Getting into Ship Shape at The National Archives, Kew.
If you want to know if your relative’s campaign medals have been claimed there’s a lot of information to help here and on the online database of BT 395 which lists the medals awarded to merchant seamen for their service in the Second World War (1939-1945).
Medals were not issued automatically but had to be claimed by the seamen or his family. If you have the Seaman’s Discharge Book this would be a great help as it should list all the ships on which he was employed and the dates as well as his personal information.
There were eight medals awarded to Merchant Seamen for World War II and detailed on the link above. These were
War Medal (1939-1945), Atlantic Star (1939-1945), 1939-1945 Star, Africa Star (1940-1943), Pacific Star (1941-1945), Burma Star (1941-1945), France and Germany Star (1944-1945) and Italy Star (1943-1945)
If the medals haven’t been claimed you have to prove where the seamen was, what ship he was engaged on as well as where the ship was at the time. This involves researching the Register of Seaman’s Service at BT 382 and the Merchant Shipping Movement Cards at BT 389.
The Service cards should show if a medal or ribbon was issued and if you wish to apply for medals then the information above needs to be collated and sent to the Maritime & Coastguard Agency’s Registry of Shipping and Seamen. Personal information and seaman’s photos may also be found in the Seaman’s Pouches at BT 372.
Information for British Merchant Seamen for both First World War and Pre First World War as well as the Second World War can also be found here on The National Archives site. The Maritime Coastguard Agency has a very detailed information leaflet for historical records also available. If you live outside the U.K. you may need to pay the National Archives to locate the records for you by contacting them through the general inquires form and selecting paid research. They will contact you and give you a price.
Regardless of whether or not you are eligible for a medal their is a wealth of information that can be gleaned from these records. E-bay has an amazing amount of pictures, books, badges etc that’s worth exploring too. But for now, we wait & see.