British Gallantry, Orders, Decorations, and Campaign ribbons

I created this page primarily for Members of the BBC WW2 website. It shows, and very briefly explains, all the gallantry medals and campaign stars that could be awarded to all British participants, service personnel and civilians, in World War 2. It includes those Orders, medals and WW1 campaign stars that could have been worn by the older participants of WW2, such as senior commanders and the Home Guard. However, I have not included all British Orders, but only those I have seen most frequently in photographs of senior officers.

The ribbons are listed in order of wearing; whilst the order of wearing must be observed it should not be confused with precedence conferred by the statutes or importance, particularly in the case of campaign stars where all have equal value.

"It is laid down that British subjects shall wear the ribbons in a certain sequence on their left breasts, the position of priority being in the centre of the chest. The sequence is as follows:

1. The Victoria Cross
2. The George Cross (the George Medal takes precedence immediately after the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal)
3. British Orders
4. British Medals
5. Foreign Orders in date of award
6. Foreign Decorations in order of date of award
7. Foreign Medals in order of date of award."

All Gallantry Decorations and Orders must be 'Gazetted' before they are effective, that is to say they must appear in an edition of the London Gazette. You can check all entries at the  London Gazette Archive (1900-1959)

Bars and Clasps
Generally a Bar (usually denoted by a Rosette on the ribbon) signifies that the holder has won the award twice or more times. Where the recipient has the right to letters after his name, for example the D.F.C., the words "and Bar" are added. An outstanding example in WW2 was  Second Lieutenant Charles H. Upham of the 2nd N.Z.E.F. (Canterbury Regiment) who amazingly twice won the Victoria Cross, in Crete in 1941 and in North Africa in 1942. This is denoted by "V.C. and Bar" after his name.

A clasp usually denotes participation in a small but significant action. Clasps are added to general medals, for example the Dieppe Clasp on the general Canadian Volunteers Medal.

If you run your mouse pointer over a ribbon you will see its number as listed in the authoritative "Ribbons and Medals - Naval, Military, Air Force and Civil" by H. Taprell Dorling (Taffrail).

The Two Supreme Gallantry Awards and British Military Orders

1: Victoria CrossVictoria Cross
The VC was awarded 626 times in WW1 and 181 times in WW2. The best website for the VC is  Victoria Cross Reference

3: George CrossGeorge Cross
The George Cross is awarded "only for acts of the greatest heroism of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger". It is primarily intended for civilians but can be awarded to service personnel for similar acttions where purely military honours are not appropriate. George Cross Database

10: Order of the BathOrder of the Bath
Popularly known as the 'Red Riband', until 1815 the single class, that of Knight or K.B., was only awarded to senior officers for services in action. After the Battle of Waterloo the Order was extended to three classes so as to reward more junior officers. The three classes are 'Knight Grand Cross' (G.C.B.); 'Knight Commander' (K.C.B.); and 'Companion' (C.B.). The civil branch of the Order, with the same three divisions, was established in 1847.

It was later decreed that the C.B. could only be conferred on officers of or above the rank of Commander in the Navy or Major in the Army, who had been mentioned in despatches for services in war. All officers of the Navy, Army, and RAF, awarded the Order are appointed to the Military Division.

11: Order of MeritOrder of Merit
The Order of Merit was instituted in 1902, it is only rarely awarded to officers of all three services, and to civilians, for very distinguished and conspicuous services in war or peacetime.

13: Order of st Michael and St GeorgeOrder of St Michael and St George
Founded by George III in 1818, the Order is generally conferred on British Subjects for services abroad. There are three classes: 'Knights Grand Cross' (G.C.M.G); 'Knights Commander' (K.C.M.G.); and 'Companions' (C.M.G.).

19: Order of the British Empire (military)Order of the British Empire (Military)
Known unofficially as the British Empire Medal, it was awarded for meritorious service of a non-combatant character worthy of recognition by the Crown, although during WW2 it was not infrequently conferred for meritorious service in action.

20: Order of the British Empire (Civilian)Order of the British Empire (Civilian)

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire was founded by George V in 1917 "for services to the Empire at home, in India and in the Dominions and Colonies, other than those rendered by the Navy and Army'. It can be awarded to officers of the three services for outstanding services of a non-combattant character. It has ten Divisions, five for men and five for women:

Men
1. Knights Grand Cross (G.B.E.)
2. Knights Commanders (K.B.E.)
3. Commanders (C.B.E)
4. Officers (O.B.E.)
5. Members (M.B.E.)

Ladies
1. Dames Grand Cross (G.B.E.)
The Distinguished Service Order 2. Dames Commanders (D.B.E.)
3. Commanders (C.B.E)
4. Officers (O.B.E.)
5. Members (M.B.E.)

22: Distinguished Service OrderDistinguished Service Order
Established in 1886 for rewarding individual instances of distinguished or meritorious service in war. Until September 1942, only commissioned officers of the fighting services were eligible for this award, it was then extended to include officers of the Merchant Navy "who perform gallant or meritorious acts before the enemy while serving in close contact with the Royal Navy." It is further laid down [prior to 1943] that "no person shall be eligible for the award whose services have not been marked by special mention of his name in despatches for distinguished services under fire, or under conditions equivalent to service in actual combat with the enemy".

British Military Decorations

26: Distinguished Service CrossDistinguished Service Cross (formerly Conspicuous Service Cross)
Instituted in 1901 by King Edward, as the Conspicuous Service Cross, to recognise "meritorious or distinguished services before the enemy performed by warrant officers, acting warrant officers, or by subordinate officers of His Majesty's Fleet" No person could be considered for the award unless he had been mentioned in despatches. The name was changed in October 1914, when it was extended to all Naval and Marine officers below the rank of Lieutenant-Commander 'for meritorious or distinguished services which may not be sufficient to warrant the appointment of such officers to the Distinguished Service Order. An Order in Council of 19 May 1931 legalised its grant to men of the Merchant Navy.

A not very well know fact about the D.S.C is that it is the only purely Naval decoration (as opposed to 'medal'), and as such was awarded to the town of Dunkirk "for the gallant behaviour of its inhabitants" during WW1.

27: Military CrossMilitary Cross
The Military Cross is an Army decoration. No person is eligible to receive it unless he is a commissioned officer up to the rank of captain, or a warrant officer. The MC can be awarded to warrant officers and commissioned officers of the RAF for gallant service in action on the ground.

28: Distinguished Flying CrossDistinguished Flying Cross
The D.F.C was established on 3 June 1918 for officers and warrant officers of the Air Forces for "an act of valour, courage, or devotion to duty performed whilst flying in active operations against the enemy". The DFC was open to those pilots who had scored eight or more aerial victories. 4,018 were awarded during WW2, plus 214 first and 5 second bars.

27: Air Force CrossAir Force Cross
The A.F.C. is awarded to officers and warrant officers of the Air Force for "an act or acts of valour, courage, or devotion to duty whilst flying, though not in active operations against the enemy". It may also be awarded to individuals, whether Army, Navy, or civilian, "who render distinguished service to aviation whilst flying" The diagonal stripes of crimson and white on the ribbon were originally horizontal.

The Albert Medals

37: Albert Medal in Gold (sea)Albert Medal in Gold (Sea) 39: Albert Medal in Gold (land)Albert Medal in Gold (Land)

38: Albert Medal Second Class (Sea)Albert Medal Second Class (Sea)

38: Albert Medal Second Class (Land)Albert Medal Second Class (Land)
These decorations, said to have been designed by Prince Albert, were originally established by Queen Victoria in 1866 for distinguishing the 'many heroic acts performed by mariners and others who endanger their own lives in saving, or endevouring to save, the lives of others from shipwrecks and other perils of the sea'; in 1887 this was extended to cover 'the many heroic acts performed on land by those who endanger their lives in saving or endevouring to save the lives of others from accidents in mines, or railways, and at fires,or other perils within Her Dominions, other than perils of the sea'. The two medals were known as 'Albert Medal of the First Class' and 'Albert Medal of the Second Class', both inscibed 'For Gallantry in Saving Life at Sea' and the land decorations inscribed 'For Gallantry in Saving Life on Land'. The First Class medals are in enamled gold, blue and red, the Second Class medals are in bronze. This has also resulted in four different ribbons, two in blue and two in red.
The Albert Medals are now only granted posthumously. For living persons they have been replaced by the George Cross and the George Medal

42: Distinguished Conduct MedalDistinguished Conduct Medal
The Distinguished Conduct Medal, a superior award to the Military Medal, instituted in 1845, is for "meritorious service". It is awarded on the recommendation of the Commander-in Chief of a theatre to N.C.O.s and men. In 1854 it replaced the old 'Meritorious Service Medal' for gallantry in action. In January 1943 airmen of non-commissioned rank became eligible for the D.C.M. for distinguished conduct in action on the ground. The recipients have the letters D.C.M. after their names.

43: Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (Navy)Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (Navy)
Before 1943 this Conspicuous Gallantry Medal was awarded only to petty officers and men of the Royal Navy and non-commissioned officers and men of the Royal Marines "who might at any time distinguish themselves by acts of conspicuous gallantry in action with the enemy". From 1943 the award was extended to men of the Merchant Navy.

44: Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (Royal Air Force)Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (RAF)
Airmen of non-commissioned rank, glider pilots, observers, and other Army personnel are eligible for this award "for gallantry in operations against the enemy".

4: George MedalGeorge Medal
The George Medal is awarded in similar circumstances to the prestigious George Cross where the services are not so outstanding as to merit the Cross. It is more freely awarded than the George Cross whilst still maintaining a very high standard. It carries with it the right to use the letters G.M. after the recipient's name and takes precedence immediately after the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal.

48: The Distinguished Service MedalThe Distinguished Service Medal
The Distinguished Service medal was established on 14 October 1914. Initially it was solely for petty officers and men of the Royal Navy and non-commissioned officers and men of the Royal Marines who "may at any time show themselves to the fore in action, and set an example of bravery and resource under fire, but without performing acts of such pre-eminent bravery as would render them eligible for the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal". It was later extended to men of the Merchant Navy, airmen of non-commissioned rank, glider pilots, other Army personnel, and women of the Women's Royal Naval Service for gallantry or distinguished conduct ashore during enemy action.

49: The Military MedalThe Military Medal
Founded in March 1916, the Military Medal is awarded to non-commissioned officers and men of the Army "for individual and associated acts of bravery brought to notice by the recommendation of the Commander-in-Chief in the field". Although primarily intended for N.C.O.s and men, it can be awarded to Warrant Officers (1st and 2nd Class) and to RAF personnel for gallant service on the ground. It may also be awarded to women for devotion to duty under fire. All holders are entitled to the letters "M.M." after their names.

50: Distinguished Flying MedalDistinguished Flying Medal
The Distinguished Flying Medal (D.F.M.), established on 3 June 1918, the same day as the D.F.C., was awarded to non-commissioned officers and men of the RAF in exactly the same circumstances as the Distinguished Flying Cross (D.F.C.) was awarded to officers. A quite unneccessary piece of class diferentiation here. In a further piece of nonsense, the DFC for officers is worn before the Conspicuous Gallantry Medals, the George Medal, and the Military Medal, yet the absolutely equivalent D.F.M. comes after these. Common sense prevailed in 1993 when it was finally decided that the D.F.C. could be awarded to both officers and other ranks and the D.F.M. discontinued.

51: Air Force MedalAir Force Medal
The Air force Medal, for non-commissioned officers and men of the R.A.F. is the exact equivalent of the Air Force Cross for R.A.F. officers. This class distinction was finally abolished in 1993, when non-commissioned officers and men became eligible for the A.F.C.

Sea Gallantry MedalSea Gallantry Medal
The Sea Gallantry Medal, formerly known as 'The Board of Trade Medal for Saving Life at Sea', is a civilian gallantry award to British and foreign personnel serving on British and Commonwealth merchant ships for saving life where there was significant risk to the life of the recipient. 24 were awarded during WW2.

52: The King's Police Medal for Gallantry/for Distinguished ServiceThe King's Police and Fire Service Medal
Awarded for conspicuous gallantry, since 1933 there have been two medals with an identical ribbon: "for gallantry" and "for distinguished service". Both these awards are worn before any military campaign medals.

The Great War (WW1) Medals and Campaign Stars

107: Naval General Service Medal (WW1 and WW2)Naval General Service Medal (WW1 and WW2)
This medal, established in 1915 by George V, was awarded for various minor but highly dangerous operations, it has various clasps from WW1 through and beyond WW2, for example "Minesweeping 1945-51"; "Bomb-Mine Clearance 1945-1953".

108: 1914 Star with Bar1914 Star with Bar
The 1914 Star, sometimes wrongly called 'the Mons Star', was awarded to all members of the British and Indian Expeditionary Forces, including civilian medical practitioners and nurses, who served in France and Belgium between 5 August 1914 and midnight on 22-23 November 1914. The Bar to the 1914 Star (a Rosette on the ribbon as shown here) was awarded for those "who actually served under the fire of the enemy in France and Belgium" between the dates mentioned. The bar, the coveted award of 'the Old Contemptibles', was easily lost due to the way it was attached to the ribbon. For an example of this see John Hannan's medals.

108a: 1914-15 Star 1914-1915 Star
The 1914-15 Star was for all serving personnel, Navy and Army, in any theatre of war in any establishment (including nursing sisters). The ribbon is identical to the 1914 Star. All recipient's of this star, or the 1914 Star, were also awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

110: British War Medal (1914-1920) British War Medal 1914-1920
This medal was approved by King George V for the successful conclusion of WW1 in November 1918. Awarded to both civilians (such as members of nursing services in theatres of war and canteen staffs who served in a ship of war at sea) and armed forces personnel. Qualification for the award varied slightly according to service:

For the Royal Navy, personnel who performed 28 days mobilised service, or lost their lives in active operations before completing that period, between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918.

For the Army, personnel who either entered a theatre of war on duty or who left their place of residence and rendered approved service overseas, other than the waters dividing the different parts of the UK, between 4 August 1914 and 11 November 1918.

For the air services, awarded to members of the Royal Air Force (after 1 April 1918), Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service (both prior to 1 April 1918). The recipient had to be actively engaged in in the air against the enemy whilst on the strength of an operational unit in the UK, employed in flying new aircraft to France or formed part of the complement of an aircraft-carrying ship.

The qualifying date was later extended to 1920 to cover post-war mine clearance; service in North and South Russia, the Eastern Baltic, Siberia, Black Sea, and the Caspian.

111: Mercantile Marine Medal 1914-18 Mercantile Marine Medal 1914-1918
This medal was awarded to those who had served at sea for not less than six months between 4 August 1914 and 11 November 1918. Pilots, fishermen, crews of pilotage and lighthouse authority vessels and of post office cable ships were also included. Those who could not complete six months because they were wounded or lost their lives at sea or were captured by the enemy, were also included.

112a: WW1 Mentioned in DespatchesWW1 Mentioned in Despatches WW1 Mention in Despatches

In January 1920, Army Order 3, authorised the issuing of an emblem of multiple oak leaves in bronze to be issued to those who had been Mentioned in Despatches between August 4, 1914 and August 10, 1920. This could be for gallantry in action or for a wide range of services on and off the battlefield. The emblem was to be worn on the ribbon of the Victory Medal or on the ribbon of the War Medal if no Victory Medal had been issued. Only one emblem could be worn no matter how often the recipient had been mentioned in despatches; if no medals had been issued, as in the case of civilians, then it was worn directly on the lapel of the jacket.

In January 1917, the recipients of a new award were listed in the London Gazette. This was a list of persons who were "brought to notice of the Secretary of State for War for distinguished services in connection with the war". This award was generally for services on the home front, for services not in the face of the enamy and for services whilst prisoners of war. This is what came to be called the 'A List'; the award was equivalent in all respects to a Mention in Despatches and the bronze emblem was identical.

112: WW1 Victory Medal WW1 Victory Medal
The ribbon's colours are those of two mirrored rainbows. A large number of categories, both civilians and forces personnel, qualified for this Victory Medal, although qualification was slightly more stringent than for the British War Medal. The key qualifying requirement was 28 days service within a theatre of military operations, and for the army this had to be overseas. In short, it was not possible to be awarded the Victory Medal unless qualified for the British War Medal. Recipients of the 1914 Star and 1914-1915 Star automatically qualified for both. For the full award criteria set out in the Army Order click here.

113: General Service Medal (Army and RAF) General Service Medal (Army and RAF)
This was awarded for those who took active part in minor campaigns which did not warrant the issue of separate campaign stars. It has various bars giving the name of the particular campaign from WW1 through WW2 and beyond, for example "BOMB & MINE CLEARANCE 1945-49"; PALESTINE 1945-48"; "YANGTSE 1949".

114: Territorial Force War Medal Territorial Force War Medal
Awarded to members of the Territorial Force and Territorial Force Nursing Service who were:
a) Members of the Territorial Force on the 4th August 1914
or
b) Members who had completed four years or more service prior to the 4th August 1914, and rejoined prior to 30th September 1914
and
1) volunteered prior to the 30th September 1914 to serve outside the United Kingdom.
2) actually served outside the United Kingdom between 4th August 1914 and 11th November 1918.
3) were not eligible for the 1914 Star or 1914-1915 Star.

115: India General Service Medal 1936-39 India General Service Medal 1936-39

World War 2 Medals and Campaign Stars

116a: Battle of Britain - silver-gilt rosette on 1939-45 StarBattle of Britain Clasp (Silver-gilt Rosette on 1939-45 Star when the ribbon alone is worn)
The 1939-1945 Star with the clasp of the Battle of Britain was awarded to all aircrews of the Royal Air Forces from throughout the Empire and her allies who flew operationally between the 10th of July and the 31st of October 1940. Just over 2,900 men of 'The Few', many postumously, qualified for the clasp. The minimum requirement was to have flown at least one operational sortie whilst serving with one of the 71 eligible squadrons.

116: 1939-45 Star The 1939-1945 Star
The ribbon colours are Royal Navy blue, Army red, and RAF blue in order of precedence in three equal width strips. Granted for service in operations from 3 September 1939 to 15 August 1945, the date on which active operations against Japan ceased in the Pacific. For the Army the qualifying period was six months' in an operational command which did not include the United Kingdom. For the Royal Navy, six months service at sea in areas of active operations. For the R.A.F. it was awarded to all air crews who had taken part in active operations against the enemy subject to two months in an operational unit, while non-crew personnel had to have served six months in operational areas. For the Merchant Navy the same conditions applied as for the Royal Navy except that six months' service at sea qualified provided that at least one voyage had been made through an area of active operations. Lifeboatmen of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution qualified if they were out on service twenty-five times or more during the war. Women of the W.R.N.S, the A.T.S., and W.A.A.F. were awarded the star on exactly the same basis as male servicemen.

Time spent as a prisoner of war counted, while those who had taken part in specified operations who had won an honour, decoration, or mention in despatches, or had died on service, or were evacuated as the result of wounds or sickness were eligible for this award irrespective of the six months qualifying period. The same applied to personnel evacuated from Norway, Dunkirk, Greece, Crete, etc. Others eligible for the star were those enrolled in maritime Royal Artillery, or serving with Anti-Aircraft defence of merchant shipping, provided that they had completed six months' sea-going duty in certain specified 'dangerous waters'. Special grants of the star were made to those responsible for operational decisions, such as chiefs of staff, commanders-in-chief, and commanders.

117: Atlantic Star The Atlantic Star
Awarded to Royal Navy and Merchant Navy personnel for six months' service afloat between 3 September 1939 and 8 May 1945, in the Atlantic or Home waters, and to personnel engaged with the convoys to north Russia and in the South Atlantic west of longitude 20 East, provided that the 1939-1945 Star had first been awarded for six months service in an operational area.

Notwithstanding the above criteria, anyone who served for twelve months in any operational areas, any six months of which were in the Atlantic or, in the case of air crews, four months operational service, any two months of which were in the area qualifying for the star was awarded both the Atlantic Star and the 1939-1945 Star.

CLASP - If a recipient also qualified for the France and Germany Star or Air Crew Europe Star, then a bar with that title would be worn and a silver rosette on the ribbon.

118: Air Crew Europe Star The Air Crew Europe Star
For operational flying from UK bases over the UK and continental Europe for a period of two months between 3 September 1939 and 4 June 1944 - after that date operational flying over Europe qualified aircrews for the France and Germany Star. Service at sea was not a qualification. The star could only be awarded after the 1939-1945 Star has been granted.
CLASP - A sliver gilt rose emblem worn on the ribbon indicates the award of the Atlantic, France and Germany bar, or Air Crew Europe bar.

119: Africa Star with 8th Army clasp119: Africa Star The Africa Star
Awarded to the Armed Forces and Merchant Navy and to women of the A.T.S and W.A.A.F. for entry into an operational area in North Africa, Abyssinia, Somaliland, Eritrea, and Malta, between 10 June 1940 and 12 may 1943. The Africa Star ribbon and the 1939-43 Star (which later became the 1939-45 Star) were the first WW2 ribbons to be issued. They were announced in early August 1943 and distribution began on 1 November 1943. At the time, no individual could qualify for both stars. See Churchills' announcement to the House of Commons here

CLASPS - A silver numeral '8' or '1' worn centrally on the ribbon indicates service with the Eighth Army (between 23 October 1942 and 12 May 1943), or the First Army (between 8 November 1942 and 12 May 1943). Qualifying personnel are required to have been on the posted strength of, or attached for duty to, a formation or unit which appeared on the Order of Battle of the First or Eighth Army. The first image, above, indicates that the holder has the 8th Army clasp.

A silver rose emblem is worn on the ribbon by personnel of the Royal Navy Inshore Squadron and Merchant Navy vessels which worked inshore between 23 October 1942 and 12 May 1943, and by personnel of the RAF serving between the same dates. Staff of the 18 Army Group Headquarters who served between certain specified dates under a specified General also qualify.

All three clasps are in bronze on the ribbon bearing the medal with the legends: '1st Army', '8th Army', and 'North Africa 1942-1943', in lieu of the silver numerals and rosette. No individual was awarded more than one clasp to any of the campaign stars, the image shown  here at the official Ministry of Defence site showing all three clasps is both misleading and in error. Other campaign stars at this official site are also shown with impossible clasp combinations.

120: Pacific Star The Pacific Star
Awarded for operational service (Armed Forces and Merchant Navy) anywhere in the Pacific war theatre from 8 December 1941. For the Naval Forces and Merchant Navies, service in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, and South China Sea, as well as service on land, qualified. Land service elegibility was restricted to specific dates on which territory was invaded by Allied or enemy forces.

CLASP - Those qualifying for both this star and the Burma Star, only received the first star with a suitably inscribed bar for the second with a rosette attached to the ribbon.

121: Burma Star The Burma Star
Awarded for active service in Burma from 11 December 1941; service in Bengal or Assam from 1 May 1942 to 31 December 1943; from the parts of Assam or Begal east of Brahmaputra, from 1 January 1944.
CLASP - Personnel qualifying for both this star and the Pacific Star, only received the first star with a bar on the ribbon for the second. The possession of a bar is indicated by a silver rose emblem on the ribbon when it is worn alone.

122: Italy Star The Italy Star
Awarded for operational service on land in Sicily, mainland Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, the Aegean and the Dodecanese, Corsica, Sardinia, and Elba, at any time during the campaign from 11 June 1943 (capture of Pantelleria) to 8 May 1945. Service in Sicily after 17 August 1943; in Sardinia, after 19 September 1943; or in Corsica, after 4 October 1943, did not count.

Service with the Royal Navy or Merchant Navy in active operations, and air crew service in operations against the enemy in the Mediterranean, including sorties, also qualified, as did Naval personnel ashore and RAF ground forces in the qualifying area.

123: France and Germany Star The France and Germany Star
For operational service in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, or Germany, between 6 June 1944 and 8 May 1945.

CLASP - Those qualifying for both this and the Atlantic Star, only received the first star with a suitably inscribed bar for the second with a rosette attached to the ribbon.

Defence Medal, reverse. Obverse has an uncrowned effigy of King George VI
124: Defence Medal Defence Medal
The ribbon has a broad central flame-coloured stripe with green edges each bearing a narrow black stripe. These colours symbolize the enemy air-attacks on 'our green and pleasant land', air attacks being the key to this award. Service to qualify counted from 3 September 1939 to 8 May 1945 in Great Britain; and to forces overseas to the end of hostilities in the Pacific, 15 August 1945. Civil Defence Services in military operational areas subject to air attack were included, as were Civil Defence Services in areas in the British Commonwealth or the Colonial Empire subjected to air attack or closely threatened. Service in the Civil Defence Services in West Africa or the West Indies did not qualify.

In general terms, the Defence Medal was granted for three years' service in Great Britain, or six months' service overseas in territories subjected to air attacks or closely threatened. In the case of mine and bomb disposal units of the Forces the time qualification was three months. It could be awarded in addition to Campaign Stars.
Click here for a  full list of the eligible categories.

125a: Mention in Despatches Mention in Despatches WW2
In 1920, the emblem was changed from a branch of oak leaves (WW1 - see above) to a single oak leaf and this was used in WW2 for all arms including the Merchant Navy, for a Mention in Despatches, a King's Commendation for brave conduct, or a King's Commendation for service in the air. The WW2 single oak leaf emblem is worn on the War Medal 1939-1945 ribbon. In the absence of the War Medal, it is worn directly on the coat to the right of any other ribbons.

125b: Commendation for Brave Conduct Commendation for Brave Conduct
Instituted in 1943 and granted to civilians other than Merchant Navy personnel, it is denoted by a spray of laurel leaves in silver. In every respect the Commendation award is equivalent to a Mention in Despatches. The emblem is worn on the Defence Medal, whereas a Mention in Despatches emblem is worn on the 1939-45 War Medal. In both cases, when the appropriate medal was not awarded the emblem is worn directly on the coat.

plastic badge
Initally and temporarily during hostlities, it was a gold coloured plastic badge with a red background consisting of an oval laurel wreath with an upraised sword in it and a crown above. In the centre is a panel with the legend "FOR BRAVE CONDUCT". This badge was later replaced by the laurel spray in silver worn on the Defence Medal's ribbon.

Where the King's Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air is awarded to civilians, the emblem is a silver badge, shield shaped and consisting of a pair of stylised wings with a crown above and with a band at the top bearing the legend "FOR VALUABLE SERVICES". It is worn on the left pocket of a civilian air force uniform.

125: War Medal 1939-45 War Medal 1939-45
Awarded to full-time personnel of the Armed Forces of the British Commonwealth, but excluding the Home Guard, wherever they served during the war. The qualifying period was 28 days' service, operational or non-operational, between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945. The medal was granted in addition to Campaign Stars and the Defence Medal. A few categories of civilians, such as war correspondents and civil air transport crews who had served or flown in operational theatres, qualified for this award.

180: Efficiency Medal Efficiency Medal
Awarded to officers and other ranks of the Territorial Army who were serving on the active list of that force on 2 September 1939, and who had completed twelve years service. As WW2 service counted as double and the war lasted nearly six years, this meant that practically everyone in the Territorial Army on 2 September 1939 became eligible for the medal.

128: India Service Medal (1939-45) India Service Medal (1939-45)
Awarded for three years' non-operational service with the Indian forces between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945. It wasn't awarded to those who qualified for the Defence Medal, but was granted in addition to the War Medal and any Campaign Stars.

130: Canada Volunteer Service Medal Canada Volunteer Service Medal
Authorised in 1943 for all Canadian men and women of all ranks who volunteered for WW2 service. The Dieppe Clasp is worn on this medal.

133: Australia Service Medal Australia Service Medal 1939-45
Awarded to all Australian men and women who served in an operational area in WW2

135: New Zealand War Service Medal (1939-45) New Zealand War Service Medal (1939-45)
Awarded to all Armed Services, including the N.Z. Home Guard, who served in New Zealand during WW2. Those who served overseas were eligible for the same medals and campaign stars as were awarded to the British Forces.

136: Southern Rhodesia Service Medal Southern Rhodesia Service Medal
Awarded to members of the Armed Forces of Southern Rhodesia (today's Zimbabwe) who served in WW2.

140: The Africa Service Medal The Africa Service Medal
Awarded to all South Africans, men and women, who actively served in Africa before 13 May 1943.

141: South Africa Medal For War Services South Africa Medal For War Services
Awarded to any South African who served in almost any capacity, much like the broad qualifications for the British Defence Medal, between 6 September 1939 and 15 February 1946.

To conclude, here is a typical medal set of a British Army WW2 veteran in correct order of wearing (the dark blue of the Royal Navy having precedence over the red of the Army and the light blue of the RAF).

My maternal uncle Louis Granelli's war medals

HM Armed Forces Veteran's Badge HM Armed Forces Veteran's Badge

Qualifying criteria:

This award is for all men and women who have served in H.M. Armed Forces at any time. There is no qualifying length of service.

The first veterans badge was issued to Lord Healy, a veteran of the Battle for Monte Cassino, on 10 May 2004, which initiated the roll out of the badge to the generation who served in the Second World War. Since then eligibility to apply for the badge has been extended in sequential phases and now all veterans are eligible to apply.

There are other groups who Served during World War II who are included for this award, these are members of:

Cyprus Regiment
Home Guard
Polish Forces under UK Command

Veterans who served in Armed Forces of other countries and those who served alongside HM Armed Forces are not eligible. Examples of these are Canadian Navy or Royal Australian Air Force, etc.

The badge is a survivors badge and therefore is not issued posthumously.

The only exception is for War Widows and Widowers who are in receipt of a War Widows/Widowers Pension paid by the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency. This also includes those who have received an award of Survivors Guaranteed Income Payment (SGIP) under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme. This is in recognition of the fact that their death was due to their military service.

Peter Ghiringhelli
B.A.(Hons), M.A.

Further Links
For actually viewing the Medals I recommend  Hendrik Meersschaert's Great Britain and Commonwealth Medals
For all countries' medals see  Hendriks Medal Corner

British Formation Badges 1939-1945

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