British Medals awarded to Poles during WW II

Many Poles who fought under British command during WW II also qualified for some British Medals.  The most common medals awarded to Poles are included on this page.

England awarded a series of 8 Stars for service in specific theaters of War during WW II.
Illustrated from the left:  The 1939-45 Star; the Africa Star; the Italy Star; the France and Germany Star.  Also shown are the Defence Medal and the 1939-45 War Medal.

The 4 other Stars were for the Atlantic, the Pacific, Burma and for Air Crew Europe.

The Air Crew Europe Star.  Awarded to Polish Pilots and Aircrew members for service up to June 4, 1944 after which the France and Germany Star was awarded instead.  This is the rarest of the 8 Stars.

Criteria for the awards:

1939-45 Star:  Service from 3 September 1939 to 15 August 1945, usually for a period of 6 months front line duty, 2 months front line Air Crew duty, with some exceptions (killed or wounded in action, participation in certain operations and other exceptions could earn this Star automatically).

Atlantic Star:  Must have earned the 1939-45 Star first.  Usually 6 months operational service in the Atlantic theater, including some Air Crews (anti-submarine patrol etc.).  Front line Air Crews required only 2 months service.

Air Crew Europe Star:  2 months operational service over Europe between 3 September 1939 and 4 June 1944 (after which the France and Germany Star was awarded).

Africa Star:  Entry into North Africa any time between 10 June 1940 and 12 May 1943.

Pacific Star:  Entry into the Pacific theater from 8 December 1941 until 15 August 1945.

Burma Star:  Service in Burma from 11 December 1941 and other places later in the War.

Italy Star:  Entry into the Italian theater any time between 11 June 1943 and 8 May 1945.

France and Germany Star:  Entry into France, Belgium, Holland or Germany any time between
6 June 1944 and 8 May 1945

The Defence Medal:  Three years service in UK, 6 months overseas service in threatened areas or for 2 months bomb disposal duty.

The 1939-45 War Medal:  28 days service of any kind from 3 September 1939 to 5 September 1945.  This medal could be awarded to Poles but they were not supposed to wear this medal if they also wore a Polish Active Service Medal (Army, Navy, Airforce or Merchant Marine).  They could be awarded both, they just could not wear them simultaneously.  Poles were made to sign a waiver by the English government stating that they would not wear both medals together.  Most Poles either did not understand the waiver, or simply ignored it.

In some cases where more than one Star was earned, a bar to the ribbon would be awarded instead of another Star.  In these cases, the first Star earned would be awarded and the subsequent Stars would be awarded as bars on the ribbon of the first star.  (Bars were also added for certain campaigns.)


1939-45 Star: 1 bar, Battle of Britain
Atlantic Star:  2 bars, France and Germany Star, Air Crew Europe Star.
Air Crew Europe Star:  2 bars, Atlantic Star, France and Germany Star
Africa Star:  3 bars, 8th Army, 1st Army, North Africa 1942-43.
Pacific Star:  1 bar, Burma Star
Burma Star:  1 bar, Pacific Star
Italy Star:  No bars
France and Germany Star:  2 bars, Atlantic Star, Air Crew Europe Star

For a selected list of British medals and ribbons, click here