20th – 21st Century Portuguese Overseas Medals
The Portuguese Empire had a long and involved history of overseas conflicts. During the twentieth century, these conflicts were divided between India and their African colonial holdings.

Portuguese-Indian War (1961)
Units from the Portuguese Army and Navy were involved in an armed conflict with India, during an invasion of Portuguese Indian enclaves by an Indian force of 45,000 servicemen, 8 combat ships and 42 combat aircraft. The Portuguese deployment in Goa consisted of a combined force of 3,300 Portuguese servicemen and Goan militia. Portugal had no air force resources at Goa, besides two civilian aircraft which managed to evacuate civilians on December the 18,1961. This was coordinated by a Portuguese female paratroop contingent flown in from Spain on the previous day, December 17th. Only the obsolete Portuguese Navy sloop Afonso de Albuquerque and the patrol craft Vega in Diu saw action against the Indian naval resources. The Indian frigates were new ships equipped with modern armament and superior speed. Of the five merchant ships in Goa, at least one, the Ranger, was hit by Indian fire.

NRP Afonso de Albuquerque

The Afonso de Albuquerque was severely damaged during combat, but managed to inflict damage to two of the four Indian frigates. The battle ended after the Afonso de Albuquerque exhausted its ammunition and was beached at Dona Paula where it remained until towed to Mumbai in 1962. Five Portuguese personnel were killed and 13, including the ship's captain, Cunha Aragao, were wounded in the action. On board the Vega in Diu, the captain and one sailor were killed.

After 36 hours of low intensity conflict, the Portuguese Governor, General Manuel António Vassalo e Silva surrendered to the Indian Army. Portugal suffered 31 soldiers killed in action (KIA) and 4,668 prisoners of war (POW’s).

African Colonial Wars (1961-1974)
Unlike many other European African colonial powers, Portugal did not relinquish its holding during the 1950’s and early 1960’s. The Portuguese Colonial or Overseas War was fought mainly in Angola, Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea against various emerging rebel nationalistic independence movements. These bloody guerilla conflicts lasted until 1974 when a bloodless coup (the Carnation Revolution) led by the Portuguese Armed Forces Movement overthrew the government. This led to a cessation of hostilities and the eventual independence of all colonial holdings.

In Angola full independence was granted on November 11, 1975. Portuguese losses were 1,526 KIA and 1,465 non-combat related deaths. Angolan independence has been followed by nearly 27 years of civil war, which ended in 2002.

Cape Verde Islands
Held by Portugal since the 1500’s, as literate Cape Verdeans became aware of the pressures for independence building on the mainland, the islands continued suffering from frequent drought and famine and at other times from epidemic diseases and volcanic eruptions. The Portuguese government did nothing to alleviate their suffering. Thousands of people died of starvation during the first half of the 20th century. Although the nationalist movement appeared less fervent in Cape Verde than in Portugal's other African holdings, many Cape Verdean natives also fought for independence in Guinea-Bissau.

Portugal was intent to hold on to its former colonies, since 1951 called overseas territories. When most former African colonies gained independence in between 1957 and 1964, the Portuguese still held on. Following the violent suppression of a dock strike, known as the Pijiguiti Massacre on August 3, 1959, the people of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau fought one of the longest African liberation wars against the Portuguese.

After the fall (April 1974) of the fascist regime in Portugal, widespread unrest forced the government to negotiate. On July 5, 1975, Cape Verde finally gained independence from Portugal. Although close to Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde eventually abandoned thoughts of uniting with Guinea-Bissau and remains an independent country.

Mozambique achieved full independence during September 1975 with establishment of the People’s Republic of Mozambique. Portugal had fielded an exceedingly large force composed of 35,000 black African troops, 10,000 white African troops and 15,000 native Portuguese troops. They faced a guerilla force, the FRELIMO (the Front for Liberation of Mozambique) estimated at 8,000. Portuguese losses were reported as 1,606 KIA and 724 non-combat deaths. A prolonged civil war also followed the granting of independence until the mid1990’s.

Portuguese Guinea, now Guinea-Bissau, gained independence on September 10, 1974. Since gaining independence, the country has experienced ongoing political and military unrest. Following independence, there was also a wholesale slaughter of those native troops, who had fought alongside the Portuguese forces. Many were buried in unmarked mass graves in the woods of Cumera.

Macau (1887-1999)
Influenced by the Cultural Revolution in China and dissatisfaction with Portuguese control, riots broke out in Macau during the mid-1960’s. Portugal, though, would retain control of Macau through various treaties with China until December 20, 1999 when China assumed full sovereignty over Macau.

East Timor (1515–1975)
While the Dutch controlled the vast majority of Indonesia, Portugal established a presence in East Timor as early as 1515. During the early 20th century, Portugal was experiencing increased resistance in East Timor. A rebellion broke out during 1910-12, which was crushed by superior Portuguese forces from Mozambique and Macau. East Timor declared independence on November 28, 1975. Nine days later it was invaded by Indonesian forces. Indonesia would occupy East Timor until 1999. Following a UN transition period, East Timor would achieve full independence in 2002. Portuguese troops would return as part of a peacekeeping force.

Peacekeeping Operations
Portugal's Armed Forces have conducted peacekeeping and humanitarian missions on their own in Guinea-Bissau (1990, 1998, and 1999) and Angola (1992). They also serve as party of coalition efforts in East Timor, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Medal of Queen Amelia
Models of 1895/1896
The 33 mm, copper Medal of Queen Amelia was created on December 23, 1895 to commemorate two specific overseas campaigns - MOZAMBIQUE (1894-1895) and INDIA 1895. With the increasing involvement of Portugal in the pacification campaigns of the Empire, on June 6, 1896, it decided to extend the medal to new campaigns overseas. Each would have a different reverse, but use the same ribbon.Both were successful campaigns, especially in Mozambique, which resulted in a victory over the Empire of Gaza and on its sovereign Gungunhana. The Mozambique ribbon was black fringed in red and the India ribbon, light blue fringed in red.

The inscription, EXPEDICAO, on the reverse of the Mozambique model is straight and on the INDIA model is curved.

1895/96 Model with MOCAMBIQUE 1894-1895 Reverse3 and INDIA 1895

Model of 1902
On December 11, 1902, a third change was made by introducing the Queen Amelia Medal as a general campaign medal with bars and with a new ribbon retaining the same obverse, but a redesigned reverse. The reverse reads, CAMPANHAS DO ULTRAMAR (Overseas Campaigns) on three straight lines. The medal was discontinued with the establishment of the Republic in 1910.

1902 Model with Clasp SELLES 1902-1903

Official clasps include:
BARUE 1902
CONGO 1914-1916
DEMBOS1907, 1907-1908
GAZA 1896
GUINE-1906, 1908
INDIA 1896
OIO 1902
TIMOR 1895, 1896, 1900
ZAMBEZIA 1897, 1898

Commemorative Campaign Medal of the Portuguese Army 1916
This medal was established on November 30, 1916 by Decree No. 2870 and its regulations promulgated on January 18, 1917.The medal was awarded to all servicemen takng part in a war, campaign, or expedition against the country’s enemies on Portuguese soil or abroad. It replaced the Queen Amelia medal and was backdated for service in Mozambique 1897 to 1898.It was awarded in three classes: (1) gold for senior officers; (2) silver for other officers and (3) bronze for other ranks.

The obverse contains the curved inscription, REPUBLIC PORTUGUESA below the symbol of the Phrygian slave-capped female symbol of Freedom facing left and 1916 above it. The curved reverse inscription reads, CAMPANAS above the straight line inscription DO EXERCITO and PORTUGUESA below it.

Gold 1916 Model

The medal was authorized to be worn with the clasps from the 1902 Queen Amelia medal.

Commemorative Medal of the Armed Forces Campaign 1919

In 1919, the obverse figure of the Phrygian slave-capped female from the 1916 model was modifieid to face right, the inscription REPUBLIC PORTUGUESA was modified to two straight lines benneath the figure and the 1916 above the figure was removed.and replaced by a star to the left. The armillary sphere was also added to the central top of the surround design.

The curved reverse inscription was modified to read on five straight lines: 1916-CAMPANHAS- DO-EXERCITO- PORTUGUESA. The ribbon was also modified.

Silver 1919 Model with the Two-Line Bar MOCAMBIQUE 1914 A 1918

Commemorative Medal of the Armed Forces Campaign 1921

The 1921 33.8 mm model, issued in gilt, silver and bronze, represented a significant re-design of the medal with a completely new obverse and reverse. The obverse featured a Phrygian slave capped female figure, representing the Republic, facing forward framed by the curved inscription, REPUBLICA PORTUGUESA. The reverse features a winged angel blowing a trumpet and holding a laurel branchb to the left and the five straight line inscritpition to the right: CAMPANHAS- DO-EXERCITO- PORTUGUESA.-1916.

1921 Model in Bronze

Originals contail the hallmark of Frederico Costa of Lisbon on the reverse.and were issued in a red pasteboard box.

Silver and Bronze 1921 Models and Bars SUL DE ANGOLA 1914-1915, MOCAMBIQUE 1916-1917, FRANCIA 1917-1918 and Wound Bar

Official Bars thru 1923

1. Pre-WW I
HUILA 1908-1910
MOCAMBIQUE 1897-1898

2. WW-I
CABO VERDE 1917-1918
C.E.L DEFESA MARITIMA (on two lines in silver and bronze)
DEFEZA MARITIMA 1914-1918 (on two lines)
FRANCIA -1917-1918 (on one line)
FRANCIA 1917-1918 (on two lines)
FUNCHAL DEFEZA MARITIMA 1916-1918 (on two lines)
MONGUA 20-8-915 (on two lines)
MOCAMBIQUE 1914 A1918 (on two lines)
MOCAMBIQUE 1914-1918 (on one line)
NO MAR 1916-1917-1918 (on two lines)
PONTA DELGADA DEFESA MARITIMA 1916-1918 (on two lones)
S.GABRIEL 28-IV-1918
SULDEANGOLA 1914-1915 (on one line)
SULDEANGOLA 1914-1915 (on two lines)

3. WW I Period (Unrelated to the War)
CAPE VERDE 1917-1918
CONGO 1914-1915
CONGO 1918
DEMBOS 1918-1919
QUANZASUL 1917-1918

4. Post-WW I

Many unofficial bars also exist.

Commemorative Medal for Special Service Commissions of the Portuguese Armed Forces 1946

Originally created on May 28, 1946, the 38 mm Commemorative Medal for Special Service Commissions of the Portuguese Armed Forces is intended to reward the military personnel, who have completed service missions abroad. It is awarded to soldiers or militarized elements serving in special commissions that took part in campaigns in the Portuguese territories or abroad at war or in imminent danger of war against an external enemy or engaged in sovereignty operations. This medal would be awarded for distinguished service or for wounds during the above operations.

The obverse depicts the national emblem surrounded by a circular listel with the caption CAMPAIGNS AND SPECIAL COMMISSIONS OF THE PORTUGUESE ARMED FORCES in Elzevir type capital letters.The legend is surrounded by two laurel twigs, with fruit and tied in a bow at the base. Surmounting this is a mural crown with five towers.

The reverse disc depicts a National Flag spanning nearly the entire diameter behind the heads of the three figures with the armillary sphere psrtislly shielded. The figures of an Army soldier, on the right, an Air Force soldier, center, and a Navy sailor, on the left are mounted on a pedestal. The caption on the surrounding disk reads, THIS IS THE WORK OF UNITED SOLDIERS in Elzevir type capital letters. To the viewers left of the figures are the campaigns top to bottom: GUINE, CABO VERDE, S. TOME E PRINCIPE, ANGOLA and to the viewer’s right, top to bottom: MOCAMBIQUE, INDIA, MACAU, TIMOR.The reverse is also surmmounted by a mural crown identical to the obverse.

1946 Version Special Service Commission Medal Obverse and Reverse

Commemorative Medal of the Special Service Missions Bars

INDIA (years) (Ordinance No. 16,669, April 19, 1958 and Ordinance No. 17,818, June 14, 1960)
TIMOR, LESTE 1945-1946 (Ordinance of August 12, 1958, MDN)
CABO VERDE (years) (Ordinance No. 20,563, May 7, 1964)
GUINE (years) (Ordinance No. 20,565, of May 7, 1964)
SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE (years) (Ordinance No. 20,566, May 7, 1964)
ANGOLA (years) (Ordinance No. 20,567, May 7, 1964)
MOCAMBIQUE (years) (Ordinance No. 20,568, May 7, 1964)
MACAU (years) (Ordinance No. 20,569, May 7, 1964)
TIMOR (years) (Ordinance No. 20,570 in May 7, 1964)
ULTRMAR (years) (Ordinance No. 21,813, January 20, 1966)

Commemorative Medal of the Campaigns Bars

ANGOLA (years) (Ordinance No. 22,838 August 21, 1967)
NORTE DE ANGOLA (years) Ordinance No. 19,683 February 4, 1963)
GUINE (years) (Ordinance No. 20,564 May 7, 1964)
ULTRAMAR (years) (Ordinance No. 21, 813 January 20, 1966)
MOCAMBIQUE (years) (Ordinance No. 21,941 April 6, 1966)

1946 Versions of the Special Commissions and Campaign Medals

1971 Version

The 1971 43 by 37 mm version reflects a minor design change to the crown with the five more defined five towers, a more pronounced and raised armillary sphere and shield to the national flag behind the heads of the three figures and an extension of the base at the medal’s obverse ad reverse. The following 34 by 11 mm clasps were authorized for the 1971 versions on the basis of a minimum of six months of overseas service:

ANGOLA from July 1, 1960
CABO VERDE from May 15, 1961
GUINE from October 1, 1959
INDIA from September 15, 1947 to April 1951
MACAU from August 1, 1969
MOCAMBIQUE from August 15, 1960
S. TOME E PRINCIPE from July 1, 1961
TIMOR September to October 1945 and from August 1, 1961

2002 Armed Forces Commemorative Campaign and Special Service Commissions Medals
Portugal revised its Armed Forces Commemorative Campaign Medal/ and Commemorative Medal for Special Service Commissions during 2002 for overseas combat and peacekeeping operations. They are nearly identical to the 1971 models with some design updates to the reverse. The reverse previously included references to the Portuguese African and Asian colonial expeditions. The identical planchets have two distinct ribbons: (1) green with red side stripes and (2) white with red side stripes. The difference is that the green ribbon indicates an actual military campaign involving combat while the white ribbon indicates a potentially dangerous assignment without any actual combat.

The obverse features a coat of arms consisting on an armillary sphere, a main element in Portuguese heraldry (it was an astronomical and navigation instrument made of wood or metal rings (armilas) interconnected around a central axis to form parallels, meridians and the ecliptic, allowing to calculate one's position on the earth surface by examining the stars), charged with the traditional Portuguese shield and the inscription: CAMPANHAS E COMISSOES ESPECIALS DAS FORCAS ARMADAS PORTUGUESAS (CAMPAIGNS AND SPECIAL COMMISSIONS OF THE PORTUGUESE ARMED FORCES).

The stylized reverse features the figures of a soldier, airman and sailor in the center. The circular inscription reads, ESTE REINO E OBRA SOLDADOS (THIS KINGDOM AND THE WORK OF SOLDIERS), which is taken from the classic, epic poem, Os Lusiadas, by Luis Vaz de Camoes, first printed in 1572.

The medal is awarded to all servicemen who work outside of Portugal, under supervision of a national or international organization (peacekeeping operations) or as part of a diplomatic mission, such as military cooperation with various African countries, etc.

There are numerous bars, which generally reflect the place and date of the mission. Examples include the following locations with the year(s) of service appended:


S. Tome e Principe refers to Sao Tome e Principe a Portuguese island nation in the Gulf of Guinea.

**The ULTRAMAR (Overseas) bar was awarded when a serviceman didn't stay for 6 months in one places but completed a minimum of six months in two or more territories. The 1946 Regulation says that the bars should be in bronze, but they have been created in white metal.

Enlisted Female with the Special Services Commission Medal (2nd from the left)

2002 Versions of the Armed Force Commemorative Campaign Medal and the Special Services Commission Medal

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