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The Africa Star 10th June 1940 to 12th May 1943

A star with six bevelled points.  In the centre the initials ‘GRI’ with a crown above and ‘VI’ below, partly circled by a band bearing the words ‘THE AFRICA STAR’. 

Flat and plain. 

Approx. 38mm across. Medal and bars bronze. 

Approx. 31 mm wide.  Pale buff with a central red stripe (approx. 10mm), with two narrow stripes (each approx. 2mm), central on the buff stripes, one of navy blue seen on left when facing the wearer, and one of light blue seen on right when facing the wearer.  The colours are symbolic of the desert, the Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. 

The ribbon passes through a bronze ring (approx. 12mm diameter) which is fixed through a loop at the top of the star. 

All issued unnamed, but some have been engraved privately. 

Three: ‘8th ARMY’; ‘1st ARMY’; ‘NORTH AFRICA 1942-43’ 

For service in North Africa between 10th June 1940 and 12th May 1943 inclusive.  The following qualifications apply to the Army only.  One  day's service on the establishment of an operational unit or formation in North Africa, Abyssinia, Somaliland, Sudan, Eritrea and Malta between the above dates.

Bar ‘8th ARMY’: was awarded for service in the 8th Army between 23rd Oct. 1942  (the opening of the Battle of El Alamein) and 12th May, 1943.

Bar ‘1st ARMY’: was awarded to those on the establishment of a unit or formation of the 1st Army in Tunis or Algeria between 8th Nov. and 31st Dec. 1942 or in any unit or formation under the command of the 1st Army between 1st Jan. and 12th May 1943.

Bar ‘North Africa 1942-43’, was awarded to personnel of headquarters of 18th Army Group who failed to qualify for the 8th Army or 1st Army Bars.

The Africa Star was not issued automatically, those who qualified had to claim it.      

The King’s Own
2nd Battalion.
The 2nd Battalion moved from Palestine to Helwan, Egypt, in June 1940 where it was employed in guarding the airfield.  From September to December it was based in the defensive positions around Mersa Matruh in the Western Desert and provided coastal patrols and detachments for various purposes, including covering the withdrawal from Sidi Barrani and forming part of Selby force.         

After being engaged in Syria in two major actions against the Vichy French in June/July 1941 it returned by sea to North Africa to the besieged Tobruk, where it remained until December 1941 before departing for Ceylon, India and Burma (2nd Chindit expedition).

1st Battalion.
The 1st Battalion moved to the Western Desert in May 1942 from Iraq and in early June was in the defensive position on the Libyan border at Solum.  Following the fall of Tobruk it withdrew to Mersa Matruh and on 29th June received orders to break out towards Fuka airfield and El Alamein.  Many of the Battalion were killed, wounded or captured in the withdrawal.  The survivors left Port Said for Cyprus on 17th August on the ‘Princess Marguerite’ which was torpedoed and sunk by a submarine.  Twenty four men of the battalion were lost.

8th Battalion.
The 8th Battalion left Scotland for Malta in July 1941.  Most of the Battalion were on the cruiser HMS Manchester which was torpedoed in the Mediterranean and had to limp back to Gibraltar.  The Battalion finally reached Malta on other ships on 2nd August.  It remained on the island until November 1943, its main role during the siege being the defence of airfields which were subject to fierce attack from the air.  The 8th Battalion subsequently absorbed the few survivors of the 1st Battalion which had been decimated on the Greek Island of Leros.  The 8th became the new 1st Battalion and took part in the Italian Campaign of 1944-1945.

Certain King’s Own men received the ‘8th ARMY’ bar for service in North Africa after 23rd October  1942 attached to other units or formations.  Some of the  Anti-Tank Gunners also qualified for the Africa Star with either the ‘8th ARMY’ or ‘1st ARMY’ bar.

Africa Stars in the museum's collection

The Africa Star

© 2006 Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum