General Service Medal (Army & Royal Air Force), with bars for N. W. Persia & Iraq, awarded to Gunner F. H. Mather, 1923

Image["General Service Medal, 1923"]

Obverse, the head of King George V facing left

Image["General Service Medal, 1923"]

Reverse, Britannia with trident standing at the centre and placing a wreath on the hilt of a winged sword to the left

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General Service Medal, 1923

The General Service Medal was instituted in 1918 for the Army and Royal Air Force to match that of 1915 for the Navy; it was to be awarded for operations in areas not covered by the existent Africa and India General Service Medals. It was issued intil 1962.
The third campaign for which this medal was awarded was a short one in Persia, following the earlier British establishment of a Protectorate in the south of the country in 1919 to face off Soviet interventions in this territory which bordered both British India and the Arabian oilfields. This expedition was intended to quell any support for the Bolsheviks in what remained of Persia's independent administration.
The subsequent bar was awarded for a campaign actually previous in time, which established what is now known as Iraq. It had become clear during the Great War of 1914-1918 that the Ottoman Empire was, although militarily irreducible, also politically unsustainable, and by the controversial Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 France and Britain agreed spheres of influence to be occupied after the Empire's collapse. This allocated the zone which is now Iraq to Britain, and accordingly British troops moved in in 1919 and took control. The country as we now know it originated in a League of Nations mandate creating the State of Iraq on Armistice Day 1920. With the help of T. E. Lawrence, Faisal I became the first Emir of the new state, which revolted against British rule almost immediately.
For the initial occupation operations, however, and for the expedition into North-West Persia of later 1920, the bars that adorn this medal were awarded. The medal was issued to Gunner F. H. Mather of the Royal Artillery, probably in the Royal Horse Artillery (although different batteries of this unit served in the two campaigns). Lester Watson purchased the medal from the London dealers Baldwin at some point before 1928.


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