First World War Medal, Exning

front and back of medal

A silver ‘British War Medal’ dating c. 1918-1920, awarded to one Private Harry Thomas Hogg of the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, found in Exning.

Over 6.5 million examples of this medal were manufactured, the vast majority in silver. At 36mm in diameter and at a weight of almost 30g, this is a large and impressive piece. The obverse depicts the bust of George V facing left, accompanied by the legend: GEORGIVS V BRITT: OMN REX ET IND: IMP: (George V King of all Britain and Emperor of India). Above the bust is a small circular perforation that originally would have accommodated the clasp and its co-incident silver rivet (now missing). The reverse face of the medal depicts a naked horseman riding right, holding a short sword, the horse itself trampling a skull and cross-bones alongside a Prussian shield, which symbolises both victory over death and the Central Powers. To the right of the rider’s head, the sun of victory rises. Above the horse’s hindquarters and in front of its forelegs are the dates ‘1914’ and ‘1918’ respectively, visible curving around the rim.

On the edge of the medal is an engraved inscription detailing the service number, name and rank of the recipient: 53589 PTE .H.T. HOGG. THE QUEEN’S R. The British War Medal was awarded to all British Army soldiers who had been deployed overseas in a theatre of war between 1914 and 1918, for a period of greater than 28 days.

Harry Thomas Hogg was born in Stetchworth, Cambridgeshire, in 1879. His exact birthday remains unknown. The 1881 census records him living with his parents in Church Street, Ashley cum Silverley (his father being a butcher in Newmarket). The 1891 census records the same place of habitation, but now with two younger brothers and a younger sister, born in 1882, 1884 and 1885. His occupation as a ‘scholar’ denotes his attendance at school during this period. In 1900, aged 21, he married a woman named Jessie Kent and with her had six children, who are listed in the censuses for 1901 and 1911 as living in Icewell Hill, Newmarket. Of these children, one died shortly after being born and two others disappear completely from the historical record after the 1911 census. In both the 1901 and 1911 censuses his occupation is listed as ‘Gardener’ or ‘Gardener domestic’.

His military career is largely unknown, although his medal card survives in the National Archives; he was awarded both the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. The absence of the 1914-15 star being awarded suggests his service did not start till 1916 at the earliest; it seems likely that he was conscripted in this year given that married men ceased to be exempted from the January 1916 Conscription Act in June of the same year.

Though a soldier in the Queen’s Royal (West Surrey) Regiment, his medal card indicates that he also served in the Army Labour Corps, a series of units formed in 1917 from men graded medically below the A1 standard required for frontline combat infantry. Having evidently served overseas and survived the war, his life post-1918 is somewhat obscure. In 1920 his wife died and he appears to have re-married a younger woman from Northamptonshire the next year, though it is uncertain whether they had any children or not. He died in the summer of 1936, aged 57.

What makes this find so interesting is not just the fact that Private Hogg lived most of his adult life in Newmarket, but also that we were able to track down his living descendant. This individual was contacted about the find and the detectorist who discovered this object will be returning it to them. By diligently combing through online archives and census records, a biography has been constructed which illustrates what began as a simple engraved name on a medal – an individual otherwise anonymous amongst the many millions of men and women who served during the First World War.

View the full record on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database

Thank you to the finder for allowing this object to be featured.

This find was recorded by the Suffolk Finds Recording Team, supported by the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

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