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Military Honours and Awards

British Honours are awarded on merit for exceptional gallantry, achievement or service. Her Majesty the Queen chooses the recipients on the advice of the Prime Minister, who in turn receives nominations for honours from government departments and from members of the public.

As well as being eligible for the Military Divisions of civilian honours, members of the Armed Forces are also eligible for decorations and medals for gallantry and distinguished service. Nominations for these awards are recommended to Her Majesty by the military command chain via the Ministry of Defence. Lists of recipients of honours are published periodically in the official Crown newspaper, the London Gazette.

How Military Honours are awarded

Recommendations for honours and awards for acts of gallantry or for meritorious service are made by commanding officers. The commanding officer writes a citation nominating the individual, and this recommendation is then passed up the military chain of command for consideration.

In the case of honours awarded for acts of gallantry on military operations (known as "operational honours"), the theatre commander is able to judge each citation against others in his command and to comment on them. From there, the citations that are endorsed are passed to the overall operational commander, for example the Chief of Joint Operations at Permanent Joint Headquarters in Northwood, Middlesex, for further comparison and comment before being passed to the MOD's Armed Forces Operational Awards Committee.

This committee, which is chaired by the Defence Services Secretary, includes the Naval, Military and Air Secretaries and the Deputy Chief of Joint Operations – all two-star officers who will have had considerable operational experience themselves - and recommends which awards should be made and in what quantity. These recommendations are then endorsed by the MOD Services Honours Committee before being submitted to Her Majesty The Queen through the Secretary of State for Defence for her approval.

There is an additional step for recommendations of the two highest awards – the Victoria Cross and the George Cross. VC recommendations are endorsed by the VC Committee comprising the Permanent Under Secretary and Service Chiefs of Staff. Those for the George Cross are endorsed by members of the George Cross Military Committee, which is a sub-committee of the Honours and Decorations Committee.

For State awards, a similar system is used through national command chains for State awards at the Queen’s Birthday and New Years Honours Lists. At any time during this staffing chain recommendations may be upgraded or downgraded to ensure that awards are made at the correct level. Currently, the MOD usually publishes lists of operational awards every six months, in the Spring and Autumn.

The system for the award of Decorations and other Honours to Service personnel underwent a major revision in 1993, when the practice of having, in some categories of award, different medals for Officers and Other Ranks was discontinued. Thus for example the Military Medal is no longer awarded to Other Ranks, who instead are now eligible for the Military Cross which had previously been reserved for Officers and Warrant Officers.

Most of the awards, save only for membership of Orders, can be given posthumously. Where a medal is won by an individual more than once, the second and subsequent awards are denoted by a Bar worn on the medal ribbon. Thus the phrase "DFC and Bar " (sometimes shortened to DFC*) denotes the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross twice to the same individual.

Types of Honours and Awards

Honours that may be conferred or awarded to members of the Armed Forces by the Sovereign are:

Orders: The Military Divisions of the Orders of the Bath and the British Empire (eg CB, OBE, etc); The Distinguished Service Order (DSO).

Decorations: VC, GC, CGC, RRC, DSC, MC, DFC, AFC, ARRC.

Medals for Gallantry or Distinguished Service: GM, QGM, QVRM.

Other Medals: General Service Medal 1962, the Operational Service Medal and medals for specific campaigns, including multinational medals; MSM; ACSM; Awards for Long and Efficient Service in the Regular, Volunteer Reserve or Cadet Forces (eg LS&GC, VRSM, CFM).

Commendations: Public commendation in the London Gazette by order of the Sovereign includes Mention in Despatches, Queen’s Commendations for Bravery and for Bravery in the Air, or for Valuable Service. This is part of the State system of Honours and Awards. Other commendations promulgated by Commanders-in–Chief and Commanders are not part of the State system but play an important role in recognising gallant and meritorious service.

You can purchase Military Medals here

You can also purchase antique silver here