Albert Medal

Albert Medal

Queen Victoria instituted the Albert Medal in 1866 to recognise those civilians who had attempted to prevent the loss of life at sea. A year later the warrant was amended to create two levels of the award, with the very Victorian wording:

Whereas We, taking into Our Royal consideration that great loss of life is sustained by reason of shipwrecks and other perils of the sea; and taking also into consideration the many daring and heroic actions performed by mariners and others to prevent such loss and to save the lives of those who are in danger of perishing by reason of wrecks and perils of the sea; and taking also into consideration the expediency of distinguishing such efforts by some mark of Our Royal favour.

Albert Medal First Class, Second Class

Several clauses followed describing the two medals and ribbons. The Albert Medal of the First Class was of oval form made of gold and bronze and was suspended by a dark blue and white striped ribbon 35 mm wide. The V and A monogram, interlaced with an anchor, was on a dark blue enamelled background surrounded with a garter inscribed with “For Gallantry in Saving Life at Sea”.

The Albert Medal of the Second Class was in bronze with a ribbon 16 mm wide. Ten years later the warrant was amended to create the Albert Medal in two classes for saving life on land. The ribbons were crimson and white, the monogram was without the anchor on a crimson background and the wording was for saving life on land. Those serving in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines became eligible in 1891, and in 1904 ribbons for all medals became 35 mm wide. In 1917 the medals were restyled the Albert Medal in Gold and the Albert Medal. The standard of gallantry qualifying for an award has always been very high and it seems that the criterion adopted has been that the recipient’s risk of death had to be greater than his chances of survival and, in the case of the gold medal, the risk had to be altogether exceptional.

The George Cross, George Medal and Albert Medal.
The institution of the George Cross and the George Medal in 1940 added two further awards to those already available, making it difficult to decide which was the most appropriate. In 1949 the King gave approval that awards of the gold medal should cease in favour of the George Cross and that in future the medal in bronze should only be awarded posthumously. In 1971 the award of the medal was ceased and all living recipients were permitted to exchange their medals for the George Cross. The Albert Medal was a very rare award. In 105 years only 69 medals in gold and 491 medals in bronze were awarded. Of these, three medals in gold and five in bronze went to Australians.
HMAS Voyager
Two posthumous awards were made following the 1964 Voyager tragedy. One was awarded to Electrical Mechanic W.J. Condon and the other to MIDN K.F. Marien. William Condon’s citation was:

In recognition of his outstanding gallantry and devotion to duty in saving life at sea when HMAS Voyager was sunk after collision, in remaining at his post to the end in the sinking ship, holding an emergency lantern to show others the path to the escape scuttle and losing his life thereby.

Kerry Marien’s citation was:

In recognition of his gallantry in attempting to save life at sea when HMAS Voyager was sunk after collision. In leaving the safety of a life raft to attempt a rescue, he thereby lost his life.
Early in 2006 the former NOC secretary, Peter Churchill, found a polished aluminium plate in his souvenirs. It had been given to him some years ago by an ex-senior partner of a prominent legal firm. Peter wondered if MIDN Marien’s parents could be traced.


albert medal plate
The aluminium plate.
I contacted Kerry Marien’s mother, Mrs Yvonne Marien, now widowed and living in retirement in Kiama. Her son, Michael, was visiting from Wagga Wagga at the time and both were intrigued with the plate that apparently was made to accompany the medal. She now has the plate from Peter Churchill displayed on a small stand on an occasional table. Mrs Marien worked with a Sydney legal firm years ago and recalled the name of the senior partner, but she could not understand how he might have come by the plate. Unfortunately, the solicitor concerned can no longer be contacted.

Creswell visit

Visiting HMAS Creswell I viewed MIDN Marien’s Albert Medal. It is in a glass-topped wooden display case above a polished aluminium plate engraved with the same wording as that forwarded by Peter Churchill.

The citation inscribed on the reverse of the Albert Medal held in the display case in HMAS Creswell reads:

Awarded by the Queen (Posthumously) to the late Midshipman Kerry Francis Marien, Royal Australian Navy, in recognition of his gallantry in attempting to save life when H.M.A.S. Voyager was sunk on 10th February, 1964.

The display case also has prominent brass plates commemorating the loss of the lives of MIDNs Cunningham and Larkins. Both were in the first entry into the RANC.

Ernest Cunningham was drowned in 1918 when the submarine in which he was serving was rammed. Frank Larkins was lost overboard from HMS J2 in 1919.

Commemorative medals struck by the Australia and New Zealand Medal Society that record the Voyager tragedy complete the display. Two plates were evidently made to explain this Albert Medal. At this distance it is unlikely that the story of the second plate will surface.

The Queen made another ten awards for gallantry to members of Voyager’s company:

The (posthumous) George Cross to CPO J. Rogers. Coxswain “Buck” Rogers, won the DSM in 1944 for courage and skill in MTB 698 in several actions in Dover Straits. His group of medals is on display in the Hall of Valour in the Australian War Memorial.The George Medal to PO D. Moore. “Pony” Moore was also awarded the BEM for a deep dive in Lake Eucumbene in 1961.
The Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct to POM(E) E.J. McDermott, LM(E) H.F. Gilvarry and EA2 A. Page.
The British Empire Medal to PO G.P. Worth, LS R.E. Rich, LSBA J.R. Wilson, LEM B.V. Longbotham and AB E.N. Robson.

Harry Gilvarry and I served in HMAS Perth during her first two deployments to Vietnam.

4 thoughts on “Albert Medal

  1. thankyou for your rendition here, my father Willam Joseph CONDON was mentioned and the memorial is greatly appreciated. Kind Regards Michelle D. Smith

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