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, ranking below the Victoria Cross, until its discontinuation in 1993 when it was replaced by the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross. The medal was also awarded to non-commissioned military personnel of other Commonwealth Dominions and Colonies.
|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 was instituted by Royal Warrant on 4 December 1854, during the Crimean War, as an award to Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and men of the British Army for "distinguished, gallant and good conduct in the field". For all ranks below commissioned officer, 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 only to commissioned officers.
Prior to its institution, there had been no official medal awarded by the British Crown in recognition of individual acts of gallantry in the Army. The Meritorious Service Medal, established in 1845 to reward long serving Warrant Officers and Sergeants, was awarded several times up to 1854 for gallantry in action, although this was not the medal's main purpose. One earlier award specifically for acts of gallantry by other ranks was the unofficial Sir Harry Smith's Medal for Gallantry, instituted by Major General Sir Harry 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.
The Distinguished Conduct Medal was awarded with a gratuity, that varied in amount depending on rank, and given on the recipient's discharge from the Army.
During the First World War, concern arose that the high number of medals being awarded would devalue the medal's prestige. The Military Medal was therefore instituted on 25 March 1916 as an alternative and lower award, with the Distinguished Conduct Medal reserved for more exceptional acts of bravery. Around 25,000 Distinguished Conduct Medals were awarded during the First World War, with approximately 1,900 during the Second World War.
The Distinguished Conduct Medal could also be awarded to military personnel serving in any of the Sovereign's forces in the British Empire, with the first awards to colonial troops made in 1872, to the West India Regiment. Members of the Indian Army remained ineligible since they could receive the Indian Order of Merit and, from 1907, the Indian Distinguished Service Medal.
From September 1916, members of the Royal Naval Division were made eligible for military decorations, including the Distinguished Conduct Medal, for the war's duration. Otherwise, it remained an exclusively Army award until 1942, when other ranks of the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and the Navies and Air Forces of the Dominions and Colonies also became eligible for distinguished conduct in action on the ground.
In 1979 eligibility for a number of British awards, including the DCM, was extended to permit posthumous awards. Until that time, only the Victoria Cross and a mention in dispatches could be awarded posthumously.
In May 1894, Queen Victoria authorised Colonial governments to adopt various military medals for award 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, while Australia, Canada and New Zealand also adopted the medal. However, only the Natal and Canada versions were finally awarded, both in the King Edward VII version.
A territorial version of the Distinguished Conduct Medal was 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 1903 specific African Distinguished Conduct Medals were established for the King's African Rifles and the Royal West African Frontier Force. These were superseded by the British Distinguished Conduct Medal in 1943.
These colonial Distinguished Conduct Medals were of the same design as the British version, with an additional territorial or unit inscription on the reverse, in a curved line above the regular inscription.
In the aftermath of the 1993 review of the British honours system, which 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.
After the Second World War, most Commonwealth countries created their own honours system and no longer recommended British awards. The last Distinguished Conduct Medal awards for the Canadian Army were for Korea. The last Australian DCM award was announced in the London Gazette on 1 September 1972 for Vietnam, as was the last New Zealand award, announced on 25 September 1970. Canada, Australia and New Zealand replaced the DCM in the 1990s, as part of the creation of their own gallantry awards under their own honours systems.
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 is of 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.
There were eight variants of the obverse:
The original Victorian obverse shows a Trophy of Arms, designed by Benedetto Pistrucci, incorporating a central shield bearing the Royal Coat of Arms without any inscription, as also seen on early Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. 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 monarch inscribed around the perimeter:
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 for a second or subsequent award is straight and also of silver. Bars awarded between 1881 and mid-1916 bear the month and 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 ribbons are worn, a silver rosette is worn on the ribbon 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 included.
From 1854 to 1914 3,529 medals and 13 second award bars were awarded. Of these, about 808 medals were awarded for the Crimean War and 2,092 for the Second Boer War, with some of the 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, 24,620 medals as well as 472 first bars and nine second bars were awarded, with 46 further awards for the period 1920-39.
For the Second World War, 1,891 medals and nine first bars were awarded.
Post War, a total of 153 DCMs were earned between 1947 and 1979, including 45 to Australian and New Zealand forces for service in Vietnam. A further 25 awards were made after 1979, nine for service in Northern Ireland, eight for the South Atlantic, and eight for the Gulf War, including a number of retrospective awards up to 2006.
Honorary awards of the Distinguished Conduct Medal were made to members of allied forces, including at least 3,437 for the First World War and 107 for the Second World War. (Lists of these WW1 awards to allied forces are kept in country specific files within the WO 388/6 series at Kew, and were published in 2018.)
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.
Between 1899 and 1970, 525 awards of the Distinguished Conduct Medal were made to New Zealanders.
More than 300 Distinguished Conduct Medals were awarded to South Africans during the two World Wars.
The African Distinguished Conduct Medal was a military decoration awarded to native soldiers of the Royal West African Frontier Force and the King's African Rifles for gallantry in action. Sometimes known as the Royal West African Frontier Force Distinguished Conduct Medal or King's African Rifles Distinguished Conduct Medal, it could also be awarded to the Somaliland Camel Corps and the Nyasaland Regiment.The medal was awarded until 1942 when it was replaced by the Imperial Distinguished Conduct Medal.Brooke Claxton
Brian Brooke Claxton, (23 August 1898 – 13 June 1960) was a Canadian veteran of World War I, federal Minister of National Health and Welfare and Minister of National Defence.Distinguished Conduct Medal (Natal)
In 1895, Queen Victoria authorised Colonial governments to adopt various British military decorations and medals and to award them to their local military forces. The Colony of Natal introduced this system in August 1895 and, in 1897, instituted the Distinguished Conduct Medal (Natal), post-nominal letters DCM.Edward Smith (VC)
Edward Benn ('Ned') Smith VC, DCM (10 November 1898 – 12 January 1940) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.Frank Schryver
Francis Esdale "Frank" Schryver, (31 October 1888 – 3 February 1965) was an Australian soldier and swimmer. He competed for Australasia at the 1912 Summer Olympics in the men's 200 metre breaststroke and the men's 400 metre breaststroke. In doing so, he became the first Western Australian to represent Australia at an Olympic Games.Schryver also served with the Australian Imperial Force in the First World War. A stretcher-bearer with the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital for much of the war, he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Military Medal for bravery on the Western Front.Geoff Crawford
Geoffrey Robertson Crawford, DCM (16 December 1916 – 29 December 1998) was an Australian politician. He was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for the Country Party from 1950 to 1976, and served as Minister for Agriculture from 1968 until 1975.
Crawford was born in Inverell, New South Wales and educated at a state high school. He initially worked as a farm hand and share farmer before buying his own farm in the Inverell district. He served in the Second Australian Imperial Force in North Africa and New Guinea and received the Distinguished Conduct Medal in 1944. Crawford was elected to the New South Wales Parliament as the Country Party member for Barwon at the 1950 state election. He defeated the sitting member Roy Heferen who had been disendorsed by the Labor Party after breaking caucus solidarity during an indirect election of the New South Wales Legislative Council. Crawford held the seat for the next 8 elections. He retired at the 1976 state election. During the premierships of Robert Askin and Tom Lewis he was Minister for Agriculture. He also held various parliamentary positions including Chairman of Committees and Deputy Speaker.Harold Gresley
Harold Gresley (1892 - 1967) was a British artist, following his father and grandfather. He was a painter of landscapes and portraits in watercolour and oil. He served in the Royal Fusiliers in the First World War and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He has a substantial number of paintings in Derby Museum and Art Gallery.Harry Finn
Major General Henry Finn, (6 December 1852 – 24 June 1924) was a senior officer in the British Army who served as General Officer Commanding Australian Military Forces from 1904 to 1905.Jack Cock
John Gilbert Cock MM MID (14 November 1893 – 19 April 1966) was an English footballer who played for various English club sides as a centre forward. He also had the distinction of being the first Cornishman to play for the England national team, a decorated World War I soldier, and an actor. His younger brothers, Donald Cock and Herbert Cock, also played professional football.Jack Williams (VC)
John Henry Williams, (29 September 1886 – 7 March 1953) was a Welsh colliery worker, soldier, and a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Williams is the most decorated Welsh non-commissioned officer of all time.Jack Wong Sue
Jack Wong Sue, (12 September 1925 – 16 November 2009), also known as Jack Sue, was a Chinese Australian from Perth, Western Australia. Wong Sue served as a member of the commando/special reconnaissance section, Z Special Unit, during the Second World War and was decorated with the Distinguished Conduct Medal. After the war, Wong Sue was a businessman, owning a diving store in the Perth suburb of Midland. He was also an author, a guide for tours of Borneo and a musician, who performed with bands in Perth for about 60 years.James de Rothschild (politician)
James Armand Edmond de Rothschild DCM DL (1 December 1878 – 7 May 1957), sometimes known as Jimmy de Rothschild, was a British Liberal politician and philanthropist, from the wealthy Rothschild international banking dynasty.
De Rothschild was the son of Edmond James de Rothschild of the French branch of family. He was educated at Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris and at Trinity College, Cambridge. He served in the First World War, at the outset as an enlisted man in the French Army then as an officer in The Royal Canadian Dragoons, and ended the war as an officer in the British Army, serving in Palestine as a major in the 39th Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers (part of the "Jewish Legion"). He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
He was a keen follower of the turf and a racehorse owner. His 33-1 runner "Bomba" won the Ascot Gold Cup in 1909.
He married Dorothy Mathilde Pinto in 1913. She was 17 years old; he was 35.
He became a naturalised Briton in 1920, and in 1922 he inherited from Alice de Rothschild the Waddesdon Manor estate of his great-uncle Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, the Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for Aylesbury from 1885 to 1898.John Lynn (VC)
John Lynn VC DCM (a.k.a. Jackie Lynn) (1887 – 3 May 1915) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
He was 27 years old, and a private in the 2nd Battalion, The Lancashire Fusiliers, British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
On 2 May 1915 near Ypres, Belgium, when the Germans were advancing behind their wave of asphyxiating gas, Private Lynn, although almost overcome by the deadly fumes, handled his machine-gun with great effect against the enemy, and when he could not see them, he moved his gun higher up the parapet so that he could fire more effectively. This eventually checked any further advance and the outstanding courage displayed by this soldier had a great effect upon his comrades in the very trying circumstances. Private Lynn died the next day from the effects of gas poisoning.Lynn was also awarded the Cross of the Order of St. George, 4th Class (Russia).His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Fusilier Museum, Bury, Lancashire.
John Lynn's original grave (now lost) was in Vlamertinghe Churchyard. A memorial headstone is in Grootebeek British Cemetery, bearing the inscription: WHO WAS BURIED AT THE TIME IN VLAMERTINGHE CHURCHYARD BUT WHOSE GRAVE WAS DESTROYED IN LATER BATTLES A PLACE IS VACANT IN OUR HOME THAT NEVER CAN BE FILLED.John Mackenzie (VC)
Major John Mackenzie, VC, DCM (22 November 1871 – 17 May 1915) was a Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.John Whittle
John Woods Whittle, VC, DCM (3 August 1882 – 2 March 1946) was an Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for gallantry "in the face of the enemy" that can be awarded to members of the British and British Commonwealth armed forces. Whittle was serving as a sergeant in the First World War when he was decorated with the Victoria Cross following two separate actions against German forces during their retreat to the Hindenburg Line in 1917. In the latter action, he attacked a machine gun crew, killing the group and seizing the gun.
Born in Tasmania, Whittle completed twelve months active service during the Second Boer War, before returning to Australia and enlisting in the Royal Navy where he served for five years as a stoker. Re-enlisting in the army, he was posted to the Army Service Corps, artillery, and Tasmanian Rifle Regiment prior to the outbreak of the First World War. Transferring to the Australian Imperial Force in 1915, Whittle joined the 12th Battalion in Egypt and embarked for the Western Front the following year. During an attack on the village of La Barque, Whittle rushed a German trench and forced the men from the position; he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal as a result.
Wounded three times during the war, Whittle was the subject of two courts-martial due to his unruly behaviour. In October 1918, he returned to Australia at the invitation of the Prime Minister of Australia to assist in recruitment. Discharged from the military in December 1918, he later moved to Sydney. In 1934, Whittle was presented with a Certificate of Merit after saving a drowning boy. He died in 1946 at the age of 63.Léo Major
Léo Major & Bar (January 23, 1921 – October 12, 2008) was a French Canadian soldier who was the only Canadian and one of only three soldiers in the British Commonwealth to ever receive the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) twice in separate wars. Major earned his first DCM in World War II in 1945 when he single-handedly liberated the city of Zwolle from German army occupation. He received his second DCM during the Korean War for leading the capture of a key hill in 1951.Ted Mattner
Edward William Mattner, (16 September 1893 – 21 December 1977) was an Australian politician and soldier who served as a Senator for South Australia from 1944 to 1946 and 1950 to 1968. He was President of the Senate from 1951 to 1953.Thomas Grady
Thomas Grady VC DCM (Irish: Tomás Ó Grádaigh; 18 September 1835 – 18 May 1891) was born in Claddagh, County Galway and was an Irish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.William Gardner (VC)
William Gardner VC DCM (3 March 1821 – 24 October 1897) was a Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
|Orders of chivalry|
Sorted in order of wear per era or 1994 constituent force
until 6 April 1952