Imperial Awards

Prior to 1975 Australians were recognised through the British Imperial system. Medals awarded to Australians included the Order of the British Empire, military decorations for gallantry, decorations for military service and campaign and long service medals. By 1991 Australian honours and awards were available to recognise all service previously recognised through the British Imperial system. The Queen can still recognise Australians through the British Imperial system within her own gift.

Note: Imperial War Medals, Campaign Medals and Active Service Medals are not included on this list.

Please refer to the Department of Defence website for further information (see - Summary of Australian and Imperial Military Medals on that website ).

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Air Force Cross

Instituted in 1918 by King George V for air force officers for 'an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty performed whilst flying though not in active operations against the enemy'. This was altered in 1932 to the simpler 'for exceptional valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying though not in active operations against the enemy'.

The availability of the decoration was extended to the Army and the Navy during World War II. Made available to all ranks in 1993 when the Air Force Medal was discontinued. The post-nominal is AFC. The ribbon was originally of red and white in equal horizontal stripes but this was altered in 1919 to have the stripes run at 45 degrees downwards from left to right. The Air Force Cross was last awarded to an Australian in 1983. Since 1918 some 444 have been awarded to Australians together with two first Bars. The Cross has been awarded to members of all three armed services and four to civilians.

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Air Force Medal

Instituted in 1918 by King George V but discontinued in 1993. Awarded to non-commissioned officers and men of the Air Force for 'an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty performed while flying though not in active operations against the enemy'. As with the Air Force Cross, the rationale for the award was altered in 1932 to read 'for exceptional valour, courage or devotion to duty though not whilst flying in active operations against the enemy'. The award carries the post-nominal AFM. During World War II the Medal was extended to the Navy and Army. It was discontinued in 1993 when the AFC was extended to all ranks.

The ribbon was originally of fine red and white horizontal stripes but this was altered in 1919 to have stripes in the same width running at 45 degrees, downwards from left to right. The last award of the AFM to an Australian was in 1980. In all, 33 have been won by Australians plus two first Bars. All 33 were won by members of the Royal Australian Air Force.

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Albert Medal

Originated in 1866 and created in two separate classes or levels for gallantry. Each class has awards distinguishing between the saving of life on land from the saving of life at sea. The level was determined on the basis that the Gold level was for acts of extreme or heroic daring with the Bronze level for incidents that did not deserve the Gold level. The ribbon varies according to the level and location of the incident as follows:

  • Gold Sea - Blue with four red stripes
  • Bronze Sea- Blue with two white stripes
  • Gold Land - Red with four white stripes
  • Bronze Land- Red with two white stripes

The Gold levels were discontinued in 1945, replaced by the George Cross. The Albert Medal has been awarded to 27 Australians; 17 Bronze Sea, two Gold Land and eight Bronze Land. The last Australian Albert Medal was awarded in 1969. In 1971 all living holders of the Albert Medal were deemed to be persons awarded the George Cross (regardless of level or location of incident) and the Albert Medals were requested to be returned to the British authorities, to be replaced by the insignia of the George Cross.

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Conspicuous Gallantry Medal

Instituted in 1855 and awarded to petty officers and seamen of the Navy 'who distinguish themselves by acts of pre-eminent bravery in action with the enemy'. Carries an entitlement to use the post-nominal CGM. Later, availability extended to include non-commissioned officers and men of the Air Force and Army serving afloat and persons holding similar ranks in the Merchant Navy. The Medal was discontinued in 1993. The ribbon was changed in 1921 from one of two stripes of dark blue flanking a central white stripe to a white ribbon with narrow blue edges.

There have been 12 Conspicuous Gallantry Medals awarded to Australian service personnel: 11 awards in recognition of service during WWII and one award in recognition for service in Vietnam.

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Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (Flying)

Instituted in 1942 by King George VI as an additional gallantry award. Awarded to non-commissioned officers and men of the Air Force 'for acts of conspicuous gallantry while flying in active operations against the enemy'. It is the Air Force equivalent to the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal with a white ribbon with narrow dark blue edges used mainly for the Army and Navy. The Medal was discontinued in 1993. The ribbon is of light blue with a narrow dark blue stripe at each edge. The award entitles the holder to use the post-nominal CGM. The last award to an Australian was in 1968 bringing to 11 the total awarded, all of whom were members of the RAAF. Only one award of the CGM (for the Navy) has been made to an Australian.

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Distinguished Conduct Medal

Created in 1854 by Queen Victoria and awarded to non-commissioned officers and other ranks of the Army for 'distinguished conduct in action in the field'. From 1942 members of the Navy and the Air Force were eligible for service on the ground. The Medal was discontinued in 1993. Recipients of the award are entitled to use the post-nominal DCM. The ribbon is of crimson with a dark blue central stripe about one-third of the width of the ribbon. The last award to an Australian was made in 1972 arising from the Vietnam War. Since the Boer War, the Medal has been awarded to 2071 members of the Army and three members of the Air Force. Thirty first Bars have been awarded, all to members of the Army. The majority of the Bars came from incidents in the First World War.

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Distinguished Flying Cross

Instituted in 1918 by King George V for Air Force officers for 'an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty performed whilst flying in active operations against the enemy'. This was altered in 1932 to the simpler 'for exceptional valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy'. The availability of the decoration was extended to the Army and the Navy during World War II. Made available to all ranks in 1993 when the Distinguished Flying Medal was discontinued. The post-nominal is DFC. The ribbon was originally of violet and white in equal horizontal stripes but this was altered in 1919 to have the stripes run at 45 degrees downwards from left to right. From 1918 to 1972 the DFC was awarded to 2,391 Australians, along with 144 first Bars and five second Bars. Most of the awards were won in World War II.

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Distinguished Flying Medal

Instituted in 1918 by King George V but discontinued in 1993. Awarded to non-commissioned officers and men of the Air Force for 'an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty performed whilst flying in active operations against the enemy'.

As with the Distinguished Flying Cross, this was altered in 1932 to read 'for exceptional valour, courage or devotion to duty whist flying in active operations against the enemy'. The award carries the post-nominal DFM. During World War II the Medal was extended to the Navy and Army. It was discontinued in 1993 when the DFC was extended to all ranks. The ribbon was originally of fine violet and white horizontal stripes but his was altered in 1919 to have stripes in the same width running at 45 degrees, downwards from left to right. The last award of the DFM to an Australian was in 1971. In all 436 have been won by Australians plus two first Bars. All 436 were won by members of the Royal Australian Air Force.

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Distinguished Service Cross

Instituted in 1914, originally for naval officers below the rank of Lieutenant Commander for 'valuable services in action that did not meet the requirements for the award of the Distinguished Service Order'. Recipients may use the post-nominal initials DSC after their name. In 1930 the Cross was extended to Lieutenant Commanders and Commanders and in 1931 to officers of the Merchant Navy. During World War II it was made available to officers and warrant officers of the Army who were serving afloat. In 1993 it was extended to all ranks when the Distinguished Service Medal was discontinued. The ribbon has three equal stripes of dark blue, white and dark blue. The last award of the DSC was made to an Australian in 1972. To that point, 182 awards had been made with 13 first Bars and three second Bars. Not to be confused with the Distinguished Service Cross established in the Australian honours system in 1991. Though sharing post-nominals the two awards have quite different criteria.

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Distinguished Service Medal

Instituted in 1914 by King George V but was discontinued in 1993. Originally intended for Chief Petty Officers and other ranks in the Navy who 'set an example of bravery and resource under fire without performing acts of such pre-eminent bravery as would render them eligible for the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal'. Extended in World War II to non-commissioned officers and men in the Army and Air Force serving afloat. Recipients are entitled to use the post-nominal DSM after their names. The ribbon is dark blue with two medium width white stripes at the centre. The DSM has been awarded to 179 Australians and two first Bars were awarded. All recipients were based in the Navy.

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Distinguished Service Order

Instituted in 1886 by Queen Victoria, originally for military officers only for 'distinguished services under fire or under conditions equivalent to service in actual combat with the enemy'. In 1994 the award was opened to all ranks for 'command and leadership'. Recipients are entitled to use the post-nominal DSO after their name. The ribbon is of crimson with dark blue edges. From 1901 to 1972, when the last Australian to receive the DSO was announced, 1,018 of this award were made to Australians over the major conflicts, along with 70 first Bars and a single second Bar.

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Edward Medal

Instituted in 1907 by King Edward VII as a medal to recognise the saving of life or the attempt to save life in mines or quarries. In 1909 the range of eligibility was extended to take in incidents in industry. Established with two classes, with the insignia being in silver for the upper level and bronze for the lower. The ribbon is the same for each of the four variations, being dark blue with a narrow yellow stripe at each edge. Eight Australians have been awarded the Edward Medal; three silver and four bronze for incidents in mines and one bronze for industry. The last award of the Edward Medal was in 1924. Like the Albert Medal, living holders of the Edward Medal were asked in 1971 to return the insignia in exchange for the insignia of the George Cross which they had been deemed to have won in lieu.

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General Service Medal 1918–1962

The General Service Medal 1918-1962 was instituted in 1918 by King George V. It is the counterpart of the Naval General Service Medal 1915 and awarded for service in the Army or Air Force during minor conflicts where no other specific campaign medal is awarded.

The clasps are: S. Persia, Kurdistan, Iraq, N.W. Persia, Southern Desert, Iraq, Northern Kurdistan, Palestine, Bomb and Mine Clearance 1945-49, Palestine 1945-48, Bomb and Mine Clearance 1945-56, Malaya, S.E. Asia 1945-46, Cyprus, Near East, Arabian Peninsula, and Brunei.

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General Service Medal 1962

This medal was instituted in 1964 to replace both the Naval General Service Medal 1915 - 62 and the General Service Medal 1918 - 62. All three services would receive the one general service medal. It was awarded to recognise service in minor operations for which no separate medal was intended.

Clasps for the award include: Borneo, Radfan, South Arabia, Malay Peninsula, South Vietnam, Northern Ireland Dhofar, Lebanon, Mine Clearance, Gulf, Kuwait, N. Iraq & S. Turkey, and Air Operations Iraq.

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George Cross

Created in 1940 by King George VI to recognise bravery of the highest order by civilians and members of the armed forces, regardless of rank, in peacetime. The George Cross ranks second only to the Victoria Cross in the Order of Wearing of medals. Holders of the Medal are entitled to use the post-nominal GC. The ribbon is plain dark blue and the ribbon bar is distinguished by the placement of a small replica of the cross at the centre. Between 1940 and 1978, when the last George Cross awarded to an Australian was presented, 14 Crosses were awarded, five of this total going to civilians. This total does not include substitutions of the George Cross for the Albert Medal and the Edward Medal carried out in 1971. An Australian civilian who received the George Cross was Mr Michael Pratt GC. He was a constable in the Victoria Police Force who was not on duty and was not armed, and who was wounded attempting to arrest armed robbers. The Queen approved his award for outstanding bravery, devotion to duty and complete disregard for his safety, in attempting to arrest the robbers. Mr Pratt’s citation was published in a Supplement to The London Gazette of Monday, 3rd July 1978 - PDF 47KB

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George Medal

Instituted in 1940 by King George VI as a second level to the George Cross. It is awarded for acts of bravery in a non-war setting by civilians and members of the armed services involving circumstances of extreme danger where military honours are not otherwise available. Holders of the Medal are entitled to use the post-nominal GM. The ribbon is of crimson with five equally spaced narrow blue vertical stripes.

The last award to an Australia was in 1982 representing the 118th awarded to Australians since 1940. Forty-nine of the 118 awarded were presented to civilians. Uniquely, three former members of the Royal Australian Navy won the George Medal a second time (known as a Bar to the George Medal) as did one civilian.

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Imperial Service Order/Imperial Service Medal

Instituted in 1902 by King Edward VII to recognise distinguished public service by senior officers and at junior levels of the British and of the civil services of Commonwealth countries. The ISO is awarded to senior officers who had served at least 25 years and the ISM to junior officers for 25 years service. The service requirement is reduced to 16 years for service in adverse conditions. Recipients of the ISO are entitled to use the post-nominal ISO. The ISO was abolished in 1993. People who render service that would have seen the award of the ISO will now be accommodated within the Order of the British Empire at OBE level. The ISM will continue for service by junior officers.

The ribbon is of three equal stripes of red, blue in the centre and red. Many in Australia received awards of this type. The ISO was awarded to 425 Australians and the ISM to 7356. The last award to an Australian was in 1989.

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Kaiser-I-Hind Medal

Instituted in 1900 by Queen Victoria, the medal continued until the independence of India in 1947. Literally translated the Medal's title is the 'Emperor of India's Medal' and was awarded for meritorious public service in India. The medal has no post-nominal entitlement. The ribbon is of a blue green colour. Three Australians were recipients of the Kaiser-I-Hind Medal, the last in 1939.

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King's Medal for Courage in the Cause of Freedom

Instituted in August 1945 this medal was destined for award mainly to allied civilians or other foreigners to recognise their courage and risking torture or death in helping British service personnel to escape from the enemy or for other dangerous activities in the interest of the British or allied cause and which required exceptional courage.

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King's Police and Fire Service Medal

One of the older awards, instituted in 1909 by King Edward VII but discontinued in 1954 when separate medals for police and for fire service were substituted. Originally titled the King's Police Medal even though it could be awarded for fire service. Given to police or fire personnel who perform 'acts of exceptional courage and skill or who had exhibited conspicuous devotion to duty'. In 1933 steps were taken to better identify whether the medal had been given for gallantry or performance of duties with appropriate inscriptions added to the reverse of the medallion and a thin red line added to the centre of the medal ribbon when awarded for gallantry. Recipients of the medal are entitled to use the post-nominal KPFSM, the name adopted from 1940.

The ribbon was originally dark blue with silver edges, but was altered in 1916 to add a central silver stripe. As noted, a thin red central stripe distinguished the award for gallantry. Between 1909 and 1954 when the last award was made to an Australian, 209 Australians were recipients, including 70 for gallantry. Replaced by the Queen’s Police Medal and the Queen's Fire Service Medal. Later still replaced in Australian honours with the Australian Police Medal and the Australian Fire Service Medal

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Knights Bachelor

By far, this is the most frequently awarded Knighthood made available to the community with 936 Australians distinguished in this way since 1901. The origins of appointment as a Knight Bachelor reach back into medieval history. It is not within an Order of Honour as are other knighthoods. The distinction dies with the holder.

Knight Bachelors are appointed to give recognition in any sphere of action or achievement. Women may not be appointed as Knights. Persons appointed as Knight Bachelor are entitled to be addressed as ‘Sir’ but there is no post-nominal entitlement. The wife of a Knight may use the title ‘Lady’. The ribbon is of scarlet with yellow borders and the badge features a design featuring a central sword and a pair of spurs. This insignia is relatively recent, dating from 1926. The last appointment of an Australian as a Knight Bachelor was in 1989.

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Mention in Despatches

The Mention in Despatches (MID) is the oldest British award and was a device used by commanders at sea or in the field to bring the services of deserving officers to the attention of higher authority.

The MID was instituted in Australia in 1920 and took the form of a small oakleaf device.  Many Australian Defence Force personnel received an MID during World War I and II and their names appeared in the London Gazette.  Only one device was awarded irrespective of the number of times an individual was mentioned.
 
Following World War I the device was fixed at a low angle to the centre of the ribbon of the Victory Medal which was awarded to all personnel who served in any operations or at sea.  For those awarded during World War II, the device is placed at the centre and at 60 degrees on the ribbon of the 1939-1945 War Medal. 

The MID continued in Australia until the end of the Vietnam War and was phased out with the introduction of the Australian system of honours and awards in 1975.  Over 15,000 Australian Defence Force personnel received the MID and records can be viewed at the Australian War Memorial website.

The MID is the only form of recognition, apart from the Victoria Cross (VC), that could be made posthumously for gallantry or distinguished service in action or on operations.  It is not included in the Order of Wearing Australian Honours and Awards published by Government House.  

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Meritorious Service Medal (1902-1975)

Available to Warrant Officers, non-commissioned officers and men who rendered valuable and meritorious service. Originally established in 1845 for award to warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the British Army to recognise long and meritorious service. The medal was extended over the years to the various members of the then British Empire, each entity using the exact same medal, modified in most cases by the addition of the name of the Dominion, colony or territory on the reverse and with different ribbons for each area. Prior to 1902 separate ribbons were used by the military forces of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania. The colonial medals were replace in 1903 by a single medal with the words 'Commonwealth of Australia' on the reverse and suspended from a ribbon of crimson with two central dark green stripes. This medal was awarded up until 1975, when all Imperial long service awards were replaced by the National Medal. The medal was awarded for 22 years of efficient, faithful, valuable and meritorious service in the Permanent Military Forces. To be eligible, a recipient must have previously been awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. A separate Royal Air Force Meritorious Service Medal was reinstituted in 1977 (having previously been awarded between 1918 and 1928 under different criteria) and some RAAF members did earn entitlement to this medal, the RAAF Meritorious Service Medal being exactly the same as the Australian Army Meritorious Service Medal and suspended from the Royal Air Force ribbon of half blue and half red with white stripes on the edges and a white stripe in the centre. Neither the Army nor the RAAF Meritorious Service Medal entitles a recipient to use post-nominal letters.

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Meritorious Service Medal (1916-1928) (for non-operational bravery or meritorious service directly connected with the war effort)

In 1916 the award criteria for the MSM were amended by the UK authorities to allow immediate award of the medal to recognise non-operational gallantry or meritorious service connected with the war effort. In essence this was a separate Meritorious Service Medal as persons serving in the Permanent Forces still continued to accrue entitlement to the medal for meritorious long service. Persons who awarded an immediate Meritorious Service Medal for gallantry or meritorious service connected with the war were entitled to use the post-nominal letter 'MSM' after their name. Australians were awarded 1222 Meritorious Service Medals for gallantry or meritorious service in connection with the First World War. This includes four to awards to members of the Navy and 34 awards to members of the Australian Flying Corps. A total of 32 awards made were to recognise gallantry, including the award (unique for Australia) of a bar for gallantry to a medal awarded for a previous act of gallantry. This double award went to a member of the Australian Flying Corps. In 1928 the UK authorities ceased the practice of awarding the Meritorious Service Medal for non-operational gallantry or meritorious war service and reverted the medal to an award to recognise meritorious long service. When awarded to Australians for non-operational gallantry or meritorious service connected with the war effort, the medal used was the UK version, without the words 'Commonwealth of Australia' on the reverse and the UK ribbon of crimson with white vertical stripes at each edge and in the centre. It is technically possible for a member of the Permanent Military Forces with service in the First World War who continued permanent military service after the war as a non-commissioned or warrant officer and who had been awarded the MSM for non-operational gallantry or meritorious service in connection with the war effort to hold both MSM. In this case, the recipient would be entitled to use the post-nominal letters 'MSM' in connection with the UK war time award but not the post-war meritorious long service Australian award.

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Military Cross

Instituted in December 1914 by King George V and originally intended for lower ranking Army officers (Captain or less) and Warrant Officers for 'distinguished and meritorious services'. The award carries the post-nominal MC. In 1916 the award was extended to similar ranks of the Navy and Air Force but only for World War 1. Subsequently in 1931 the Cross was extended to lower ranked Air Force officers for actions on the ground. In 1920 the reason for the award was changed to be for 'distinguished services in action'. In 1953 the ceiling rank for availability was extended to Majors and to all ranks in 1993 with the discontinuation of the other ranks counter part the Military Medal. The ribbon is of three equal stripes of white, rich purple and white. Australians figure prominently among recipients, particularly from World War 1, with 2,403 awards, 170 first Bars and four second Bars. In total between 1901 and 1972, Australians were awarded 2,930 Military Crosses, with 188 first Bars and four second Bars.

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Military Medal

Created in 1916 by King George V for other ranks in the Army to correspond with the Military Cross instituted two years earlier, but eventually back dated in availability to 1914. Awarded to other ranks for 'acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire'.

In 1916, the Medal was extended to other ranks of the Navy serving in France, but only for actions in World War 1. In 1931, the availability of the Medal was extended to other ranks of the Air Force for gallant conduct on the ground. Recipients of the medal are entitled to use the post-nominal MM. Discontinued in 1993 when the Military Cross was made available to all ranks. The ribbon is principally of dark blue with three white and two crimson vertical stripes in the cental third. Australians have won a very large number of Medals in the campaigns to 1972 when the last award to an Australian was made. 11,038 Military Medals were awarded to Army personnel and 14 to Air Force members. 478 first Bars were awarded, 15 second Bars and a unique third Bar to a stretcher bearer with the 55th Infantry Battalion AIF in World War 1, Private E A Corey, meaning he had won the Medal four times.

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Naval General Service Medal 1915-1962

The Naval General Service Medal was instituted by King George V in 1915, to recognise service in minor naval operations for which no separate medal was intended.

Clasps to this award are as follows: Persian Gulf 1909 – 1914, Iraq 1919 – 20, NW Persia 1919 – 20, Palestine 1936 – 39, SE Asia 1945 - 46, Minesweeping 1945 – 47 , Palestine 1945 – 48, Malaya (George VI) , Malaya (Elizabeth II), Yangtze 1949, Bomb and Mine Clearance 1945 – 53, Bomb and Mine Clearance 1945 – 46, Bomb and Mine Clearance Mediterranean, Cyprus, and Near East

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Order of the Bath

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath was established in 1399 and revived in 1725. In 1815 the Order was extended from two to three classes. These are:

  • Knight/Dame Grand Cross (GCB),
  • Knights Commander (KCB), and
  • Companions (CB).

The Order has a Civilian and a Military Division and appointment of females is possible. It is mainly awarded to senior military officers for services in action and to people who give distinguished service at senior levels in political and government service. The motto is 'Tria Juncto in Uno' (Three joined into One). The ribbon is of crimson for all three classes. Since 1901 some 30 Australians have been appointed to the Civil Division and 169 to the Military Division

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Order of the British Empire

This Order was formed in 1917 by King George V to reward service to the British Empire in the United Kingdom and abroad. Originally having only a Civil Division, a Military Division was added in 1918 to acknowledge distinguished military service of a non-combative nature.

The Order has five classes of appointment in each division and a medal of the Order. In descending order, the classes are:

  • Knight/Dame Grand Cross (GBE)
  • Knight/Dame Commander (KBE, DBE)
  • Commander (CBE)
  • Officer (OBE)
  • Member (MBE)
  • Medal (BEM)(* see added note below).

Originally the ribbon for the Civil Division was purple with Military Division awards identified with a central scarlet stripe. However in 1937, this was altered to a rose pink ribbon with light grey edges with an additional central light grey stripe for the Military Division awards. Awards in the Order (including the Medal) could be used as a gallantry award but it was not until 1957 that awards for gallantry were more easily identified with the introduction of a silver oak leaf device to be worn on the ribbon and the words ‘For Gallantry’ were added to the citation. Use of the Order to acknowledge gallantry ceased in 1974 with the establishment of the Queen's Gallantry Medal. Australians figure prominently at all levels in the awards made with some 16,900 recipients.

*Note : The Medal was instituted in 1917 but altered and increased to two medals in 1922, namely the Medal of the Order for Meritorious Service (BEM) and the Medal of the Order for Gallantry (EGM). The latter was abolished in 1940 with the establishment of the George Cross and George Medal awards. The remaining Medal for Meritorious Service was renamed the British Empire Medal, with two divisions, military and civil, in March 1941. It had, however, been popularly known as the British Empire Medal since its inception.

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Order of the Companion of Honour

Motto: In action faithful and in honour clear. Instituted in 1917 by King George V to reward nationally important service in Great Britain and its Dominions. It has only a single class and is limited to 65 members. Holders of the Order are entitled to use the post-nominal CH. The ribbon of the Order is a bright red with the edges defined with gold thread. The limited membership availability and its access by the Dominions meant that a quota system per country applies. In Australia, most appointees were Prime Ministers and Deputy Prime Ministers excepting those from the Labor Party. The last Australian appointment was in 1982 to the Hon D Anthony, then Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. Further appointments are unlikely because, in accord with the wishes of the Sovereign, Australia has ceased making recommendations for Imperial awards. Since 1928, 14 appointments were made including one to the Rev P Clayton, the founder of Toc H and another to Essington Lewis, a prominent industrialist.

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Order of the Garter

The Most Noble Order of the Garter was established in 1348 by King Edward III and is one of the most ancient in Europe. It is the premier Order of Great Britain. The motto is 'Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense' (‘Shame on him who thinks this evil’). The appointments are in the gift of the Sovereign and made as a gesture of the Sovereign's personal esteem. The Order comprises the Sovereign and 26 Knights/Dames. Further Knights/Dames may be admitted by statute. Recipients of the Order of the Garter are entitled to use the post-nominal KG/LG. Three Australians have been admitted to the Order, Sir Paul Hasluck, Lord Richard Casey and Sir Ninian Stephen.

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Order of Merit

Established in 1902 by King Edward VII to acknowledge distinguished service in cultural activities—art, music, drama, music and literature. May also be awarded to senior officers of the armed services for exceptionally distinguished service in wartime. The Order consists of the Sovereign and up to 24 members in a single class and includes a Civil and a Military division. The ribbon is 51mm wide of two equal stripes of blue and crimson. A number of Australians have been members of the Order of Merit: Samuel Alexander, Gilbert Murray, Sir Macfarlane Burnett, Sir Owen Dixon, Lord Florey, Sir Sidney Nolan, Dame Joan Sutherland and Lord May of Oxford with John Howard being the most recent recipient on 1 January 2012.

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Order of St Michael and St George

The Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George was founded in 1818. It was established to give recognition to British subjects who have served abroad or within the British Commonwealth. It was also used during WW I to acknowledge military exploits. There are three classes of award:

  • Knight/Dame Grand Cross (GCMG, DCMG),
  • Knight/Dame Commanders (KCMG), and
  • Commanders (CMG).

The motto is 'Auspicium Melioris Aevi' (‘Token of a Better Age’). The ribbon is saxon blue with a central scarlet stripe. Australians have been recognised in all three classes with a total of 990 awards.

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Order of the Thistle

The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle is the premier Order of Scotland. It is thought to have first been instituted in 787 by Achaius, King of Scots following a battle victory against the Saxon King Athelstan. It was later revived in 1687 and was re-established in 1703 by Queen Anne. Membership is limited to the Sovereign and sixteen Knights/Ladies (women were admitted in 1987) and is awarded to persons of Scottish descent who have won the personal esteem of the Sovereign. Appointments are in the gift of the reigning monarch. The motto is 'Nemo Me Impune Lacessit' (‘No one provokes me with impunity’). The ribbon is a plain dark green. Holders of the Order are entitled to use the post-nominal KT/LT. Only one Australian has ever been appointed—the Right Hon Sir Robert Gordon Menzies KT AK CH QC.

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Polar Medal

Instituted in 1904 by King Edward VII to recognize distinguished service in the Arctic and Antarctic. The ribbon is of plain white with a watermarked or moire pattern. There is no post-nominal entitlement. The last award of the Polar Medal to an Australian was in 1982. Between 1902 and 1982, 289 Polar Medals were issued to Australians. The Polar Medal has been replaced in Australian honours by the Australian Antarctic Medal.

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Queen's (King's) Commendation for Brave Conduct

Instituted in 1939 by King George VI to acknowledge brave acts by civilians and members of the military in non-warlike circumstances during a time of war or in peacetime where the action would not otherwise be recognised by an existing award. In 1954 it became the Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct. There is no ribbon, but the award was evidenced by a certificate and in the first stages, by a gold and red coloured badge bearing the design of a sword in a wreath, surmounted by a crown. The badge was replaced at a later stage by another badge - in the form a silver oak leaf for civilians and a bronze oak leaf for the military - the leaves being attached to the ribbon of the War Medal or Defence Medal if held by the recipient. The Commendation has been awarded to 405 Australians including 286 civilians. The award was discontinued for Australians in 1982 and is effectively replaced by the Commendation for Brave Conduct in the Australian Bravery Decorations.

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Queen's (King's) Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air

Instituted in 1939 by King George VI and continued to 1994 when replaced by the Queen's Commendation for Bravery in the Air. Awarded for 'gallantry or for meritorious service while in the air on the part of civilians or members of the military forces, whether in war or peace where the action did not merit the award of the Air Force Cross or Air Force Medal'. There is no entitlement to a post-nominal and there is no specific ribbon for the award. The award is worn on the uniform in the form of a silver badge below any medal ribbons held. The last award to an Australian was in 1983. Between 1939 and 1983, 367 Commendations have been awarded to Australians, eight of these to civilian aircrew.

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Queen's Fire Service Medal

Instituted in 1954 by Queen Elizabeth II, for issue to members of recognised fire services in Britain and Commonwealth countries. Awarded for 'acts of exceptional courage and skill at the cost of their lives' or for the 'exhibition of conspicuous devotion to duty'. Recipients are entitled to use the post-nominal QFSM after their name. Awards for gallantry essentially on a posthumous basis. The ribbon is of red with three yellow stripes. The Queen's Fire Service Medal for Gallantry has a single thin blue stripe running through the centre of each yellow stripe. This Medal replaced the King's Police and Fire Service Medal and was in turn replaced in Australian honours with the Australian Fire Service Medal. The last award of the QFSM to an Australian was in 1989. Between 1954 and 1989, 98 QFSMs were awarded.

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Queen's Gallantry Medal

This Medal was instituted in 1974 to recognize those who perform exemplary acts of bravery whether as a civilian or as a member of the military where military awards for gallantry are not available. Recipients of the Medal are entitled to use the post-nominal QGM. The ribbon is of three equal stripes of dark blue, pearl grey and dark blue with a narrow rose pink stripe in the centre. Forty Australians have been awarded the QGM which have been superseded by Australian Bravery Decorations. The last award to an Australian was in 1982.

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Queen's Police Medal

Instituted in 1954 by Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen's Police Medal is intended for issue to members of recognised police forces in Britain and Commonwealth countries.

Awarded for 'acts of exceptional courage and skill at the cost of their lives' or for the 'exhibition of conspicuous devotion to duty'. Recipients are entitled to use the post-nominal QPM after their name. Awards for gallantry essentially on a posthumous basis. The ribbon is of dark blue with three silver stripes. The Queen's Police Medal for Gallantry has a single thin red stripe running through the centre of each silver stripe. This Medal replaced the King's Police and Fire Service Medal and was in turn replaced in Australian honours by the Australian Police Medal. The last award of the QPM to an Australian was in 1989. Between 1954 and 1989, 709 QPMs were awarded, including six for gallantry.

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Royal Red Cross

Instituted in 1883 by Queen Victoria, the Royal Red Cross was the first example of an Order exclusively for women. Men became eligible only in 1976. Awarded to members of the officially recognised nursing services without restriction to rank who have 'shown exceptional devotion or competency in performance of nursing duties with the Army in the field, or in Naval and Military or Air Force hospitals or in an Auxiliary War hospital over a continuous or long period or who has performed some exceptional act of bravery or devotion to the post of duty'. Awarded in two levels—First Class with post-nominal RRC and for a lesser degree of service in a Second Class (known as the Associate) with post-nominal ARRC. The ribbon for both classes is of dark blue edged with crimson. From 1901 until the last award of this decoration to an Australian was made in 1982, there were 87 awards of the RRC plus two bars to the RRC, and 258 awards of the ARRC in all major conflicts in which Australia has been involved.

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Royal Victorian Order

This Order was founded in 1896 by Queen Victoria to give recognition to those who have rendered outstanding service to the Sovereign or to the Royal Family. The awards are in the personal gift of the Sovereign. The Order has one division with five classes of awards including a Medal of the Order. The ribbon is blue with thin stripes of white and red on each edge. The five classes are:

  • Knight/Dame Cross (GCVO),
  • Knights/Dames Commander (KCVO & DCVO),
  • Commanders (CVO),
  • Lieutenants (LVO), and
  • Members (MVO)

There is also the Royal Victorian Medal with the post-nominal RVM.

Australians have received awards at all levels. Although most traditional awards are no longer available to Australians, the Royal Victorian Order continues to be available and may be made following a Royal Visit to Australia or in acknowledgment of exceptional service to Vice Regal representatives.

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Sea Gallantry Medal

Originally instituted in 1866, then discontinued with the introduction of the Albert Medal. Reinstated in 1876 to acknowledge acts of gallantry not quite to the standards of the Albert Medal. Administered by the British Board of Trade. Awarded for saving life from British or foreign shipwrecks or for the rescue of life from British vessels. Last awarded in 1973. The ribbon is of light red with narrow white stripes at each edge. In 1912 the Medal was awarded to five Australians arising from an incident at Port Adelaide in 1910 who fought a fire aboard a ship carrying explosives.

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Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross is the highest award for acts of bravery in wartime. The award was created by Queen Victoria in 1856 and made retrospective to 1854 to cover the period of the Crimean War. The Victoria Cross bears the inscription “For Valour” and is cast from the metal of guns captured during the Crimean War 1854-56. After melting the bronze metal from the cannons, the rough cast Crosses are then individually hand finished. The bar, decorated with laurel leaves and bearing a ‘V’ from which the cross hangs, is cast separately. Recipients of the Victoria Cross displayed the most conspicuous courage, daring, valour, self-sacrifice or displays of extreme devotion to duty. Australians have been awarded the British Victoria Cross in the following wars:

  • Boer War, 1899-1902: 6 awarded
  • First World War, 1914-18: 64 awarded in total, (including 9 at Gallipoli)
  • North Russia , 1919: 2 awarded
  • Second World War, 1939-45: 20 awarded
  • Vietnam War, 1962-72: 4 awarded
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Orders in the personal gift of the Sovereign

The following Imperial awards are awards within Her Majesty’s personal gifts. Her Majesty, The Queen of Australia, may bestow some of these awards to Australians.

  • Knight/Lady of the Garter (KG/LG);
  • Knight/Lady of the Thistle (KT/LT);
  • Order of Merit (OM);
  • Knight/Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO);
  • Knight/Dame Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO/DCVO);
  • Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO);
  • Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order (LVO);
  • Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO); and the
  • Royal Victorian Medal (RVM)

The Order of the Garter (instituted 1348), Order of the Thistle (1687), Royal Victorian Order (established 1896 to recognise personal service to the Sovereign) and the Order of Merit (established 1902 for distinguished services to cultural activities and for exceptional service in time of war) are still available to Australians because all appointments are made by The Queen personally and not on recommendation. Membership is limited in the Garter (24) the Thistle (16) and the Order of Merit (24).

Australians who have been appointed include:

  • to the Garter: Baron Casey, Sir Paul Hasluck and Sir Ninian Stephen, all Governors-General of Australia.
  • to the Order of the Thistle: Sir Robert Menzies, Prime Minister.
  • to the Order of Merit: Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnett, winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine; Lord Florey for his work in developing penicillin; Sir Sydney Nolan, artist; and Dame Joan Sutherland for services to singing and opera.

Appointments of Australians to the Royal Victorian Order have been mainly to vice-regal representatives, vice-regal staff and protocol officers who have arranged royal visits to Australia.

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Last Updated: 10 July, 2014