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Africa Star

World War II.
Further relevant historical context can be found at the foot of this entry.
The Africa Star was a British Commonwealth campaign medal presented for service during World War II. The medal was instituted in 1945 and was awarded for a minimum of one day service in an operational area of North Africa between 10 June 1940 and 12 May 1943.
The whole of the area between the Suez Canal and the Strait of Gibraltar was included, together with Malta, Abyssinia, Kenya, the Sudan, both Somaliland’s and Eritrea.
The areas not bordering the Mediterranean only qualified for the Africa Star from 10 June 1940 to 27 November 1941.
Members of the Australian Imperial Force qualified for the Star for service in Syria from 8 June 1941 and 11 July 1941.
The star was immediately awarded if the service period was terminated by death, disability or wounding.
The medal is of a six–pointed star design and was struck in yellow copper zinc alloy, with a height of 44mm and a maximum width of 38mm.
The obverse of this medal has a central design of the Royal Cypher of King George VI, surmounted by a crown. The cypher is surrounded by a circlet containing the inscription; ‘THE AFRICA STAR’.
The reverse is plain, with the recipient's name impressed only on the medals issued to Australian and South African forces. The ribbon is attached to the medal by a ring that passes through the uppermost point of the star.
The ribbon is 32mm wide and consists of a number of vertical stripes. The sand of the desert is represented by pale buff, the Royal Navy (and Merchant Navy), British Army, and Royal Air Force are represented by stripes of dark blue, red, and light blue respectively.
The ribbon for this medal, along with those of the other Second World War campaign stars, is reputed to have been designed by King George VI.
This medal was issued with the following bars:-
1st Army
Awarded for service with the 1st Army between 8 November 1942 and 12 May 1943. A '1' is worn on the ribbon in undress to denote this bar. Some clasps consist of a small plate saying '1st ARMY' across the full width of the ribbon.
8th Army
Awarded for service with the 8th Army between 23 October 1942 and 12 May 1943. An '8' is worn on the ribbon in undress to denote this bar.
This award is controversial because Eighth Army was created in October 1941 and fought in Africa for a year before the award service requirement. The award dates from the start of the El Alamein battle that ultimately led to the German eviction from Africa.
It is said that General Bernard Montgomery refused to allow Eighth Army soldiers who fought under his predecessor, General Auchinleck, from October 1941, and even his first few months of service starting in August 1942 to wear the award.
North Africa 1942-43
Awarded for service with the 18th Army Group Headquarters between 15 February 1942 and 12 February 1943, or navy and merchant navy in shore service, or Royal Air Force service in specified areas from 23 October 1942 to 12 May 1943.
Bars are of yellow copper zinc alloy and are sewn directly to the face of the medal ribbon. The figure '1', '8' and rosette devices are silver and are worn centrally on the ribbon bar. Only one device may be worn.
When the ribbon is worn alone, a silver rosette ribbon emblem is worn to denote the award of a bar.
NB: Regulations issued in 1945 only allow one bar to be worn with the Star, being the first bar the recipient qualified for. 
Further relevant historical context can be found at the foot of this entry.
Dealer Retail Value *
Africa Star
With 1st Army bar
With 8th Army bar
With North Africa 1942-43 bar
* It should be noted that the values quoted above reflect the average price that a medal dealer may expect to sell this medal for - please see the ‘things you should know’ web page for more details about valuing medals.
Further Historical Context
This section contains information on:-
- The 1st Army.
- The 8th Army.
- The 18th Army Group.
The 1st Army - The First Army was a part of the British Army during the Second World War. It was formed to command the British and American land forces which had landed as part of ‘Operation Torch’ in Morocco and Algeria on 8 November 1942. It was commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Kenneth Anderson. First Army headquarters was formally activated on 9 November 1942 when Anderson arrived in Algiers to assume command of the redesigned Eastern Task Force.
It initially consisted of British and American formations only. After the surrender of French forces following the German abrogation of their armistice agreement with Vichy France, French units were also added to its order of battle. It eventually consisted of four corps, the US II Corps, the British V Corps, British IX Corps and French XIX Corps.
After the landings, Anderson's forces rushed east in a bid to capture Tunis and Bizerte before German forces could reach the two cities in large numbers. They failed. Following that lack of success, a period of consolidation was forced upon them. The logistics support for the Army was greatly improved and bases for its accompanying aircraft greatly multiplied. By the time the British Eighth Army approached the Tunisian border from the east, following its long pursuit of Erwin Rommel's forces after El Alamein, 1st Army was again ready to strike.
Supported by elements of XII Tactical Air Command and No. 242 Group RAF, the First Army carried the main weight of the 18th Army Group's offensive to conclude the Tunisia Campaign and finish Axis forces in North Africa off. The victory was won in May 1943 in a surrender that, in numbers captured at least, equalled Stalingrad. Shortly after the surrender, the First Army was disbanded, having served its purpose.
This information was taken from ‘Wikipedia’. The original article and details of the authors can be found here. It is reproduced on this web-site under the ‘creative commons’ licence which can be found here.
The 8th Army - The Eighth Army was one of the best-known formations of the British Army during World War II, fighting in the North African and Italian campaigns.
It was a British formation, always commanded by British officers, however its personnel came from throughout the British Empire and Commonwealth; complemented by units composed of exiles from Nazi-occupied Europe. Subordinate units came from Australia, British India, Canada, Free French Forces, Greece, New Zealand, Poland, Rhodesia, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Significant formations which passed through the Army included: V Corps, X Corps, XIII Corps, XXX Corps, I Canadian Corps, Polish II Corps. The Eighth Army first went into action as an Army as part of ‘Operation Crusader’, the Allied operation to relieve the besieged city of Tobruk, on 17 November 1941, when it crossed the Egyptian frontier into Libya to attack Erwin Rommel's Panzer Army Africa.
On 26 November the Commander-in-Chief Middle East Command, General Sir Claude Auchinleck, replaced Cunningham with Major-General Neil Ritchie, following disagreements between Auchinleck and Cunningham. Despite achieving a number of tactical successes, Rommel was forced to concede Tobruk and was pushed back to El Agheila by the end of 1941. In February 1942 Rommel had regrouped his forces sufficiently to push the over-extended Eighth Army back to the Gazala line, just west of Tobruk. Both sides commenced a period of building their strength to launch new offensives but it was Rommel who took the initiative first, forcing Eighth Army from the Gazala position.
Ritchie proved unable to halt Rommel and was replaced when Auchinleck himself took direct command of the army. The Panzer Army Afrika were eventually stopped by Auchinleck at the First Battle of El Alamein. Auchinleck, wishing to pause and regroup the Eighth Army which had expended a lot of its strength in halting Rommel, came under intense political pressure from Winston Churchill to strike back immediately. However, he proved unable to build on his success at Alamein and was replaced as Commander-in-Chief Middle-East in August 1942 by General Harold Alexander and as Eighth Army commander by Lieutenant-General William Gott. Gott was killed in an air crash on his way to take up his command and so Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery was appointed in his place. Alexander and Montgomery were able to resist the pressure from Churchill, building the army's strength and adding a pursuit formation, X Corps, to the Army's XIII and XXX Corps.
At the beginning of November 1942 the Eighth Army defeated Rommel in the decisive Second Battle of El Alamein, pursuing the defeated Axis army across Libya and reaching the Mareth defensive line on the Tunisian border in February 1943 where it came under the control of 18th Army Group. The Eighth Army outflanked the Mareth defences in March 1943 and after further fighting alongside the British First Army, the other 18th Army Group component which had been campaigning in Tunisia since November 1942, the Axis forces in North Africa surrendered in May 1943. 8th Army so further action in Italy and elements went on to fight in Western Europe after D-Day.
This information was taken from ‘Wikipedia’. The original article and details of the authors can be found here. It is reproduced on this web-site under the ‘creative commons’ licence which can be found here.
The 18th Army Group - The 18th Army Group was commanded by General Sir Harold Alexander and came under General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Commander-in-Chief AFHQ.
Its principal formations were the Eighth Army, under General Bernard Montgomery and First Army under Lieutenant General Kenneth Anderson. Eighth Army had three British Army corps under its command which contained a variety of forces from the British Empire. They were British X Corps, British XIII Corps and British XXX Corps. They had fought across virtually the whole North African shore to the east of Tunisia after winning a victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein in November 1942. First Army had four Corps under its command, but the corps themselves were far more varied in national origin. Two were of British origin; V Corps and IX Corps. The other corps were U.S. II Corps and French XIX Corps. First Army controlled the forces that had landed in Morocco and Algeria in November 1942 in the first of the great Allied amphibious assaults of the war, ‘Operation Torch’.
18th Army Group was faced by two German Armies, Panzer Army Afrika under Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel and 5th Panzer Army under Generaloberst Hans-Jürgen von Arnim. The two German commanders disliked each other, and so often strategy was not coordinated.
Both First Army and Eighth Army had enjoyed very quick initial success in their campaigns after November 1942. Once they reached Tunisia two things halted them. One was overextension of lines of communication and the other was the greater concentration of German troops that the smaller defended area produced. 1st Army in particular received stinging blows from Rommel at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass. Rommel's veteran formations slammed into II Corps and the green American troops did not perform well. It was only after reinforcements of more experienced troops and quantities of artillery had been rushed in that the situation was stabilised.
Following the Kasserine Pass engagement and an Allied consolidation, a fresh attack was launched. First Army lead the main attack, with Eighth Army providing support along the eastern coast of Tunisia. That attack lead eventually in May 1943 to the surrender of Axis forces in Africa. 250,000 men were taken prisoner, a number equal to that at Stalingrad.
Alexander sent the message, 'We are masters of the North African shore'. 18th Army Group was disbanded in Tunisia on 15 May 1943.
This information was taken from ‘Wikipedia’. The original article and details of the authors can be found here. It is reproduced on this web-site under the ‘creative commons’ licence which can be found here.