Distinguished Conduct Medal
|Distinguished Conduct Medal|
Queen Victoria version
|Awarded by the Monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland|
|Type||Military decoration for bravery|
|Awarded for||Gallantry in the field|
|Status||Discontinued in 1993|
|Established||4 Dec 1854|
|Order of Wear|
|Next (higher)||Air Force Cross|
|Equivalent||Distinguished Conduct Medal (Natal)|
|Next (lower)||Conspicuous Gallantry Medal|
|Related||Distinguished Service Order|
Ribbon bar without and with rosette to indicate award of a Bar
The Distinguished Conduct Medal, post-nominal letters DCM, was established in 1854 by Queen Victoria as a decoration for gallantry in the field by other ranks of the British Army. It is the oldest British award for gallantry and was a second level military decoration until it was discontinued in 1993. The medal was also awarded to non-commissioned military personnel of other Commonwealth Dominions and Colonies.
The Distinguished Conduct Medal was instituted by Royal Warrant on 4 December 1854 during the Crimean War, as an award to Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and men for "distinguished, gallant and good conduct in the field". For all ranks below commissioned officers, it was the second highest award for gallantry in action after the Victoria Cross, and the other ranks' equivalent of the Distinguished Service Order, which was awarded to commissioned officers for bravery. Prior to the institution of this medal there had been no medal awarded by the British government in recognition of individual acts of gallantry in the Army.
One known prior award for acts of gallantry by other ranks was the unofficial Sir Harry Smith's Medal for Gallantry, instituted by Major General Sir Henry George Wakelyn Smith in 1851. Although the British government initially disapproved of Sir Harry's institution of the medal, it subsequently paid for it and thereby gave it recognition, but not official status.
Recipients of the Distinguished Conduct Medal are entitled to the post-nominal letters DCM. A Bar to the medal, introduced in 1881, could be awarded in recognition of each subsequent act of distinguished conduct for which the medal would have been awarded.
During the First World War the concern arose that the overwhelming number of medals that were being awarded would devalue the prestige of those already awarded. The Military Medal for bravery in battle on land was therefore instituted on 25 March 1916, as an alternative award to the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The lesser Military Medal was usually awarded for bravery from this date and the Distinguished Conduct Medal was reserved for exceptional acts of bravery. Around 25,000 Distinguished Conduct Medals were awarded during the First World War, while approximately 1,900 were awarded during the Second World War.
The medal could also be awarded to military personnel serving in any of the Sovereign's forces in the British Empire. It remained an exclusively Army award until 1942, when other ranks of the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and the Navys and Air Forces of the Dominions and Colonies also became entitled to the award.
In May 1894 Queen Victoria authorised Colonial governments to adopt various military medals and to award them to their local military forces. The Colony of Natal and the Cape Colony introduced this system in August and September 1894 respectively, and the Transvaal Colony followed in December 1902. In South Africa these colonial medals, which ranked on par with their British counterparts in the order of wear, were in use until June 1913 when the first medals for the Union Defence Forces were introduced in the Union of South Africa.
Other territories that made use of the opportunity were Australia, Canada and New Zealand. In respect of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, two territorial versions are known to have been awarded, both King Edward VII versions. The Distinguished Conduct Medal (Natal) and Distinguished Conduct Medal (Canada) were awarded by the respective governments and have, respectively, the territorial inscriptions "NATAL" and "CANADA" on the reverse, in a curved line above the regular inscription.
A territorial version of the Distinguished Conduct Medal was also approved for the Union of South Africa in 1913, but was never awarded. More than 300 members of the Union Defence Forces were awarded the applicable British versions of the decoration during the two World Wars.
In the aftermath of the 1993 review of the British honours system that formed part of the drive to remove distinctions of rank in respect of awards for bravery, the Distinguished Conduct Medal was discontinued, as was the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal and the award, specifically for gallantry, of the Distinguished Service Order. These three decorations were replaced by the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross to serve as the second level award for gallantry for all ranks of all the Arms of the Service.
Order of wear
In the order of wear prescribed by the British Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood, the Distinguished Conduct Medal ranks on par with the Distinguished Conduct Medal (Natal) and takes precedence after the Air Force Cross and before the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal.
The medal was struck in silver and is a disk, 36 millimetres (1.4 inches) in diameter and 3 millimetres (0.12 inches) thick. The suspender of all versions of the medal is an ornamented scroll pattern. The manner of attachment of the suspender to the medal varied between medal versions and, on early versions, allows the medal to swivel. All medals awarded bear the recipient’s number, rank, name and unit on the rim.
The original Victorian obverse of the Distinguished Conduct Medal shows a Trophy of Arms incorporating a central shield bearing the Royal Coat of Arms, without any inscription, as also seen on the early Army Medal for Long Service and Good Conduct. From 1902, after the accession of King Edward VII, the effigy of the reigning monarch replaced the trophy of arms, with the respective titles of the monarchs inscribed around the perimeters.
- King Edward VII – "EDWARDVS VII REX IMPERATOR".
- King George V, bareheaded – "GEORGIVS V BRITT: OMN: REX ET IND: IMP:".
- King George V, crowned – "GEORGIVS•V•D•G•BRITT•OMN•REX•ET•INDIÆ•IMP•".
- King George VI – Two versions were made, inscribed "GEORGIVS VI D:G:BR OMN REX ET INDIAE IMP:" and awarded for the Second World War, or "GEORGIVS VI DEI GRA: BRITT: OMN: REX FID: DEF: BIU" and awarded, instead of the Elizabeth II version, to Canadians for the Korean War.
- Queen Elizabeth II – "ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA REGINA F.D".
The reverse of all versions is smooth with a raised rim and bears the inscription "FOR DISTINGUISHED CONDUCT IN THE FIELD" in four lines, underlined by a laurel wreath between two spear blades.
The Bar is straight and also of silver. Older Bars, awarded between 1881 and mid-1916, bear the year of the subsequent award, while those awarded after mid-1916 bear a laurel-spray and no date. In undress uniform or on occasions when only ribbon bars are worn, a silver rosette is worn on the ribbon bar to indicate the award of each bar.
All awards of the Distinguished Conduct Medal were notified in the London Gazette and during the First World War citations were generally also published. During the reign of Queen Victoria, 2,892 medals were awarded. Of these, about 770 medals were awarded for the Crimean War and 2,076 for the Second Boer War, with some of these latter being the Edward VII version.
During the Boer War six medals were awarded posthumously and six dated Bars were awarded, three of them to recipients who had won their first Distinguished Conduct Medal in this war.
For the First World War, 24,591 of the George V versions as well as 472 first Bars and nine second Bars were awarded, while for the Second World War 1,891 of the first George VI version as well as nine first Bars were awarded.
Beginning in the Second Boer War, the Distinguished Conduct Medal has been awarded to 2,071 members of the Australian Army and to three members of the Royal Australian Air Force. Thirty first Bars were awarded, all to members of the Army and the majority for actions during the First World War. The last award to an Australian was made in 1972, arising from the Vietnam War.
- New Zealand
Between 1899 and 1970, altogether 525 awards of the Distinguished Conduct Medal were made to New Zealanders.
- South Africa
More than 300 Distinguished Conduct Medals were awarded to South Africans during the two World Wars.
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