World War 2 Campaign Stars and Medals

There were 8 Campaign Stars, the Defence Medal, and the War Medal awarded for active service in WW2, in addition some Australian Servicemen could qualify for the Australian Service Medal 1939-1945, and lastly the Australian Service Medal 1945-1975 was issued for peace keeping or non warlike operations in a wide variety of theatres over the years of 1945 to 1975. This last medal is always issued with a clasp to denote the area of service.

Set out below are reproductions of these medals, their ribbons, and the qualifying service required for each medal to be awarded.

The 8 Campaign Stars.
Here are these eight Campaign Stars, the maximum any individual can wear is five.


Campaign Stars WW2

WW2 Campaign Stars.
From left to right Top Row. 1939-1945 Star, Atlantic Star, Air Crew Europe Star, Africa Star.
From Left to right Bottom Row. Pacific Star, Burma Star, Italy Star, France and Germany Star.

The 1939-1945 Star.
Minimum of 180 days operational service between the 3rd. of September 1939 and the 2nd. of September 1945. ( 60 days for Airforce crews in an operational unit engaged in operations against the enemy. ) A bar, Battle of Britain, awarded to fighter crews who took part in that Battle between 13th. of July/31st. of October 1940.

The ribbon colours symbolize the Royal and Merchant Navies, dark blue, the Army, red, and the Airforce, pale blue.

The Atlantic Star.
To commermorate The Battle of the Atlantic. Minimum of 180 days at sea in theAtlantic Ocean, between the 3rd. of September 1939 and the 2nd. of September 1945 ( 60 days for RAF aircrews ). Qualifying service started only after earning the 1939/1945 Star. Bars for Air Crew Europe and France and Germany, were awarded if the recipient qualified for those stars, but only one may be worn.

The Ribbon colours represent the waters of the Atlantic Ocean in all of its moods.

Air Crew Europe Star.
For operational flying over Europe from United Kingdom bases between the 3rd. of September 1939 and the 5th. of June 1944. Like the Atlantic Star, the criteria for the award of the 39-45 Star have to be fulfilled first. 120 days as an air crew member, 60 days for the 39-45 Star, then another 60 days for this star. Bars for Atlantic, and France and Germany, could be won, but only one bar may be worn on this ribbon.

The ribbon is pale blue for the Airforce, and its day and night continuous service is depicted by the yellow and black.

The Africa Star.
No prior award of the 39-45 Star is necessary, and this Star is awarded for only one days service or more in North Africa between the 10th. of June 1940 to the 12th. of May 1943. Three bars were instituted, but only the first one awarded may be worn, these were Eighth Army, First Army, and North Africa 1942-43. Service with the Eighth Army from the 23rd. of October 1942 ( El Alamein ) and the 12th. 12th. of May 1943, with the First Army from thev 8th. of November 1942 and the 12th. of May 1943, qualified for the first and second bars. Service between the 23rd. of October 1942 and the 12th. of May 1943 for those outside both the 8th. and 1st. Armies ie the 18th. Army Group HQ's, Naval and Merchant Navy personnel earned the third bar.

The ribbon, yellow for the vast desert, and the colours dark blue for the Navy, red for the Army, and pale blue for the Airforce.

The Pacific Star.
This medal was awarded for service in the Pacific theatre of operations in the period 8 December 1941 to 2 September 1945, both dates inclusive.

Royal, Australian, and Merchant Navy service in the Pacific Ocean, South China Sea and the Indian Ocean east of a line running approximately south of Singapore qualified for this medal, providing that the 6 months service for the 1939-45 had already been earned. The restriction of previously earning the 1939-45 star did not apply for those who service started in the Pacific region after 2 March 1945. Naval personnel ashore had the same qualification requirements as the Army.

Army personnel had to serve in those territories which had been subjected to enemy or allied invasions. Service in Burma was excluded, as this area had its own star: The Burma Star. Service in China and Malaya between 8 December 1941 and 15 February 1942 was included. The Army had no prior time qualification.

RAF crews had to complete at least 1 operational sortie over the appropriate sea or land area.

If a serviceman qualified for both the "Pacific" and "Burma" Stars, they would be awarded the first gained star, with a clasp (or rosette on ribbon-alone) for the other earned Star.

The ribbon colours, depicting the jungles of the Pacific, green, its beaches, yellow, dark blue, red, and pale blue for the Navy, Army and Airforce.

The Burma Star.
Must qualify for the 39-45 Star first, then service in the area from the 11th. of December 1941 to the 2nd. of September 1945. If qualifying for the Pacific Star later, a Pacific bar may be added.

Ribbon, represents British and Commonwealth Forces by the blue and red, and the scorching  sun in this area is shown by the orange colour.

Italy Star.
Operational service in Sicily and Italy between the 11th. of June 1943 and the 8th. of May 1945. No bar was instituted fot this star. The Navy and the Merchant Navy needed to win the 39-45 Star first.

The ribbon represents the National colours of Italy.

The France and Germany Star.
Operational sewrvice in France/Holland/Belgium/Luxembourg or Germany between D-Day and the surrender of Germany ie the 6th. of June 1944 and the 8th. of May 1945. Prior award of the 39-45 Star not necessary. If the Atlantic Star was awarded later, it was denoted by a bar Atlantic.

The ribbon represents the Union Jack, and National colours of France/Holland and Luxembourg.

Belgium was totally ignored.


From Left to right: Defence Medal, The War Medal 1939-1945, The Australian Service Medal 1939-1945, The Australian Service Medal 1945-1975, with Japan Clasp.

From Left to right: Defence Medal, The War Medal 1939-1945,
The Australian Service Medal 1939-1945,
The Australian Service Medal 1945-1975, with Japan Clasp.

The Defence Medal.
Various criteria apply for the award of this medal, but in the main it was for service in non operational areas subject to an attack, or closely threatened for a minimum of three years.

Ribbon colours are symbolic of enemy attack, the flame on the green of the British Isles, whilst the black stripes stand for the blackout of the wartime years.

The War Medal 1939-1945.
A minimum of 28 days service required, awarded to both operational and non operational members in the Armed Services, including the Merchant Navy when serving at sea.

Ribbon represents the Union Jack, if a Mention in Dispatches was awarded, it is worn on this medal ribbon.

The Australian Service Medal 1939-1945.
Awarded to members of the Australian Armed Forces and Merchant Navy, plus civilians who served overseas for at least 18 months between the 3rd. of September 1939 and the 2nd. of September 1945.

Ribbon, khaki for the Army, with narrow red edge stripes, dark blue edge for the Navy, and light blue edge for the Airforce.

Australian Service Medal 1945-1975.
Awarded for 30 days service in prescribed peacekeeping or non-warlike operations during period 1945-1975, where recognition had not been extended previously through an award. Issued with one of these clasps:

  • Berlin/FESR/Germany/Indonesia/Japan/Kashmir/Korea/
  • Middle East/PNG/SEA/SW Pacific/Special Operations/Thailand/WNG.

Ribbon, bands of dark and light blue, khaki, green and gold.


Question from Terry: I wonder if the stars themselves are different or whether the only thing different is the ribbon.

Answer from Mac: All the Campaign Stars have the same basic design, but in the circle that finishes with the Crown on top, is the name of the specific Star, and this is the only difference between them all eg, the words, The 1939-1945 Star, The Atlantic Star, The Pacific Star and so on. But from a distance the three I have, would all appear to be the same, the distinctive ribbon of each of course indicates which Campaign Star it is.

On the back of each Medal is stamped the name and service of the recipient. Mine read:
M.J.Gregory R.A.N."


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