The evolution of medals struck to commemorate, and later to reward participants, in battle or campaign was a gradual process. The forerunner to the modern campaign medal was the Armada medal, which was awarded after the abortive Spanish invasion of 1588. Initially official campaign medals were only awarded to high-ranking officers. The first medal awarded to all ranks of the Army was the Waterloo medal, issued in 1816.
During the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars several medals were produced by private individuals for issue to combatants. Alexander Davison and Matthew Boulton were responsible for the medals granted to officers and men who fought the battles of the Nile (1798) and Trafalgar (1805).