A quartet from the Indian Sub-Continent
by John Norris
The term, “Indian Sub-Continent,” is often used to describe the vast area of some 1.7 million square miles that includes the countries of Bangladesh and Nepal. The two largest countries in this region are India and Pakistan. Today, they are independent states, but at one time, the two were united as India and formed the richest part of the British Empire.
During the time of Britain’s involvement, Indian troops served the British army most loyally through many wars, especially both World Wars. Indian troops were awarded medals for bravery including the Victoria Cross.
After WWII, it became clear that the British Empire could not continue as it had before hostilities. A number of Commonwealth countries demanded their independence. One of the first was India, which was granted its independence in 1947. Unfortunately, the decision sparked widespread, violent riots. The main problem lay in the fact that the country was divided by caste and religion. The only way to prevent further unrest was to create a new state by dividing India along religious lines.
This led to the creation of a Muslim state known as Pakistan. It officially came into being on the night of August 14-15, 1947. Originally, it was divided into East and West Pakistan with India in between.
The title “Pakistan” means “Pure Country” and was first termed in 1934 by Choudhary Rahmat Ali, a Pakistan movement activist. Seeing the creation of a separate state was a great fulfilment for many Muslims, especially activists such as Choudhary and Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
After its Independence, India remained a Dominion within the British Empire from August 15, 1947, until January 26, 1950, when it became the Republic of India under the country’s Constitution. Pakistan also became a Dominion, and would remain as such until 1956, when it was declared to be the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Fifteen years later, following a very fierce war, East Pakistan was established as a separate state to become the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh.
Pakistan Independence Medal
Although the granting of independence had been far from peaceful, it was decided to commemorate the nascent state of Pakistan by creating a special medal to mark the occasion. The Pakistan Independence Medal created by royal decree by King George VI who established it for the Royal Pakistan Army. Most sources, such as the Imperial War Museum in London, and the Pakistan Army itself, agree the medal was created in 1948.
The medal is made from cupro-nickel to produce a silver-colored finish circular in shape. It measures 37mm in diameter and is suspended from a green ribbon with a single white vertical stripe in the centre measuring 3mm in width. The green bands either side measure 14mm each. The ribbon passes through a plain suspender bar fitted to the claw to attach it to the medal. The swivel is non-moving and there is no campaign bar or other attachment for the ribbon.
Though formally known as the Pakistan Independence Medal, it is also informally called the Pakistan Medal or Pakistan Tamgha. The obverse carries an image of the Pakistan flag displaying a five-pointed star within the horns of a crescent moon, with wave-like folds as it is suspended from a pole. The image is enclosed by two separate branches of laurel which are tied at the bottom and rise either side of the flag but do not meet at the top. In this space is an inscription in Urdu. The inscription continues below the flag and translates to read: ‘Lailatul Qadr 1366’ which refers to the 27th of Ramadan (sometimes written as Ramazan). The figure of 1366 AH refers to the date of independence 14 August 1947.
The reverse has the crowned cypher of King George VI and around the edge in capital letters appears the legend: “REX. GEORGIVS VI D:G: BR: OMN:” which translates to ‘George VI by the Grace of God King of Great Britain’ The medal is named to the recipient on the edge along with the man’s service number and regiment.
The Independence medal is not a particularly expensive item, nor is it difficult to obtain. The price for a good quality example will start at about $15, making it attractive to collectors who are just beginning to collect medals.
REPUBLIC OF PAKISTAN INDEPENDENCE MEDAL
On March 16, 1957 a second independence medal was instituted for Pakistan, this time by the country’s first president, Iskander Mirza, to mark the country’s establishment as a fully-fledged Republic on March 23, 1956. This was a non-operational award, intended purely as a commemorative medal. This was presented to members of the Pakistani armed forces, police, civilian officials, and selected non-officials in time for the first anniversary of the country becoming a Republic.
Nevertheless, it is still of interest to collectors. Known as the Tamgha-i-Jamhuria 1375, Republic of Pakistan Independence Medal, it is a circular silver-colored medal made of cupro-nickel measuring 37mm in diameter. Dignitaries who attended the official inauguration ceremonies were presented with a special gold version of the medal.
The white, black, red, and green ribbon passes through an ornate suspender attached to a moving swivel which is, in turn, attached to a scrolled claw mount on the medal. The suspender has a bar which resembles a campaign bar, but it is plain, apart from being topped by a half-floral motif. In the center of the obverse is a lyre-shaped calligraphic inscription, “Jamhuria Islamia Pakistan” which means the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”
The reverse bears the date “23 March 1956” set in the center. Forming an arc above this is the same date in Urdu, “9 Shaban-ui-Muazzam 1375.”. Below the English date curving upwards is the Bengali inscription “Jamhuria Islamia Pakistan” which translates to mean The Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The medal is un-named and there are no clasps or bars for the ribbon. It is quite possible to find this medal either as an individual item or forming part of a group, which could possibly include the Pakistan Independence Medal of 1947.
This medal is available in relatively fair for around $10-$20. This medal, nor its Independence counterpart, may not sound as exciting as true campaign medals, but from the collector’s point of view, they do provide a point in history which charts the creation of a separate nation.
INDIAN INDEPENDENCE MEDAL
The Indian Independence Act of 1947 came into force at three minutes to midnight,
still, and the State of Pakistan was declared a separate from India. Six minutes later, at three minutes past midnight on August 15, India was declared independent from the British Empire. However, India remained a Dominion within the British Empire for a further 29 months until January 26, 1950, when it became the Republic of India under the country’s Constitution which had been drafted in November 1949.
In October 1949, King George VI, the last Emperor of India, instituted a medal to commemorate the country’s independence. The medal, a silver-colored disc measuring 36mm in diameter made from cupro-nickel, was issued to all members of the Indian armed forces serving on August 15, 1947 and British service personnel who remained in India and serving on January 1, 1948.
Those Indian nationals serving in the Indian armed forces were eligible for the medal included male and female personnel, along with the Ruling Princes and the State Forces of those States which had acceded to the Dominion of India by 1 January 1948. In effect, this meant all forces in all territories which made up India. Those British service personnel eligible for the medal included officers, ratings and other ranks, airmen, both male and female, serving on 1 January 1948. Others who qualified included personnel engaged on the Active List in a Government House or in Central and Provincial Governments, which meant civil servants. The qualification extended to those civilian and service personnel who were on leave at the time between August 15, 1947, and January 1, 1948. Royal Air Force officers and other ranks serving with Transport Squadrons and Communications Flights seconded to serve in the Dominion of India were also eligible for the medal.
The obverse of the Independence Medal shows the chakra or wheel in the centre and is surmounted by an Imperial British crown for the last time. Around the lower edge in capital letters runs the legend: “GEORGIUS: VI D: G: BRITT: OMN: REX: DID: DEF” which means “George VI by the Grace of God King of Great Britain Defender of the Faith.” It is significant because, for the first time, no reference was made to the king being the “Emperor of India.”
The ribbon bar is plain to which is attached a non-moving swivel which, in turn, is attached to the claw to hold the medal. The medal ribbon shows the national colors of India: Saffron, white, and green.
The reverse shows the Indian national emblem of the Ashoka Lions on a plain base. Along the upper edge in capital letters is the legend in English “INDIAN INDEPENDENCE”, while along the lower edge, appears the date, “15th August 1947.” The medal is named with the recipient’s details engraved on the lower edge.
The medal can be found as part of a group including medals from the WWII. Usually, however, the Independence Medal is found as a single item and these vary in quality. An example in good condition can be obtained from around $15 to $25.
POLICE MEDAL FOR INDEPENDENCE
Three years later, another special commemorative medal was presented, this time for all those police officers serving at the time of independence. This is known as the Police Medal for Independence, but this title is rather misleading because it has nothing to connect it with the 1947 Act of Independence. This medal is also made from cupro-nickel. It is suspended from a red, saffron, and dark blue ribbon through a plain suspender attached to a non-moving swivel. Like its Pakistan counterpart, this medal makes for an interesting addition to a collection of either international police medals or items connected to socio-political events.
The obverse shows the Ashoka Lions on a plinth above the Indian National moto in Hindi characters “Satyameva Jeyate” which means “Truth Alone Triumphs” (taken from the Mundaka Upanishad, an Indian poem). Around the top edge in capital letters in English appears, “INDEPENDENCE MEDAL.” The lower edge below the Ashokan Lions, also in English, appears the date “26th January 1950.” The Ashoka Lion capital is a sculpture of religious significance and shows four lions, facing outwards, standing back to back on a highly engraved plinth. The statue was adopted as the symbol of India on 26 January 1950, and replaced the “Star of India,” a multi-rayed star-burst that had been the national emblem when India was part of the British Empire.
The reverse has a central motif of a chakra above which is a border of lotus garlands. The lower edge in English capital letters is the single word “POLICE” either side of this word and separate from the lotus garland appears a single lotus blossom, also. Although rather plain the medal contains a lot of national symbolism. For example, the lotus flower is national flower of India and the chakra motif also taken from the Ashoka Lion statue. The medal is recognized as being the Independence medal, but this is very misleading while it has nothing to do with commemorating the true independence that happened in 1947, and has everything to do with the state of India becoming a recognized Republic on the date that appears on the medal. It is a non-operational medal and it has been opined that it was presented as a belated award to the police in recognition of their work during the original move towards independence in 1947.
Not all examples were official designs and some versions were made locally by independent manufacturers. These could be bought by individual police officers or local police forces could buy them for distribution to officers. The medal is not named in any version and there no ribbon attachments authorised such as ribbons or stars. Medals are items which chart the history of a country and in this case the India Police Independence Medal, along with the India Independence Medal, charts a turning point in the country when it became a true republic.
Medals from India and Pakistan can be purchased as an individual item from dealers at militaria fairs and even special ‘on-line’ military auction Websites on the Internet. Prices vary according to condition but an example in good condition will start at around $25.
There are other medals marking the commemorative years since Indian independence in 1947, including one for the 25th anniversary, 1947-1972, and the 50th anniversary of 1947-1997. The designs of these also contain the same symbols, such as the Ashoka Lions and chakra, but they are an altogether different story. These independence medals can be displayed individually or in pairs together by country. Another method would be to display them all together because they do augment one another. Whatever way one chooses the fact remains these can be an interesting series to add to one’s collection.