This brief is of particular interest to people researching family history or famous people in naval and maritime history.


The National Maritime Museum has a collection of over 6000 medals. They fall into two main categories:

  • British and foreign commemoratives dating from the 16th century to the present day, which illustrate maritime history and exploration.
  • Gallantry awards; most notably naval Victoria Crosses.

Other awards include:

  • Naval Rewards struck to commemorate victories over the Dutch in 1653
  • Naval Gold Medals
  • 1848 Naval General Service Medals (see research guide U3)
  • Victorian campaign medals
  • World Wars I and II awards
  • Orders and decorations of Britain's great 20th century commanders
  • Life-saving awards
  • Polar medals

A selection of medals in the Museum's collection can viewed through Collections online.


Reference numbers given in italics refer to the Library catalogue.

Life-saving medals

  • Young, Lambton, and Fevyer, William, Acts of Gallantry: Being a Detailed Account of Each Deed of Bravery for Saving Life from Drowning in All Parts of the World for Which the Gold and Silver Medals and Clasps of the Royal Humane Society have been Awarded, Vol. 1830–1871; Vol. 2 1871–1950. (London: Naval & Military Press, 1996) 351.856.2
  • Cox, Barry Ed., Lifeboat Gallantry: the Complete Record of Royal National Lifeboat Institution Gallantry Medals and How They Were Won (London: Spink, 1998) 622.722
  • Gawler, Jim, Lloyd's Medals 1836–1989, a History of Medals Awarded by the Corporation of Lloyds (Toronto: Hart Publishing, 1989)355.134.22

Gallantry Decorations and Honours and Awards

  • Cooksley, Peter G, VCs of the First World War – The Air VCs (Sutton Publishing, 1997)
  • Dickson, William Chatterton, Seedie's List of Fleet Air Arm Awards 1939–1969 (Tisbury: Ripley Registers. 1990)355.134.22(42) “1939/1969"
  • Seedie's Roll of Naval Honours and Awards 1939–1959 (Tisbury: Ripley Registers, 1989) 355.134.22(42) “19"
  • Harvey, David, Monuments to Courage – Victoria Cross Headstones and Memorials (Naval & Military Press, 2000)
  • Seedie's List of Awards to the Merchant Navy for World War II (Tisbury:Ripley Registers, 1997) 355.134.22:656.61
  • Henderson, D V, Heroic Endeavour: a Complete Register of the Albert, Edward and Empire Gallantry Medals and How They Were Won (Polstead: Hayward, 1988) 355.134.22
  • McDermott, Phil, For Conspicuous Gallantry: the Register of the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal 1855–1992 (Heathfield: Naval & Military Press) 355.134.22(42) “1855/1992"
  • Fevyer, W H, The Distinguished Service Medal 1914–1920 (Polstead: J B Hayward, 1982) 355.135.22
  • Fevyer, W H, The Distinguished Service Medal 1939–1946 (Polstead: J B Hayward, 1981) 355.134.22(42) A1939/1946"
  • Fevyer, W H, The Distinguished Service Cross 1901–1938 (London: London Stamp Exchange Ltd, 1991) 355.134.22
  • Abbott, P E and Tamplin, J M A, British Gallantry Awards (Enfield: Guinness Superlatives, 1971) 355.134.22(42)
  • The Register of the Victoria Cross (Cheltenham: This England, 1988) 355.134.22(42)
  • Snelling, Stephen, VCs of the First World War – The Naval VCs (Gloucestershire: Sutton, 2002) 940.46(42)
  • Winton, John, The Victoria Cross at Sea (London: Michael Joseph, 1978) 92.355.134.22(42)

(Mainly awarded to Royal Naval Division)

  • Seedie's List of Coastal Forces Awards for World War II (Tisbury:Ripley Registers, 1992) 355.134.22
  • Seedie's List of Submarine Awards for World War II (Tisbury:Ripley Registers, 1990) 355.134.22

Campaign medals

  • Gordon, L L and Joslin, Edward C, British Battles and Medals (London: Spink, 1979)355.134.22(42)
  • Joslin, E C, Litherland, A R, and Simpkin, B T, British Battles and Medals (London: Spink & Son Ltd, 1988) 355.134.22(42) A15/19"
  • Douglas-Morris, Kenneth, Naval Medals 1793–1856 (London, 1982) 355.134.22(42)
  • Douglas-Morris, Kenneth, Naval Medals 1857–1880 (London, 1994) 355.134.22(42)
  • Fevyer, W H and Wilson, J W, The China War Medal 1900, to the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines (London: The London Stamp Exchange, 1985) 355.134.22(42) “1900"
  • Fevyer, W H and Wilson, J W, The Africa General Service Medal to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines (London: London Stamp Exchange, 1990) 355.134.22(42)

(Awards listed under ship's names with short histories of the vessels' careers)

  • Fevyer, W H and Wilson, J W, The 1914 Star to the Navy and Royal Marines (Naval & Military Press, 1995) 355.134.22(42) A1914"

Commemorative medals

  • Klenman, Allen, The Faces of Captain Cook: a Record of the Coins and Medals of James Cook (Victoria BC, 1983) 737:92 Cook
  • Hardy, Thomas A, Commemorative Medals of the Right Honourable Horatio Lord Viscount Nelson (North Walsham: Nelson Society, 1985) 737.2.23(42)


  • Louis Alexander of Battenburg, Prince, The British Naval Medal: Commemorative Medals, Naval Rewards, War Medals, Naval Tokens, Portrait Medallions, Life-saving Medals, Engraved Pieces etc (London: J Murray, 1919) 355.134.22(42)
  • Louis Alexander of Battenburg, Prince, Naval Medals: Commemorative Medals, Naval Rewards, War Medals, Naval Tokens etc, of Foreign Countries (London: John Murray, 1921–28) 355.134.22(100)
  • Bilcliffe, John, Irreproachable Character – The Award of the Royal Marines Meritorious Service Medal (Royal Marines Historical Society, 2005)
  • Taprell Dorling, H; Mason, Francis K; Philip, George, Ribbons and Medals, The World's Military and Civil Awards (London: George Philip, 1974) 355.134.22
  • Scarlett, R J, The Naval Good Shooting Medal 1903–1914 (London: London Stamp Exchange, 1990) 355.134.22
  • Douglas-Morris, Kenneth, The Naval Long Service Medals 1830–1990 (London, 1991) 355.134.22
  • Werlich, Robert, Orders and Decorations of All Nations (Washington: Quaker Press, 1965) 355.134.22

Useful addresses

(See also research guide B3)

Naval Secretary (H & A)

Ministry of Defence,

Room G.10

Fleet HQ

West Battery

Whale Island

Portsmouth PO2 8BY

Tel: 023 92 628675

Gallantry decorations and Honours and Awards from 1939.

Ministry of Defence Medal Office

Building 250

RAF Innsworth

Gloucester GL3 1HW

Holds campaign medals.

Register of Seamen and Shipping

MCA Cardiff

Anchor Court

Ocean Way

Cardiff CF24 5JW

Tel: + 44 (0)2920 448800

Fax: 029 20448820

Holds records of service medals awarded to merchant seamen during the World Wars and the Korean War.


The National Archives

Ruskin Avenue



Surrey TW9 4DU

Tel: +44 (0)20 8876 3444

Holds records of campaign medal awards before World War I; World War I medal records for the British War Medal 1914–1920, Victory Medal and stars.

Next steps

Other guides in the series which may be useful for researching Captain Cook:

For general research help see:

Although care has been taken in preparing the information contained in this document, anyone using it shall be deemed to indemnify the National Maritime Museum from any and all injury or damage arising from such use.