Distinguished Flying Medal

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Distinguished Flying Medal
Distinguished Flying Medal ribbon.svg
Obverse (top left) and reverse (top right) of the medal.
Awarded by UK and Commonwealth
Type Military decoration.
Eligibility British and (formerly) Commonwealth forces
Awarded for exceptional valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy
Status Discontinued in 1993
Established 3 June 1918
First awarded 1918
Last awarded 1993
Order of Wear
Next (higher) Military Medal[1]
Next (lower) Air Force Medal[1]
Related Distinguished Flying Cross

The Distinguished Flying Medal was (until 1993) a military decoration awarded to personnel of the Royal Air Force (United Kingdom) and the other services, and formerly also to personnel of other Commonwealth countries, below commissioned rank, for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy".


The medal was established on 3 June 1918. It was the other ranks' equivalent to the Distinguished Flying Cross, which was awarded to commissioned officers and Warrant Officers (although WOs could also be awarded the DFM), although it ranked below the DFC in order of precedence, between the Military Medal and the Air Force Medal. Recipients of the Distinguished Flying Medal are entitled to use the post-nominal letters "DFM".

It was announced in the London Gazette on 3 June 1918,[2] but the actual Royal Warrants were not published in the London Gazette until 5 December 1919,[3]

In 1993 the DFM was discontinued, and since then the Distinguished Flying Cross has been awarded to personnel of all ranks.


There were two categories of award, either "Immediate" or "Non-Immediate".

  • An "Immediate" award was one which was recommended by a senior officer in respect usually of an act(s) of bravery or devotion to duty deemed to command immediate recognition. In such circumstances the recommendation for the award was passed as quickly as possible through the laid down channels to obtain approval by the AOC-in-C of the appropriate Command to whom, from 1939, the power to grant immediate awards was designated by King George VIth.[4]

An example of an "Immediate" award is that to Leslie Marsh which was published in the London Gazette on 15 February 1944.[5]

1482444 Sergeant Leslie MARSH, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 103 Squadron. "This airman was the mid-upper gunner of an aircraft detailed to attack Mannheim one night in September, 1943. When nearing the target area the aircraft was hit by machine gun fire from a fighter. The rear gunner was killed and Sergeant Marsh was wounded in the legs. Although in great pain Sergeant Marsh remained at his post. Coolly withholding his fire until the attacker came into close range he then delivered an accurate burst which caused the enemy aircraft to break away; later it was seen to be on fire. On two occasions, more recently, his cool and determined work has played a good part in the success of the sortie. Sergeant Marsh is a model of efficiency and his example of courage and resolution has earned great praise."

  • "Non-Immediate" awards were made by the Monarch on the recommendation of the Air Ministry and were to reward devotion to duty sustained over a period of time. This category of award could be made at ant time during an operational tour but, in a large number of instances, the award was given to recognize the successful completion of a full tour of operational flying.[6]

Numbers of awards[edit]

During World War I, 104 Distinguished Flying Medals were awarded, and 1 first award bar.

  • The first awards appeared in the London Gazette of 3 June 1918 where two recipients are listed.[7]


  • F/9689 Acting Air Mechanic W./T. Albert Edward Clark (of Woodford).
  • 113763 Serjeant John Charles Hagan (of Ulverston)
  • The first award of a Bar to the Distinguished Flying Medal was announced in the London Gazette on 3 December 1918. It was awarded to 67162 Sergt.-Observer. Arthur Newland, D.F.M. (of Enfield Wash) who had been awarded a DFM on 21 September 1918.

"Honourary" awards of the DFM were made in the period 1918-19 to 3 Belgian airmen and 1 French airman.[8]

In the period between the world wars 41 awards of the DFM were made 1920-1929 and a further 38 between 1930-39.[9]

Distinguished Flying Medal.

During World War II, 6,637 DFMs were awarded, with 60 first award bars.[10]

At least 170 "Honourary" DFM's and 2 "Honourary" Bars (one of them to Josef Frantisek) were awarded to aircrew from other non- Commonwealth countries, (39 were awarded to service men of the USA, 1 Belgian, 14 Czechoslovakians (plus 1 Bar), 33 French, 7 Dutch, 6 Norwegians, 66 Polish (plus 1 Bar), 4 Russian).[11]

A second bar to the DFM was uniquely awarded to Flight Sergeant Donald Ernest Kingaby on 7 November 1941.[12]


  • An oval, silver medal, 35 mm wide and 41 mm long. The obverse shows a bareheaded effigy of the reigning sovereign.
  • The reverse shows Athena Nike seated on an aeroplane, a hawk rising from her right arm above the words FOR COURAGE, all within a laurel wreath.
  • A bomb is attached to the clasp and ribbon by two wings.
  • The ribbon is 32 mm wide, and consists of alternate violet and white stripes (1/16 inch wide) leaning 45 degrees to the left. A violet stripe is to appear in the bottom left and upper right corners when viewed on the wearer's chest. Until 1919, the stripes were horizontal.
  • Further awards are signified by a straight slip-on silver bar with an eagle in the centre.
Distinguished Flying Medal ribbon bars
DFM DFM and Bar
DFM 1918 ribbon.svg
DFM 1918 w Bar ribbon.svg
Distinguished Flying Medal ribbon.svg
DFM w Bar ribbon.svg

See also[edit]


Distinguished Flying Medals sold at auction regularly achieve a price over £2000.00 some considerably more.[13]


  • Tavender, Ian (1990). The Distinguished Flying Medal, a record of courage 1918-82. JB Hayward. ISBN 0903754479. 
  • Abbott, Peter (1981). British Gallantry Awards. Nimrod Dix & Co. ISBN 0902633740. 


  1. ^ a b The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 56878. p. 3352. 17 March 2003.
  2. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30723. pp. 6533–6534. 31 May 1918.
  3. ^ The London Gazette: no. 31674. pp. 15049–15050. 5 December 1919.
  4. ^ Tavender (1990), p.8
  5. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36386. pp. 850–851. 15 February 1944.
  6. ^ Tavender (1990), p.9
  7. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30722. pp. 6520–6521. 31 May 1918.
  8. ^ Tavender (1990), p.35
  9. ^ Abbott (1981), DFM chapter
  10. ^ Abbott (1981),DFM chapter
  11. ^ Tavender (1990), p.18-19
  12. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35341. p. 6491. 7 November 1941.
  13. ^ [1][Auction house information]