Medal of Honour for Acts of Devotion and Life Saving, Merchant Marine, Gold Medal (stamped "GAYRARD" "CAQUÉ F,")
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The Medal of Honour for Acts of Devotion and Life Saving is among the longest conferred awards in French history, and it has undergone many changes in design and grades since its inception.
Life saving medals were awarded under Louis XIV and Louis XVI, however the first official decoration was not established until March 2, 1820. The instructions of September 18, 1956 and April 14, 1970 outline the current form of the award.
It is awarded for acts of courage during a rescue, and may be bestowed to individuals and whole units. Any person who risks his or her life to come to the rescue of one or many persons in danger, may be recognized with the medal.
The Medal of Honour for Acts of Devotion and Life Saving is classified into three types according the division that bestowed it. Type I Medals were awarded by the Ministry of the Navy; Type II Medals were awarded by the Merchant Marine; and Type III Medals were awarded by the Ministry of the Interior.
In Type II (Merchant Marine), the Medal was first instituted in 1833, when it was awarded by the Ministry of Commerce and Public Works.
The Medal is awarded to civilians for life saving acts at sea. It is classified into seven types according the government under which it was awarded.
Type II Medals (Merchant Marine) are classified into three types; Type I (1820-1848) includes the first two grades, Type II (1848-1870) includes four grades Medals, and Type III includes the grades since 1870.
During the July Monarchy, the Medals were non wearable, but may have been rendered wearable with a white ribbon. The official decree permitting the Ministry of Commerce and Public Works to award a life saving medal was published in 1833, but there are examples which bear the name of the ministry with dates as early as 1830.
The Medals have an obverse inscription that translates to “French Republic.” The reverse inscription varies according to the awarding Ministry. The inscription “MINISTERE DU COMMERCE ET DES TRAVAUX PUBLICS” translates to “Ministry of Commerce and Public Works,” and the inscription “MINISTERE DU COMMERCE” translates to “Ministry of Commerce.”
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