Fergus Read
Monday 2 July 2018

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.

Souvenirs and ephemera

The Iron Cross of the Kaiser

Souvenirs and ephemera

The Iron Cross of the Kaiser

Propaganda Iron Cross on backing card.

'The Iron Cross of the Kaiser' comprising an iron cross replica pinned to a printed card inscribed 'THE IRON CROSS OF THE KAISER. MADE IN ENGLAND. A MEMENTO OF THE GERMAN ATROCITIES.'

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.

Examples

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).

Souvenirs and ephemera

Propaganda Iron Cross

Souvenirs and ephemera

Propaganda Iron Cross

Propaganda Iron Cross.

THE IRON CROSS OF THE KAISER. MADE IN ENGLAND. A MEMENTO OF THE GERMAN ATROCITIES.

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.

Decorations and awards

British Lusitania Medallion

Decorations and awards

British Lusitania Medallion

British Lusitania Medallion.

Board box, covered in bookcloth style paper, with paper labels adhered to outer and inner parts of the lid. Textile covered board interior, with an inset to hold the medallion in place. Separate explanatory leaflet, folded into 12 sections placed on top of the medallion.
Decorations and awards

British Lusitania Medallion

Decorations and awards

British Lusitania Medallion

British Lusitania Medallion.

British Lusitania Medallion

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.'

Decorations and awards

Circular Lusitania Medallion

Decorations and awards

Circular Lusitania Medallion

Circular medallion with relief images on both sides.

Circular medallion with relief images on both sides.

Useful websites and books for further research

Website Sources

Sally’s Badges
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.

Lusitania online
Detail on the ship, the disaster and the medals.

Books

There are no books substantially on this topic, although many mention (and some illustrate) aspects of this in passing. 

Related Content

British First World War Service Medals.
© IWM (OMD 790), (OMD 791), (OMD 792), (OMD 794), (OMD 1456), (OMD 1042)
First World War
British First World War Service Medals
A Service Medal is awarded to all those who meet a particular set of criteria. These criteria are usually that an individual has served in a specific area, usually for a specified minimum time between set dates.
circular silver open-work lapel badge comprising the ornate Royal cypher 'GRI' surmounted by a crown and enclosed by a circular edged band bearing the embossed text: 'FOR KING AND COUNTRY' and 'SERVICES RENDERED'. The reverse bears the unique serial number 'B186968'.
Objects from the First World War
Silver War Badge and Kings Certificate of Discharge
The RMS LUSITANIA which was sunk by the German submarine U 20 on 7 May 1915.
© IWM (Q 43227)
First World War
How A German Medallion Became A British Propaganda Tool
Shortly after 2.10pm on Friday 7 May 1915, in fine clear weather off the Old Head of Kinsale, Ireland, the Cunard liner Lusitania was hit by a torpedo. It was struck without warning and sank in under twenty minutes.