armed forces for war merit in operations on land, sea or in the air, after minimum one year of service in the trenches or elsewhere, in contact with an enemy.
This bronze cross was instituted by King Victor Emanuel III on 19 January 1918 and was also awarded to those who, wounded in combat, were given the Medal of the Wounded or to those who, mentioned for war merit, received a promotion.
When having performed an act of valour which was deemed insufficient for the Medal of Military Valour, the War Merit Cross could be awarded instead. From 1922 onwards a bronze sword on the ribbon designated such an award.
From its institution till 30 May 1927 1,034,924 Crosses were issued. A second award was indicated by a bronze star on the ribbon.
The reverse bears a 5-pointed star on a background of rays. The obverse has the royal cypher in the upper arm (VE III under a crown), "MERITO DI GVERRA" (War Merit) on the horizontal arms and a roman sword point upwards, on oak leaves, in the lower arm.
- During WWII, the War Merit Cross underwent a number of changes.

- Medaglia Dell Guerra 1915-1918 (War Medal 1915-1918) Awarded for participation to the 1st World War. This medal was instituted on 29 July 1920 and replaced a ribbon bar, introduced on 21 May 1916, which was awarded after 1 year service in a war zone. Additional war service years were indicated by a small silver star.
In 1920 this ribbon was replaced by the medal and a number of bars are attached to the ribbon according to the recipients war service. These bars are covered with laurel leaves and bear either a service year between 1915 and 1918 or the word Albania, followed by a service year between 1916 and 1920.
The medal's obverse bears the helmeted head of King Victor Emanuel III and around the rim is the text "GVERRA PER L'VNITA D'ITALIA 1915 1918" (War for the Unity of Italy).
The reverse depicts an upright Victory standing on shields born by 2 soldiers. Around the rim is the text "CONIATA 'NEL BRONZO NEMICO" (made from enemy bronze).

- Medaglia di Volontario di Guerra 1915-1918 (Medal for the War Volunteer 1915-1918) Awarded to those who entered the Italian armed forces as volunteers during WWI. This bronze medal was instituted on 24 May 1924 and has the crowned head of "Italia" on the obverse as well as the words "PER L'ITALIA" (For Italy). The reverse depicts a naked warrior bearing a shield and a veiled woman behind him. Around the rim the medal's title and the war's dates "VOLONTARIO DI GVERRA MCMXV-MCMXVIII".
- The same medal, bearing other dates, was also issued for the 2nd World War while another one was awarded for a number of colonial wars. The latter one has the years 1936-39 in Roman figures and the letters A.O.I. (Africa Orientale Italiana, Italian East Africa) on the reverse.
- Very often the medal is found without any dates at all which is probably a modern restrike which can be used for either World War.

- Medaglia Della Vittoria Interalleata (Medal of Allied Victory) Awarded to participants of the 1st World War. The obverse depicts a winged Victory on a triumphal chariot drawn by four lions while the reverse has a tower-like structure from which fly 2 doves. Around the upper rim is the text "GRANDE GVERRA PER LA CIVILITA" (The Great War for Civilization), in the middle the war years "MXMXIV" and "MXMXVIII" and in the exergue "AL COMBATIENTI DELLA NAZIONE ALLEATE ED ASSOCIATE" (To the combattants of the allied and associated countries).

The medal was instituted on 6 April 1922.

- Medaglia di Madri e Vedove Dei Caduti (Medal for Mothers and Widows of the Fallen.) This medal was instituted on 24 May 1919 as a token of national gratitude.
The obverse has an allegorical design showing a woman offering a laurel wreath to a dying soldier while another woman stands in the background. The reverse is completely filled with the text IL FIGLI / CHE TI NACQVE / DAL DOLORE / TI RINASCE "O BEATA" / NELLA GLORIA / E IL VIVO EROE / "PIENA DI GRAZIA " / E TECO (the son which was born out of you in pain, is reborn to you, o blessed one, full of glory and he lives as a hero. With gratitude).

Some related WWI medals :

- Turkish War Medal and Libyan Medal. While Italy's war with Turkey predates WWI. We include these two related medals here since that conflict is intertwined with the Balkan Wars that ultimately culminated in the Great War. These medals may also appear in WWI veterans' awards.
- The two medals have identical ribbons of blue and red stripes. The obverses are also identical, carrying the likeness of King Vittorio Emanuele III. The turkish campaign medal was instituted by King Vittorio Emanuele III in November 1912. The reverse of the Turkish War medal bears the inscription "GUERRA ITALO-TURCA 1911-12". The Libyan medal was instituted by King Vittorio Emanuele III in September of 1913. The reverse of the Libya Medal bears the inscription, "LIBIA".
- The two may appear together on the same uniform. The medals could be frontally distinguished by the bars of the ribbon: a "1911-12" bar for the turkish campaign, a "1912" and/or "1913", or "1912-13" bar for the libyan campaign.

- Medal for the Occupation of Fiume (unofficial) In the secret Treaty of London in 1915, Italy was promised (among other things) the port city of Fiume (then belonging to Austria) if Italy would join the Allies. Italy broke with Germany and Austria and did join the Allies.
In 1919, after the war and during the Versailles 'Peace' Conference, Italy's Prime Minister was about to announce the annexation of Fiume to Italy when the other Major Allied powers got wind of it and objected. In September a coup led by the poet Gabriele D'Annunzio occupied Fiume for Italy. Negotiations eventually gave Fiume to the new nation of Yugoslavia. (reverse of medal)

- "Army Crosses" Awarded to members of specific Armies.
1st Army, (1st reverse)
2nd Army,
3rd Army,
4th Army,
7th Army, (7th reverse)
8th Army

- Macedonian Medal. An unofficial medal struck by the "Fassino" firm in Turin in 1924, as a memento of the expeditionary corps in the Balkans. The ribbon has a black central stripe (one/third of the overall width) flanked on both sides by five narrow stripes in red-orange-blue-orange-red. The medal was designed by the painter Adolfo Caly, and advertised in the popular magazine "Domenica del Corriere"; earnings from its sale were assigned to the Balkan Veteran's Union.

Medals Questions -----

? -- Medal for the Wounded 1915-18 -- ?

Medal for Army Chaplains (may not be an official medal)

Order of Vittorio Veneto

"Army Corps Crosses" (2nd, 7th, Orient Expedition Corps) - For this last item see also the French Orient Medal

This page is in-progress.