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 The 1917 to 1921 Service Medal (Black and Tan) With Comrac Bar

The Department of Defence no longer issue replacement 1916 or War of Independence medals, you can apply for a certificate of service.

Relatives of those who were awarded a 1916 Medal and/or a War of Independence Medal can now apply for a certificate of service. Unfortunately, it is not possible at this time to reissue original medals. The certificate will be issued to the nearest direct next-of-kin. Please write to the following address for this service:

Veterans Administration Section,

Department of Defence,



Please provide Veterans Administration Section with as many of the personal details as possible to include full name (and any variations in spelling), date of birth, the address/s resided at during the period in which they may have made the application (1924 to 1949 most likely) and the name of any next of kin at that time.

This medal was awarded to those who were deemed to have taken part in the Irish War of Independence. There were two types of medal with Comrac bar issued, named and un-named. Named medals were issued to those Killed in Action or who had died between the end of the war and the issuing of the medals in 1941. There is no difference in design between named and un-named medals. COMRAC is Gaelic for Struggle.

The recipient of this medal, Captain Hugh Thornton, was killed by Anti-Treaty troops on Sunday the 27th of August 1922 while travelling through Clonakilty County Cork. He was travelling in a Lancia car when ambushed. His body was returned to Dublin in the Steamship Minerva leaving Cork at 6pm on Wednesday the 30th of August arriving in Dublin about 11am on Thursday the 31st. The body was removed to Portobello Barracks and subsequently to Rathmines Roman Catholic Church. Captain Thornton was buried in the Irish Army plot at Glasnevin cemetery on Friday the 1st September.

It is also possible to get medals named and numbered privately by the recipient, styles of naming differ from the professionally engraved to those scratched on with a sharp instrument. The number of Service Medals with Comrac Bar issued has become a source of debate among collectors, Official figures put the number of those entitled to a medal with Comrac bar at 15,224. There were a number of re-issues to those who had lost their medal over the years so the total number issued would be about 20,000.

Another topic of debate among the collecting community is the numbering system used when issuing posthumous medals. Personally I think there was no system and medals were numbered as the application for the medal was received, also, if there was a system used I think there would be little chance of working it out because of the amount of personally numbered medals and medals falsely numbered by those seeking to increase the value of the medal.

Number of Service Medals with bar issued up to 31 January 1988 are:

Issued to Pensioners 13,067

Issued to others 2,119

Total 15,186

 The 1917 to 1921 Service Medal (Black and Tan) Without Comrac Bar

The medal without Comrac Bar was issued to those who took part in the War of Independence but were not deemed to have engaged in active service.

Number of Service Medals (1917-1921) without Bar issued up to the 31st of January 1988

Total 51,233

The 1917-1921 Miniature Service Medal

As with all other miniature medals the miniature service medal was not awarded with the full size medal but had to be purchased by the recipient. Medals with pin bars are as common as those without and the makers name is usually stamped on the back of the COMRAC bar rather than the pin bar. The miniature medals were supposed to be purchased from a Ministry of Defence approved jeweller, QUINN being one of those approved jewellers, but in some cases where unapproved miniatures were purchased no makers mark will appear on the medal.

The makers name on this miniature is QUINN the same maker as the full size medal.

The 1917 to 1921 Service Medal
(Black and Tan)
Without Comrac Bar

The official description of recipients of this medal is Medal, without bar to persons whose service is not deemed to be active military service, but who were members of Oglaigh na hEireann (Irish Republican Army), Fianna Eireann, Cumann na mBan or the Irish Citizen Army for the three months ended on the 11th of July 1921.
The design of the medal is described as A circular medal approximately one and three fifth inches in diameter bearing on the obverse the Arm of the Four Provinces of Ireland. In the centre appears a standing figure, facing front, depicting a Volunteer, a member of a guerrilla force – termed “Flying Column” – of the period 1917 – 1922 in typical dress (trench coat and cap with rifle, revolver and bandoleer). The word “EIRE” (meaning Ireland) appears horizontally across the centre of the medal in large letters (two either side of the figure). The words “Cogadh na Saoirse” which are translated “The Fight For Freedom” appear below.


The official description of the reverse (Back) of the medal is The reverse shows a Palm Leaf symbolic of victory.

The ribbon should show the black to the left when looking at the medal being worn. The reason the medal is know as the Black and Tan medal and the official reason for these particular colours being chosen are The combination of the colours black and tan was adapted by reason of its association with the terms “Black and Tan” which had a particular significance in relation to the strength for independence during the years 1917 – 1921. The term Black and Tan was applied to individual members of a body of auxiliary or quasi-military police employed by the British Government in Ireland during the latter part of the struggle for Independence. The term “Black and Tan War” came to be applied to the struggle during that period because in the initial stages of organisation, they wore a black tunic and tan trousers owing to the shortage of the complete uniform.

A small piece of ribbon was issued with the medal, this piece of ribbon was worn when the medal was appropriate.

Numbers Manufactured

There were ten different batches of the Black and Tan Medal made between 1941 and 1957. The medals were made by P. Quinn and Company or The Jewellery and Metal Manufacturing Company Limited.

16th June 1941 10,000

22nd October 1942 15,000

26th October 1945 3,000

28th May 1947 4,500

10th March 1949 1,500

7th November 1949 3,000

16th June 1950 5,000

10th November 1951 6,000

17th June 1953 6,700

3rd October 1957 2,500

Medals manufactured in different years can vary slightly in size weight and appear to have slight difference in design.

1971 Survivors Medal

In 1971 this commemorative medal was issued to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the War of Independence. Although commonly referred to as the Survivors medal as it was issued to all surviving veterans of the War of Independence it was also issued to relatives of deceased veterans of the War of Independence.

Number of Truce Commemoration Medals issued:

To Pensioners 7,120

To Others 15,312

Total 23,432

The design was the same as the 1917 – 1921 Service Medal apart from the Palm leaf had 1921 - 1971 in raised letters beside it and a different colour for the ribbon. This same medal was issued to Survivors who had originally received the Service Medal with or without Comrac bar.

The medal was issued with a gold coloured gilt finish, the medal is now 44 years old so examples will have at least some wear to the gilt finish (see below).

I have seen issues of this medal with remarkably well preserved gilt, after 44 years you expect at least some wear to the gilt. Another feature I have noticed on these medals is the definition of the I.R.A. man and the coats of arms of the four provinces are not well defined. I have put two images above for comparison, the medal on the right I know to be genuine as it was issued to a relative of a friend, if you have any information on the reasons for the apparent difference please let me know.