Service Ribbon

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For the bar or decoration used to indicate the campaigns or reasons a medal was awarded, see Medal bar.
A purple service ribbon with thin white edges
The purple heart medal with a purple suspension ribbon edged in white and a heart-shaped medal depicting the profile and coat of arms of George Washington
The Purple Heart with the corresponding service ribbon (top).

Service ribbons or ribbon bars are small ribbons mounted on small metal bars equipped with attaching devices, and are generally issued for wear in place of medals.[1] Each country's government has its own rules on what ribbons can be worn in what circumstances, and in which order. This is usually defined in an official document and is called "the order of precedence" and/or "the order of wearing". In some countries, (particularly the U.S.), some awards are "ribbon only", having no associated medal.


The service ribbon for a specific medal is usually identical to the suspension ribbon on the medal. For example, the suspension and service ribbon (US standard size, 1¼ inches by ⅜ inches) for the US Government's Purple Heart medal is purple with a white vertical stripe at each end (see Photo).

However, there are some military awards that do not have a suspension ribbon, but have an authorized ribbon and unit award emblem. The Soviet Order of Victory is a badge that was worn on the military parade uniform. However, a ribbon bar representing the Order of Victory was worn on a military field uniform.


There is a variety of constructions of service ribbons. In some countries, service ribbons are mounted on a "pin backing", which can be pushed through the fabric of a uniform and secured, with fasteners, on the inside edge. These ribbons can be individually secured and then lined up, or they can be all mounted on to a single fastener. After the Second World War, it was common for all ribbons to be mounted on a single metal bar and worn in a manner similar to a brooch. Other methods of wearing have included physically sewing each service ribbon onto the uniform garments.


"Orders of wearing" define which ribbons may be worn on which types of uniform in which positions under which circumstances. For example, miniature medals on dinner dress, full medals on parade dress, ribbons on dress shirts, but no decorations on combat dress and working clothing. Some countries (such as Cuba) maintain a standard practice of wearing full service ribbons on combat utility clothing. Others strictly prohibit this. These regulations are generally similar to the regulations regarding display of rank insignia, and regulations regarding saluting of more senior ranks.

Service medals and ribbons are generally worn in rows on the left side of the chest. In certain commemorative and/or memorial circumstances, a relative may wear the medals or ribbons of a dead relative on the right side of the chest. Medals and ribbons not specifically mentioned in the "Order of wear" are also generally worn on the right side of the chest.


The study, history and collection of ribbons, among other military decorations, is known as phaleristics (sometimes spelled faleristics by users of U.S. English).

Notable examples[edit]


Victoria Cross (UK) ribbon.png OrderAustraliaRibbon.png Australian Active Service Medal 1945-75 ribbon.png Korea Medal.svg
United Nations Service Medal for Korea ribbon.png General Service Medal 1962 BAR.svg Vietnam Medal ribbon.png Australian Service Medal 1945-1975 ribbon.png
Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal ribbon.png Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal ribbon.png QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon.png Centenary Medal (Australia) ribbon.png
DFSM with Rosette x 2.png National Medal (Australia) ribbon.png Australian Defence Medal (Australia) ribbon.png Meritorious Service Medal (UK).png
Medal for Long Service and Good Conduct - Army (UK) ribbon.png Distinguished Service Cross ribbon.svg Silver Star ribbon.svg Cross of Gallantry with Bronze Star (South Vietnam).png
Vietnam Campaign Medal ribbon.png General Service Medal (Oman).png Endurance Medal (Al-Sumood) (Oman).png Pingat Jasa Malaysia ribbon.png
OrderAustraliaRibbon.png Order of Australia (Military) ribbon.png
Military Cross ribbon.png Order of St John (UK) ribbon.png Australian Active Service Medal 1945-75 ribbon.png Vietnam Medal ribbon.png
Australian Active Service Medal ribbon.png INTERFET Medal ribbon.png Australian Service Medal 1945-1975 ribbon.png Centenary Medal (Australia) ribbon.png
DFSM with Fed Star.png National Medal (Australia) ribbon.png Australian Defence Medal (Australia) ribbon.png Vietnam Campaign Medal ribbon.png
New Zealand Order of Merit ribbon.png US Legion of Merit Commander ribbon.png Tong-il Medal (South Korea) ribbon.png Legion Honneur Officier ribbon.svg
PRT Order of Prince Henry - Grand Cross BAR.png Darjah Utama Bakti Cemerlang (Tentera) ribbon.png Order of Timor-Leste.png Order of St. Gregory the Great.png




Admiral of the Fleet Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma (incomplete)

Order of the Garter UK ribbon.png Order of the Bath UK ribbon.png Order of Merit (Commonwealth realms) ribbon.png Ord.Stella.India.jpg

Order of the Indian Empire Ribbon.svg Royal Victorian Order ribbon sm.jpg Dso-ribbon.png VOStJ ribbon.png

British War Medal BAR.svg World War I Victory Medal ribbon.svg 39-45 Star BAR.svg Atlantic Star BAR.svg

Africa Star BAR.svg Burma Star BAR.svg Italy Star BAR.svg Defence Medal BAR.svg

War Medal 39-45 BAR.svg Naval General Service Medal 1915 BAR.svg King George V Coronation Medal ribbon.png GeorgeVSilverJubileum-ribbon.png

GeorgeVICoronationRibbon.png ElizabethIICoronationRibbon.png Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal ribbon.png Indian Independence medal 1947.svg

Distinguished Service Medal ribbon.svg US Legion of Merit Chief Commander ribbon.png Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg Greek War Cross 1940 3rd class ribbon.png

Order of George I Silver Cross ribbon.PNG Bronze Star ribbon.svg Legion Honneur GC ribbon.svg Croix de Guerre 1939-1945 ribbon.svg

Order of the Cloud and Banner 1st.gif PRT Military Order of Aviz - Grand Cross BAR.png Ord.Neth.Lion.jpg Most Refulgent Order of the Star of Nepal.PNG

POL Polonia Restituta Kawalerski BAR.svg DNK Order of Danebrog Grand Cross BAR.png Star of Romania Ribbon.PNG ESP Isabella Catholic Order GC.svg


Marcinko ribbon bar.png


See also[edit]


  1. ^ US Army Regulation 600-8-22, 2006, P. 72&73, 6--2 Service ribbons, a.

External links[edit]