South African military decorations

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An overview of South African military decorations and medals, which form part of the South African honours system.

Honoris Crux Diamond medal

Colonial forces 1894–1913[edit]

The colonial military forces received British military decorations in wartime. From 1894, the colonial governments awarded medals for distinguished conduct and for long service. This was the general practice in the British Empire at that time. The colonial medals were:

  • Decorations
    • Volunteer Officers' Decoration (VD) (1894–1901)
    • Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers' Decoration (VD) (1900–13)
    • Distinguished Conduct Medal (1896–1913)
  • Long service medals
    • Long Service & Good Conduct Medal (1896–1913)
    • Meritorious Service Medal (1896–1913)
    • Volunteer Long Service Medal (1894–1901)
    • Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal (1900–13).

Union Defence Forces 1913–1952[edit]

The colonial forces were replaced in 1912 by the Union Defence Forces, which continued the system. British decorations for gallantry and distinguished service were awarded during World War I and World War II, and the South African government granted the other categories of award. They were:

  • Long service medals
    • Long Service & Good Conduct Medal (1914–39)
    • Long Service & Good Conduct Medal (Military) (1939–52)
    • Meritorious Service Medal (1914–40)
    • Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers' Decoration (VD) (1913–39)
    • Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal (1913–39)
    • Efficiency Decoration (ED) (1939–52)
    • Efficiency Medal (1939–52)
    • RNVR Volunteer Officers' Decoration (VD) (1915–49)
    • RNVR Long Service & Good Conduct Medal (1915–49)
    • Air Efficiency Award (1950–52).


Boer war veterans[edit]

In 1920, the South African government instituted a separate set of awards, for Boer veterans of the 1899–1902 Anglo-Boer War — neither of the Boer republics for which they had fought had had its own honours system. The awards were:

Boer20.png

South African Defence Force[edit]

1952–1975[edit]

South Africa introduced its own honours system in 1952. Its largest component was a series of military decorations and medals, which not only replaced the existing long service medals, but provided substitutes for the decorations which the British government had awarded in wartime:


Decoration Name Post Nominals Period current Number awarded Awarded for Ribbon
Castle of Good Hope Decoration CGH 1952–2003 Never awarded Most conspicuous bravery CGHlint.gif
Louw Wepener Decoration LWD 1952–1975 7 Most conspicuous courage or greatest heroism LWDlint.gif
Star of South Africa SSA 1952–1975 20 Exceptionally meritorious service SSA1lint.gif
Van Riebeeck Decoration DVR 1952–1975 2 Distinguished service in the field (officers) DVRlint.gif
Honoris Crux (1952) HC 1952–1975 5 Gallantry in action against the enemy HC1lint.gif
Van Riebeeck Medal VRM 1952–1975 5 Distinguished service in the field (other ranks) VRMRibbon.GIF
Louw Wepener Medal LWM 1967–1975 8 Courageous or heroic deeds in saving lives LWMlint.gif
Southern Cross Medal (1952) SM 1952–75 587 Outstanding devotion to duty SM1lint.gif
Pro Merito Medal (1967) PMM 1967–75 374 Outstanding devotion to duty (other ranks) PMM1lint.gif
Danie Theron Medal 1970–2003 Diligent service in the Commandos DTMlint.gif
Jack Hindon Medal 1970–1975 18 Diligent service in the Commandos (other ranks) JHMlint.gif
Campaign medals
Korea Medal 1953 Service in the Korean War KMlint.gif
Long Service Medals
Permanent Force Good Service Medal 1952–1975 18 years service in the Permanent Force UMlint.gif
John Chard Decoration JCD 1952–2003 20 years service in the Citizen Force JCD lint.jpg
De Wet Decoration DWD 1952–2003 20 years service in the Commandos DWDlint.gif
John Chard Medal 1952–2003 12 years service in the Citizen Force JCMlint.gif
Cadet Corps Medal 1966–1967 20 years service in school cadets KKMlint.gif
Shooting Medals
Commandant General's Medal 1965–1975 Winning the annual SADF shooting championships SADF Champion Shot Medal ribbon.jpg
Emblems
Mentioned in Despatches 1967–2003
Commendation by the Chief of the SADF 1968–1974

1975–2003[edit]

A new system was introduced in 1975. It retained seven of the existing decorations and medals. Innovations included a hierarchy of merit awards, cumulative long service medals, and colour-coded ribbons. As the South African Defence Force was engaged in military operations in South West Africa and Angola throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the number of awards granted each year increased significantly. Additional decorations were instituted between 1987 and 1991.

Decoration Name Post Nominals Period current Number awarded Awarded for Ribbon
Castle of Good Hope Decoration CGH 1952–2003 Never awarded Most conspicuous bravery CGHlint.gif
Honoris Crux Diamond HCD 1975–93 Never awarded Death-defying heroic deeds of outstanding valour HCDlint.gif
Honoris Crux Gold HCG 1975–93 6 Outstanding bravery in extreme danger HCGlint.gif
Star of South Africa, Gold SSA 1975–2003 Meritorious military service. SSA2lint.gif
Star of South Africa, Silver SSAS 1975–2003 Meritorious military service. SSASlint.gif
Honoris Crux Silver HCS 1975–2003 27 Exceptional bravery in great danger HCSlint.gif
Honoris Crux (1975) HC 1975–2003 201 Bravery while in danger HC2lint.gif
Pro Virtute Decoration PVD 1987–2003 Distinguished conduct and exceptional combat leadership (officers) PVDlint.gif
Southern Cross Decoration SD 1975–2003 Outstanding service of the highest order, and utmost devotion to duty (Officers) SDlint.gif
Pro Merito Decoration PMD 1975–2003 Outstanding service of the highest order, and utmost devotion to duty (other ranks) PMDlint.gif
Pro Virtute Medal PVM 1987–2003 Never awarded Distinguished conduct and exceptional combat leadership (other ranks) Pro Virtute Medal ribbon.jpg
Ad Astra Decoration AAD 1987–2003 Excellent flying skill or ingenuity by SA Air Force aircrew in emergencies or unusual situations[1] Ad Astra Decoration.jpg
Army Cross CM 1991–2003 Exceptional courage, leadership, skill or ingenuity in dangerous or critical situations (army personnel) CMlint.gif
Air Force Cross CA 1991–2003 Exceptional courage, leadership, skill or ingenuity in dangerous or critical situations (air force personnel) CAlint.gif
Navy Cross CN 1991–2003 Exceptional courage, leadership, skill or ingenuity in dangerous or critical situations (naval personnel) CNlint.gif
Medical Service Cross CC 1991–2003 Exceptional courage, leadership, skill or ingenuity in dangerous or critical situations (military health service personnel) CClint.gif
Southern Cross Medal (1975) SM 1975–2003 Exceptionally meritorious service and particular devotion to duty (officers) SM2lint.gif
Pro Merito Medal (1975) PMM 1975–2003 Exceptionally meritorious service and particular devotion to duty (other ranks) PMM2lint.gif
Danie Theron Medal DTM 1970–2003 Exceptionally diligent and outstanding service in the Commandos DTMlint.gif
Military Merit Medal MMM 1974–2003 Service of a high order MMM 5 5 12 5 5.jpg
Campaign medals
Pro Patria Medal 1974– 1989 Operational service in combating terrorism or in defence of South Africa PPMlint.gif
Southern Africa Medal 1989 Service in military operations outside South Africa and South West Africa between 1976 and 1989 SAMlint.gif
General Service Medal 1989 Operational service inside South Africa from 1983 ADMlint.gif
Commemorative Medals
Unitas Medal 1994 To commemorate the amalgamation of the SADF, APLA, MK and the homeland defence forces to form the SA National Defence Force UNMlint.gif
Long Service Medals
Medal for Distinguished Conduct and Loyal Service 1987–2003 40 years service in the Defence Force Distinguished Conduct & Loyal Service v. 2.jpg
Good Service Medal, Gold 1975–2003 30 years service in the Permanent Force MTDGlint.gif
Good Service Medal, Silver 1975–2003 20 years service in the Permanent Force MTDSlint.gif
John Chard Decoration JCD 1952–2003 20 years service in the Citizen Force JCD lint.jpg
De Wet Decoration DWD 1952–2003 20 years service in the Commandos DWDlint.gif
John Chard Medal 1952–2003 12 (from 1986, 10) years service in the Citizen Force JCMlint.gif
Good Service Medal, Bronze 1975–2003 10 years service in the Permanent Force MTDBlint2.gif
De Wet Medal 1987–2003 10 years service in the Commandos DWMlint.gif
Shooting Medals
SADF Champion Shot Medal 1975–2003 Champion shots of the annual SADF Bisley in the categories of fullbore, smallbore, pistol and service shooting SADF Champion Shot Medal ribbon.jpg
Cadet Corps Champion Shot Medal 1987–2003 KKKlint.gif
Emblems
Mentioned in Dispatches 1967–2003 Mentioned in Dispatches.jpg

Armed opposition organisations[edit]

In 1996, two separate sets of decorations were instituted for veterans who had served in the Azanian People's Liberation Army and Umkhonto we Sizwe during the armed campaign against the former government.

Azanian People's Liberation Army[edit]

Decoration Name Post Nominals Period current Number awarded Awarded for Ribbon
Gold Star for Bravery GSB 1996 - 2003 1996 - 2003 Exceptional bravery in great danger Ribbon APLA Gold Star for Bravery.jpg
Bravery Star in Silver BSS 1996 - 2003 - Bravery Ribbon APLA Bravery Star in Silver.jpg
Star for Conspicuous Leadership SCL 1996 - 2003 - Distinguished conduct and exceptional combat leadership Ribbon APLA Star for Conspicuous Leadership.jpg
Gold Decoration for Merit GDM 1996 - 2003 - Outstanding service and utmost devotion to duty Ribbon APLA Gold Decoration for Merit.jpg
Silver Medal for Merit SMM 1996 - 2003 - Exceptionally meritorious service and particular devotion to duty Ribbon APLA Silver Medal for Merit.jpg
Bronze Medal for Merit BMM 1996 - 2003 - Service of a high order Ribbon APLA Bronze Medal for Merit.jpg
Campaign medals
Operational Medal for Southern Africa - 1996 - 2003 - Operational service outside South Africa Ribbon MK & APLA Operational Medal for Southern Africa.jpg
South Africa Service Medal - 1996 - 2003 - Operational service inside South Africa Ribbon MK & APLA South Africa Service Medal.jpg
Long Service medals
Gold Service Medal - 1996 - 2003 - 30 years service in APLA Ribbon APLA Gold Service Medal.jpg
Silver Service Medal - 1996 - 2003 - 20 years service in APLA Ribbon APLA Silver Service Medal.jpg
Bronze Service Medal - 1996 - 2003 - 10 years service in APLA Ribbon APLA Bronze Service Medal.jpg

Umkhonto we Sizwe[edit]

Decoration Name Post Nominals Period current Number awarded Awarded for Ribbon
Star for Bravery in Gold SBG 1996 - 2003 1996 - 2003 Exceptional bravery in great danger Ribbon MK Star for Bravery in Gold.jpg
Star for Bravery in Silver SBS 1996 - 2003 - Bravery Ribbon MK Star for Bravery in Silver.jpg
Conspicuous Leadership Star CLS 1996 - 2003 - Distinguished conduct and exceptional combat leadership Ribbon MK Conspicuous Leadership Star.jpg
Decoration for Merit in Gold GDMG 1996 - 2003 - Outstanding service and utmost devotion to duty Ribbon MK Decoration for Merit in Gold.jpg
Merit Medal in Silver MMS 1996 - 2003 - Exceptionally meritorious service and particular devotion to duty Ribbon MK Merit Medal in Silver.jpg
Merit Medal in Bronze MMB 1996 - 2003 - Service of a high order Ribbon MK Merit Medal in Bronze.jpg
Campaign medals
Operational Medal for Southern Africa - 1996 - 2003 - Operational service outside South Africa Ribbon MK & APLA Operational Medal for Southern Africa.jpg
South Africa Service Medal - 1996 - 2003 - Operational service inside South Africa Ribbon MK & APLA South Africa Service Medal.jpg
Long Service medals
Service Medal in Gold - 1996 - 2003 - 30 years service in Umkhonto we Sizwe Ribbon MK Service Medal in Gold.jpg
Service Medal in Silver - 1996 - 2003 - 20 years service in Umkhonto we Sizwe Ribbon MK Service Medal in Silver.jpg
Service Medal in Bronze - 1996 - 2003 - 10 years service in Umkhonto we Sizwe Ribbon MK Service Medal in Bronze.jpg

South African National Defence Force[edit]

The South African National Defence Force, which was formed in 1994 by amalgamating the SADF, the liberation armies, and the military forces of the former homelands, used the SADF decorations and medals until 2003, when a new series of decorations was instituted:

South African military decorations 2003.gif
  • Bars and Clasps
    • Maluti Clasp (Operation Boleas)
    • Peace Support (Peace Keeping operations)
    • Humanitarian Support (Internal Duties)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Alexander, E. G. M., Barron G. K. B. and Bateman, A. J. (1986). South African Orders, Decorations and Medals. Human and Rousseau.
  • Monick, S. (1988). South African Military Awards 1912–1987. South African National Museum of Military History.

External links[edit]