What are propaganda badges and medallions?
Substantial lapel badges, in metal and enamel, with patriotic or propaganda messages, were sold in the period before conscription.
Who wore these badges and why?
These badges were almost all produced and sold for charity fundraising and so were mainly bought and worn by the better-off middle and professional classes.
One interesting example is the British ‘Iron Cross’, a crudely cast medal sold for charity very early in the war. The Iron Cross was a German military decoration and was used ironically as propaganda to mock the Germans. There were many versions but most carry the names of places where civilians died as a result of German actions in 1914-15 – both in France and Belgium (e.g. Louvain, Reims), or on the East Coast of Britain (e.g. Scarborough, Whitby).
Another propaganda medal, perhaps the most commonly encountered today, was the British Lusitania Medal, a British copy of a German art medal. The original German medal was produced to mark the sinking of this British unarmed civilian ship. This version was reproduced to highlight German triumphalism over this controversial event. The copies became massively more common than the original German art medal ever was, and survive because they are virtually indestructible although the original box and accompanying leaflet is less often seen.
The British version of the Lusitania Medal was issued and sold by the Selfridges department store in London, with an accompanying paper slip indicating that any profits would be sent to the 'St Dunstan's Blinded Soldiers and Sailors Hostel.'
Useful websites and books for further research
Online dealers’ website, dedicated page – several fund-raising badges illustrated, so a good visual source. No specific recommendation of the dealer, or the valuations given, is to be inferred.
Detail on the ship, the disaster and the medals.
There are no books substantially on this topic, although many mention (and some illustrate) aspects of this in passing.