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Portuguese Peninsular War Medals

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Date added: 31 Mar 2017

Portugal Peninsular War Medals 1808-14

In the order of the day 28th March 1820, an official announcement was made to the Portuguese Army that, by a decree of 28th June 1816, His Majesty King John VI had created three medals and crosses to reward the services of officers who had fought in the Peninsular War. Apart from Portuguese subjects, all British and Hanoverian officers who had served in the Portuguese Army and had the necessary prerequisites also received the awards.

· Peninsular Gold Medal and Cross for Commanders
in gold and enamel bearing the names of the actions fought
· Officers Cross for the Peninsular campaigns
in both gold and silver with enamel with a number corresponding to the years of campaign service
The campaign crosses were issued in silver for one to three years and in gold for four to six years' war service.

The background to the ribbons is very complex, as it changed 3 times in 10 years. Originally they were awarded with the then colours of Portugal: dark blue and red, similar to the British Waterloo Medal ribbon. Later it depended on which side you fought during the Civil War (1828-1834) and finally the new national colours of Portugal (blue and white) prevailed.

The medals were only awarded to men who had fought at the following engagements in which Portuguese troops took part :
      Vimiero                1808
      Corunna               1809
      Talavera               1809
      Busaco                 1810
      Fuentes D’Onor   1811
      Albuhera               1811
      Ciudad Rodrigo    1812
      Badajoz                1812
      Salamanca           1812
      Vittoria                  1813
      Pyrenees              1813
      St Sebastian        1813
      Nivelle                  1813
      Nive                      1813
      Orthes                   1814
      Toulouse               1814

One hundred and sixty-one gold and enamelled medals were granted to Portuguese and British officers. Unusually, the officers who were granted the medals and crosses by the Portuguese Court had to pay for them out of their own purses, which accounts for most of the badges to British officers being of English design and make. Those made in Portugal are quite distinct from the English make : the former are more ornate, whilst the latter are after the style and finish of the British Peninsular cross.

The total number of campaign crosses granted was 1,745, and of these 1,535 were to Portuguese and 210 to British officers. No doubt some of the English officers obtained their crosses from Portugal.

Refer to details of Lt Col George Elder – the Commanders Cross illustrated is considered to have been his, since the battles specified are correct and it has the initials JE (of his name in Portuguese) on the reverse.

Apart from the awards to officers, the Soldier’s Cross in silver was bestowed on the non-commissioned officers and soldiers who had served in two or more campaigns at the following rate :
      200 for every regiment of infantry.
      120 for every battalion of cacadores.
      25 for every squadron of cavalry.
      30 for every brigade of artillery.
      25 for every company of engineering workmen.

The officers of the militia (Ordenanças), who shall have served in two or more of those campaigns, also got the above distinction. 100 crosses were be bestowed in every miliitia regiment for non-commissioned officers and soldiers.

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