Question of the Week: What's the highest military medal or civilian honor received by one of your ancestors?

+30 votes

Today many of us will be celebrating Armistice Day, Remembrance Day and Veterans Day.

What a great time for us to share stories about our ancestors who were honored for their bravery or achievements.

in The Tree House by Julie Ricketts G2G6 Pilot (341k points)
retagged by Abby Glann
Great grandfather Hugh Fox served with the Royal Artillery 53th Brigade, served in the Indian Mutiny for which he received a Gold Medal.  He was born in 1832 in either Paisley or Glasgow.  Been trying to trace both the medal and any information on him.


Much further back on the maternal side, Sir Hector Maclean K.C.B.E. Royal Engineers.  Again not able to conclusively trace anything.


Any help would be appreciated.
My Great-Uncle Jimmie McCarthy was one of only two men killed on November 9, 1942, when their Liberty Ship, Edgar Allen Poe, was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine off the cost of New Claedonia, Noumea, New Zealand.  His body was never recovered.  He was  posthumously awarded the Mariner's Merit Medal.
My ancestor Thomas Davis (Davis-32839) won the Waterloo Medal. He fought at the Battle of Quatre-Bras, just before Waterloo, and was almost certainly wounded, as the percentage of soldiers lost of wounded was immense. If Quatre-Bras had been lost, so would have been Waterloo. It was for this that the Quatre-Bras veterans were also awarded the Waterloo Medal.

49 Answers

+6 votes
Best answer

James Madison (“Madison”) Cutts Jr.  b. 20 Oct 1837 Washington, D.C., USA  m. Mary Elizabeth Wheeler 10 Jul 1872 St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church, Washington, D.C. by Father McGuire d. 24 Feb 1903 (age 65 yrs)  bur. Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

"[Triple] Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. Rank and Organization: Captain, 11th U.S. Infantry. Place and Date: At Wilderness; Spotsylvania; Petersburg, Va., 1864. Entered Service At: Illinois. Birth: Washington, D.C. Date of Issue: 2 May 1891. Citation: Gallantry in actions. He died on February 24, 1903 and was buried in Section 3 of a National Cemetery.). Burial: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington County Virginia, USA Plot: Section 3 Lot 1371-SS" [Arlington National Cemetery Web Page] "Book: Hero of the Republic: The Biography of Triple Medal of Honor Winner, James Madison Cutts, Jr. by Bing G. Spitler Hero of the Republic is the biography of triple Medal of Honor winner, James Madison Cutts, Jr. A gallant officer on the staff of General Ambrose E. Burnside, Madison was court-martialed for looking at a woman undressing in a hotel, publicly disgraced, and sentenced to be dismissed from the service. President Lincoln, seeing treachery and jealousy in his court-martial, gave him a personal reprimand and sent him back to his unit with the Army of the Potomac. Determined to regain his honor or die trying, Madison distinguished himself at the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Petersburg to such a degree that he was universally acclaimed as a hero of the Republic. For conspicuous gallantry in battle, he was awarded a triple Medal of Honor." [White Mane Publishing Co.; (June 18, 2001), ISBN: 1572492228]  “Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army: Born in Washington, D.C. in 1838 he earned the Medal of Honor during the Civil War while serving as Captain, 11th United States Infantry, at The Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Petersburg, Virginia, in 1864. The Medal was actually issued on May 2, 1891. He died on February 24, 1903 and was buried in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery. His grandson [? – James Madison Cutts III was his son according to Hero of the Republic: Triple Medal of Honor Winner James Madison Cutts, Jr., by Bing G. Spitler; Burd Street Press, 2001.], James Madison Cutts III (April 5, 1891-June 8, 1951)

selected by David Petrie
+12 votes
Robert Harrison Bolton was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in World War II.  Bolton-2281.  I'm still trying to figure out how to add that as a tag to his profile but I can't find it.

To answer the question more, I have a bunch of generals as well from Rev War, War of 1812, and the Civil War (CSA).  Here is part of the bio on Robert Bolton.

(He) enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1937 and became a medical corpsman stationed in Hawaii. Returned to Baltimore in November 1941 but after the attack at Pearl Harbor reenlisted. Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1943 (the highest flight decoration) for an extremely difficult mission over Italy and he attained the rank of captain. Then worked briefly for Capitol Airlines; coordinated troop transportation from Fort Meade.
by Gurney Thompson G2G6 Pilot (152k points)
[[Category: Distinguished Flying Cross (United States)]] should cover it, Gurney.
Thanks.  I could not find that category.  I have added it now.
+13 votes
Medal of Honor, Civil War - Erastus W. Jewett - (
by Bob Jewett G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
+12 votes
Nothing high among the ancestors but we do have a Battle of Ava bar. It took so long to issue them that there were very few, I understand. Ribbon's a bit tatty.
by C. Mackinnon G2G6 Pilot (236k points)
+15 votes

As far as what was the highest honor received by one of your ancestors, my answer would be:

SGM Augustus Barry who served in the American Civil War in the 16th U.S. Infantry for the Union Army. He received the Medal of Honor on February 28, 1870 for his actions in Tennessee and Georgia during the war.

by Dorothy Barry G2G Astronaut (2.3m points)
+11 votes

No military honours other than the 1914 star for my  G Uncle  who was one of the Old Contemptibles but sadly didn't survive that year dying at the end of October.

My husband's father was an Army Chaplain in WW2 and  was in the field in Italy and in the Desert. He was obviously  non combatant. He survived to tell the tale (but didn't ) He  received an MBE for his part. 

But you know when I read the service records of the ordinary young men who enlisted in 1914 and 15, the thing that always strikes  is how small they were (height weight chest size ). I suspect many came from very poor backgrounds and were malnourished as children.They responded to the pleas of Kitchener et al 'Your Country needs You'  but they hadn't the foggiest idea of why they were fighting nor the horrendous conditions and danger they would encounter,

The young ex grammar and public school recruits who became their officers might have better fed and better educated but they also fell for the 'old lie' .

It doesn't matter in my opinion whether they received the VC or just the ordinary campaign medals ,or (as many did)  ended up in an Asylum or even  if they were shot for desertion . 

They all have their stories and should be remembered. 

by Helen Ford G2G6 Pilot (280k points)
Being undernourished was still a phenomenon at WWII apparently whereas German youth had been taking fitness more seriously. (Source not available!)
+10 votes
Great Uncle Gene Daugherty awarded:
Distinguished Service Cross
Silver Star Medal
Purple Heart with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
Army Good Conduct Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Combat Infantryman Badge

Can read about some of his crazy (but brave) accomplishments at his findagrave memorial. I still need to do his WikiTree Profile justice.
by Zack Daugherty G2G1 (1.8k points)
+10 votes

Not a direct ancestor, not the highest honour received, but my great gran had a Russian Order of Saint Anna with swords (like the below), which she believed had been awarded to her grandmother's brother-in-law, Sergei Sergeevich Somov.
However, in 2012, construction workers in Saint Petersburg  unearthed a pre-revolutionary treasure trove, found in a derelict palace during restoration works. To our amazement Sergei's medal - along with his certificate - was part of that trove.
So, We've no idea who great-gran's medal was actually awarded to.
Order of Saint Anna

by J G G2G6 Mach 8 (84.7k points)
My great (x3) grandfather was awarded the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle the First-Called - Russia's highest honour.
However, he received it when he was baptised, so I don't think it really counts.

I've found the actual medal of Sergei Sergeevich Somov - in the top right of the photo.

+10 votes

Robert Charles Penny Philp, a relative of both Laura Bozzay and myself, was awarded an MC (Military Cross) and Bar in WWI:

Military Cross


Yesterday Laura and I were contacted by someone whose great uncle had served in Captain Philp's company during the capture of Meteren (part of the Battles of Lys) on 19-22 July 1918. Sadly, his great uncle was wounded on the 19th and died of hie wounds on the 22nd. His great uncle was posthumously promoted to Lance Corporal and awarded the Military Medal.

Military Medal

by I O G2G6 Pilot (222k points)
edited by I O
+10 votes

No direct ancestors won medals - one grandfather was gassed at Ypres, and had shrapnel wounds, but no awards.

But a first cousin twice removed was awarded the OBE for his work designing and building airships in WW I. [ Charles Ivor Rae Campbell]

And the husband of a second cousin once removed    [ Oswald Chapman] was awarded the C.B.E for his work in developing armoured vehicles in WW I  and WW II.

The husband of another second cousin once removed [ William Vernon Lumsden] was awarded  the Military Cross in 1917. In1918 he was awarded Awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Service Order (DSO).

The husband of another first cousin twice removed  [ Henry Thomas Rendell]   was awarded the DSO in 1918.

The first husband of the wife of a third cousin twice removed [    Robert Forbes Mansergh] was awarded the Military Cross.

The awards are all on the upper middle class branches of the family. On the working class branches, all they got were wounds and death.. those are the ones I think of on Armistice Day.

by Janet Gunn G2G6 Mach 7 (79.6k points)
edited by Janet Gunn
+14 votes
I have two presidential unit citations, plus the usual Vietnam stuff. Went to Vietnam at age 19, returned age 21. Yeah, I had two birthdays there, which kind of sucked. ;)
by Bart Triesch G2G6 Pilot (250k points)
No "kind of" about it.
Thanks Natalie. Yes it was a violent, horrible time. So many young men lost. 58,000 to be exact. But I, like almost all veterans returning from all wars turned out to be ok.
Glad to hear that, Bart. And thank you for your service. It was a horrible war, but in no way was that due to guys like you. (I was a kid during the war, watching it unfold on television every night. I joined the Navy in 1976, and many of my classmates questioned why I would enlist on the heels of that war. I just wanted to serve, and really have no other explanation.)
+10 votes

My 2nd great grandfather’s older brother David MacKay was awarded the Victoria Cross for action in India in 1857.

Victoria Cross Citation, from the London Gazette, 24 December 1858:

For great personal gallantry in capturing an enemy colour after a most obstinate resistance, at the Secundrabagh, Lucknow, on the 16th of November 1857. He was severely wounded afterwards at the capture of the Shah Nujjif.

David MacKay was with the 93rd Highlanders in India and earlier in the Crimea where he was part of the “Thin Red Line”

David’s Wikitree entry is McKay - 1152

by Steve McKay G2G Crew (500 points)
+11 votes

My father received the purple heart in the Vietnam War and great uncle Clayton Slack-928 received too many metals to mention

by Tina Slack G2G6 (7.8k points)
edited by Tina Slack
+8 votes
My Great Grandfather Jourdeuil-19 was awarded the Legion d'honneur and died at Arras on 9 May 1915


My Grandfather Archambault-457 was awarded the DSO and MC during the WW I.
by Phil Jourdeuil G2G6 Mach 1 (10.3k points)
+8 votes
My father Jack Joseph Christensen received the Distinguished Flying Cross for 200 or more hours combat flight in China during WW II in a B-24 Liberator.
by June Gentine G2G Crew (440 points)
+7 votes
My great grandfather Engr. Capt W.R.Apps RN was given the Royal Victorian order by the Prince of Wales in 1909 for Services rendered on his royal visit to India on HMS Renown.

My grandfather , Lieutenent Cuthbert Blake RN commanded a destroyer at the battle of Jutland. He was awarded the DSO (Distinguished Service Order) for his Actions. He also received the Royal Russian Order of St. Anne from the Tsar.
by Chris Gilson-Taylor G2G1 (1k points)
+7 votes
My father, Dr. Wayne Alan Peer received both the "Bronze Star" and the "Vietnamese Metal of Honor".
+7 votes
The Bronze Star, World War II, Thomas Hamilton, 1916-1974.
+7 votes
My ancestor, William Humphrey (humphrey-5960) served as a Major in the Revolutionary War
by Bill Sims G2G6 Mach 7 (75.3k points)
+7 votes
My father's unit, the 320th Bomb Group, USAAF, flew with the 12th Air Force in the Mediterranean theater. They got a unit citation for the Croix de Guerre, with palm, for action in preparation for and in support of Allied offensive operations in central Italy, April through June 1944. My Dad used to have a copy. They also had a couple of Distinguished Unit Citations for operations in northern Italy and ins support of the invasion of southern France.
No individual awards, though, so far as I can remember, for S/SGT Walter D. Ashley.
by Ross Ashley G2G6 (8.1k points)

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