South African military decorations order of precedence
South African military orders, decorations and medals were instituted by the South African Parliament from 1952 and also by the parliaments of Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei between 1981 and 1994. These awards were instituted in five groups for altogether seven separate military and para-military forces that were integrated into the South African National Defence Force in 1994.
The South African military
The Union of South Africa was established on 31 May 1910 in terms of the South Africa Act, 1909, enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. In terms of Section 17 of the Act the command-in-chief of the naval and military forces within the Union was vested in the British Monarch or in the Governor-General of the Union of South Africa as his representative.
The Union Defence Forces (UDF) were established in 1912 in terms of the Union Defence Act, no. 13 of 1912, enacted by the Parliament of the Union of South Africa. The UDF were renamed the South African Defence Force (SADF) in 1958. On 27 April 1994 the SADF was integrated with six other independent South African military and para-military forces into the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
The seven constituent forces of the SANDF were:
- The South African Defence Force (SADF).
- The Transkei Defence Force (TDF).
- The Bophuthatswana Defence Force (BDF).
- The Venda Defence Force (VDF).
- The Ciskei Defence Force (CDF).
- Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC).
- The Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA), the military wing of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).
Orders, decorations and medals
Until 1952 all military decorations and medals that were awarded to members of the UDF and SADF were instituted by the British Monarch. The first South African military decorations and medals were only instituted by the South African Parliament in 1952. These and subsequent decorations were instituted in five groups.
- The 1952-1975 group
During the Union era, in April 1952, a series of military decorations and medals was instituted, consisting of substitutes for many of the British and Commonwealth awards which had earlier been used. There were initially ten awards, to which a further eight as well as an emblem for being mentioned in dispatches were added between 1953 and 1970. With one exception, all displayed the national Coat of Arms on the reverse, and those minted before South Africa became a republic in 1961 had Queen Elizabeth II's royal cipher above the Coat of Arms.
- The 1975-2003 group
During the limited representation republican era, in July 1975, the military decorations and medals of the Republic were revised. Seven decorations and medals were carried over from the earlier series of 1952-1975 and fourteen new awards were instituted. These included two military orders and were followed by another twelve new decorations and medals between 1987 and 1991. With five exceptions, all displayed the national Coat of Arms on the reverse.
- The TBVC group
Between 1976 and 1981 the four independent states of Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei, known collectively as the TBVC states, were established within South Africa. Each of them instituted a set of military decorations and medals for award to members of their respective defence forces.
- The MK and APLA group
On 27 April 1994 South Africa became a fully representative republic. In 1996 a set of decorations and medals were instituted for award to former members and veterans of MK and APLA.
- The 2003 group
Finally, all but one of these earlier awards were discontinued in respect of services performed on or after 27 April 2003, when a new set of nine decorations and medals was instituted to replace them.
Fount of Honour
Until 1958 the top three awards were reserved for conferment by the Queen while the rest were awarded by the Governor-General, but in 1958 the Governor-General was authorised to also award the top three. In 1961 the State President of South Africa became the Fount of Honour. In the TBVC states, established between 1976 and 1981, the Founts of Honour were the respective State Presidents. From 1994 the President of South Africa became the Fount of Honour for all military orders, decorations and medals.
Initially all South African military orders, decorations and medals were minted by the South African Mint, but with effect from c. 1980 the manufacturing of all new awards as well as the further production of older awards were put out to tender by private enterprises. Since the tooling of the older awards was retained by the Mint, private manufacturers had to manufacture their own tooling, which resulted in several variations in appearance and quality.
Order of precedence
The table lists all the 1952 and subsequent military orders, decorations and medals in the official order of precedence, as published in Government Gazette no. 27376 on 11 March 2005. All the table columns are sortable and the two columns for order of precedence (OoP) will sort the awards in either the combined order of precedence that became effective on 27 April 2003, or in the individual orders of precedence of the seven constituent forces that were integrated into the SANDF on 27 April 1994.
Most decorations for valour and meritorious service entitle the recipients to the post-nominal letters as shown in the table. These are succeeded, in order, by campaign and general service medals, commemorative medals, decorations and medals for loyal service and good conduct, and medals for skill at arms and proficiency in marksmanship.
The following decorations are excluded from the table:
- Decorations instituted prior to 1952, including Colonial era, Boer War, British and Commonwealth decorations, with two exceptions, the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal and the Queen's Medal for Champion Shots.
- Civil, police, prisons and other non-military decorations.
- Decorations that, while officially instituted, were never awarded and now never will be. These include:
- The Castle of Good Hope Decoration (CGH) (South Africa).
- The Honoris Crux Diamond (HCD) (South Africa).
- The Pro Virtute Medal (PVM) (South Africa).
- The Cross for Valour (CCV) (Ciskei).
- The Cross for Gallantry (CCG) (Ciskei).
- The Cross for Bravery (CCB) (Ciskei).
- The Pro Merito Decoration (PMD) (Ciskei).
The official order of precedence of 2005 contains the caveat that, in the absence of full information on awards, there may be among the awards listed for the TBVC states some which were never awarded. The list does contain minor errors, one of these being the post-nominal letters "VRD" instead of "DVR" for the Van Riebeeck Decoration. The post-nominal letters "VRD" are for the Volunteer Reserve Decoration, awarded to members of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR).
- South Africa Act, 1909, enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, 20 September 1909
- South African Medals Website - SA Defence Force : 1952-1975
- The South African Railways - Historical Survey. Editor George Hart, Publisher Bill Hart, Sponsored by Dorbyl Ltd., Published c. 1978, p. 25.
- Suid-Afrikaanse militêre dekorasies: 1952-1975
- Suid-Afrikaanse militêre dekorasies: 1975-2003
- South African Medals Website - SA Defence Force : 1975-2003
- South African Medals Website - TBVC states defence forces
- Republic of South Africa Government Gazette Vol. 457, no. 25213, Pretoria, 25 July 2003
- Republic of South Africa Government Gazette Vol. 477, no. 27376, Pretoria, 11 March 2005. OCLC 72827981