In 1856 Victtorio Emanuelle II authorised a special medal to honour 450 men of the British army and Navy (400 going to the former). Similar to the Military Medal of Valour instituted in 1833, the sky blue ribbon suspended a shining silver disc engraved with the name of the recipient and the corps in which they served surrounded by a palm and laurel wreath with the words “Spedizione D’Oriente” written around the edge and the date 1855-1856 at the bottom. On the back was the royal arms of Sardinia surrounded by laurel and palm with the words “Al Valore Militare” inscribed.
Sardinia entered the Crimean war in 1855, politically Vittorio Emanuelle hoped to strengthen his links with France by helping Napoleon III defeat the Russians. The disciplined lines of dark uniformed infantry and cavalry arrived in the Crimea and made a great impression on the British when they paraded under General Màrmora. The elite Bersiglieri with their feathered helmets, rapid March and high spirited bugle playing were particularly noted, and one British officer observed that because the Sardinians and the British had never quarrelled before, unlike in the case of the French, when they cheered each other it was always wholeheartedly.
The 18,000 Sardinians arrived in time to join the French in the often overlooked Battle of the Chernaya, in which 9,000 participated. Overall 2,050 Sardinians died of wounds and disease during their deployment. After the war the allies sent out medals to each other, in order to strengthen their diplomatic ties. Sardinia’s is not only one of the most attractive, but also highly collectable due to the fact they are personalised. A fine example of how, even the smaller allied nations recognised the courage of the others.