Mercantile Marine Medal of Lance Corporal Matthew Nicol
Today’s object is the Mercantile Marine Medal of Lance Corporal Matthew Nicol. This bronze medal is 36 millimetres in diameter and featured the designs of two individuals. On the face we have Sir Bertram Mackennal’s effigy of King George V, and on the reverse a merchant steamship in heavy seas, with a sinking submarine on its portside and a sailing ship in the distance. This image was designed by Harold Stabler. The medal ribbon is a wide green band, a narrow white band and a wide red band. These colours represent a ships port and starboard running lights with the masthead light in between.
Between August 1914 and November 1918 nearly 2.500 merchant vessels and 675 fishing vessels were lost as a direct result of enemy action. These sinking’s resulted in the deaths of 14,287 merchant mariners and 434 fishermen. In order to be eligible for the medal the recipient is had to have made one or more voyages through a danger area. Those who served in the coastal trades, such as lightship crews, fishermen and pilots also qualified. In total 133, 135 Mercantile Marine Medals were awarded to sailors, who though trained only for peace time trades, continued to serve in them and ran the risks of being attacked at sea. Each one of these individuals, by their continued service, was eligible for the British War Medal. If any transferred out of the Merchant Marine then they would be eligible for the 1914, 1914/15 star and the Allied Victory Medal. However if they remained in the Merchant Service then they would not have been eligible. The order of precedent, or wear, for this medal is after the Allied Victory Medal, but before the Naval General Service Medal.
As for Lance Corporal Matthew Nicol we know from his medal roll that he joined the 1st Battalion Royal Highlanders when he came of age, and was given the army number S/19971. This was after he had previously served in the Merchant Marine force. From the 1st Battalion he then transferred to the 8th, then the 11th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, before returning to the Black Watch, this time with the 7th Battalion. Following the armistice Matthew Nicol returned to civilian life before doing his bit for the war effort in the Second World War, for which he was awarded the ’39-’45 Star, Atlantic Star, Pacific Star and Italy Star.