Distinguished Flying Medal

The Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM) was a military decoration awarded to personnel of the Royal Air Force and other British Armed Forces, and formerly to personnel of other Commonwealth countries, below commissioned rank, for "exceptional valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy". The award was discontinued in 1993 when all ranks became eligible for the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) as part of the reform of the British honours system.[2]

Distinguished Flying Medal
Distinguished Flying Medal, reverse
Obverse and reverse of the medal
Awarded by UK and Commonwealth
TypeMilitary decoration.
EligibilityBritish and (formerly) Commonwealth forces
Awarded forExceptional valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy
StatusDiscontinued in 1993
Established3 June 1918
First awarded1918
Last awarded1993
Order of Wear
Next (higher)Military Medal[1]
Next (lower)Air Force Medal[1]
RelatedDistinguished Flying Cross
Ribbon - Distinguished Flying Medal
Ribbon bar


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 the latter could also be awarded the DFM. The decoration 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".[3]

Although announced in the London Gazette on 3 June 1918,[4] the actual Royal Warrants were not published in the London Gazette until 5 December 1919.[5]

In 1979 eligibility for a number of British awards, including the DFM, was extended to permit posthumous awards.[6] Until that time, only the Victoria Cross and a mention in dispatches could be awarded posthumously.

In 1993, the DFM was discontinued, as part of the review of the British honours system, which recommended removing distinctions of rank in respect of awards for bravery. Since then, the Distinguished Flying Cross, previously only open to Commissioned and Warrant Officers, can be awarded to personnel of all ranks.[2]

The DFM had also been awarded by Commonwealth countries but by 1990's most, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, had established their own honours systems and no longer recommended British honours.[7]


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


An "Immediate" award was one which was recommended by a senior officer, usually in respect of an act or acts 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 VI.[8]

An example of an "Immediate" award is that to Leslie Marsh, which was published in the London Gazette on 15 February 1944.[9]

  • 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 any time during an operational tour but, in a large number of instances, the award was given to recognise the successful completion of a full tour of operational flying.[10]

Numbers of awards

Between 1918 and 1993 a total of 6,967 medals, 64 second award bars and one third award bar were awarded. Over 95% of these awards were for service during the Second World War.

During the First World War, 104 Distinguished Flying Medals and two second award bars were awarded to British and Commonwealth servicemen,[11] with a further four honorary awards to foreign combatants, three Belgians and one French airman.[12][13]

The first awards of the medal appeared in the London Gazette of 3 June 1918, where two recipients are listed.[14]

  • 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 Sergeant observer Arthur Newland, DFM who had been awarded the DFM on 21 September 1918.[15]

In the period between the World Wars, 41 awards of the DFM were made between 1920–29 and a further 39 between 1930–39, along with two second award bars.[3]

During the Second World War, a total of 6,637 DFMs were awarded, with 60 second award bars.[16] A unique second bar, representing a third award, was awarded to Flight Sergeant Donald Ernest Kingaby on 7 November 1941.[17]

At least 170 Honorary DFM's and 2 Honorary bars (one of them to Josef Frantisek) were awarded to aircrew from non-Commonwealth countries. 39 were awarded to servicemen of the US, 66 Polish plus one bar, 33 French, 14 Czechoslovakian plus one bar, 7 Dutch, 6 Norwegian, 4 Russian and one Belgian.[18]

142 DFMs were earned between 1946 and 1993 when the award was discontinued.[19]


Bar to the Air Force Cross
Ribbon bar for a 2nd award

The DFM is an oval silver medal, 35 mm wide and with a height of 41 mm, with the following design:[3]

  • The obverse shows the effigy and titles of the reigning sovereign. There are five distinct versions:
  • King George V bare headed (1918-29)
  • King George V in crown and robes (1930–1937)
  • King George VI with 'IND: IMP:' (Indian Emperor) in the inscription (1938–1949)
  • King George VI without 'IND: IMP:' in the inscription (1949–1953)
  • Queen Elizabeth II (1953–1993)
The three most common obverse designs were:
Distinguished Flying Medal, George V obverse

George V 1918-30

Distinguished Flying Medal, George VI obverse

George VI 1938-49

Distinguished Flying Medal. Elizabeth II obverse

Elizabeth II 1953-93

  • The reverse shows Athena Nike seated on an aeroplane, a hawk rising from her right arm above the words 'FOR COURAGE', all within a narrow laurel wreath band. From 1938, when the George VI obverse was introduced, the date '1918' was added to the reverse design.[20]
  • The suspension consists of two outstretched 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 July 1919, the stripes were horizontal.
  • Further awards are signified by a straight slip-on silver bar with an eagle in the centre.
  • All awards have the name and service details of the recipient engraved or impressed on the rim.
Distinguished Flying Medal ribbon bars
DFM DFM and Bar
DFM 1918 ribbon
DFM 1918 w Bar ribbon
Distinguished Flying Medal ribbon
DFM w Bar ribbon

See also


  • Abbott and Tamplin (1981). British Gallantry Awards. Nimrod Dix & Co. ISBN 0902633740.
  • Duckers, Peter (2001). British Gallantry Awards, 1855–2000. London: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7478-0516-8.
  • Mussell, John (ed). (2015). Medal Yearbook 2015. Honiton, Devon: Token Publishing. ISBN 978-1-908-828-16-3.
  • Tavender, Ian (1990). The Distinguished Flying Medal, a record of courage 1918–82. JB Hayward. ISBN 0903754479.


  1. ^ a b "No. 56878". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 March 2003. p. 3352.
  2. ^ a b Duckers (2001), pp 47-48
  3. ^ a b c Abbott & Tamplin (1981), DFM chapter, pp 100-106
  4. ^ "No. 30723". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 May 1918. pp. 6533–6534.
  5. ^ "No. 31674". The London Gazette. 5 December 1919. pp. 15049–15050.
  6. ^ Abbott & Tamplin (1981), page xx.
  7. ^ Mussell (2015), pp 390, 429, 459.
  8. ^ Tavender (1990), p.8
  9. ^ "No. 36386". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 February 1944. pp. 850–851.
  10. ^ Tavender (1990), p.9
  11. ^ Abbott, page 104. Awards announced in London Gazette.
  12. ^ Tavender (1990), p.35
  13. ^ Announced in Air List, 10 December 1919. Honorary awards did not appear in London Gazette.
  14. ^ "No. 30722". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 May 1918. pp. 6520–6521.
  15. ^ Edinburgh Gazette (Supplement), 3 December 1918
  16. ^ Abbott, page 104. Appears to include honourary awards.
  17. ^ "No. 35341". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 November 1941. p. 6491.
  18. ^ Tavender (1990), p.18-19
  19. ^ Abbott page 105 cites 138 awards 1946-79. A further 4 are listed in London Gazette after 1979: 8 Oct 8229 June 9112 Oct 9310 May 96 (award backdated to 29 June 91)
  20. ^ Mussell (2015), page 99.
Adrian Goldsmith

Adrian Philip "Tim" Goldsmith, (25 April 1921 – 25 March 1961) was an Australian flying ace of the Second World War. Officially credited with shooting down 16¼ enemy aircraft while serving with the Royal Australian Air Force, Goldsmith scored 12¼ of his victories during the Siege of Malta. His final four victories were achieved against Japanese aircraft while conducting operations over the South West Pacific.

Alex Nash

James Alexander Nash DFM (10 January 1923 – 28 March 1944) was an Australian rules footballer who played for the Hawthorn Football Club in the Victorian Football League (VFL). His only VFL game, which was against Collingwood, was while he was on leave from Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) duties.

A notable pilot, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal for his efforts during the Second World War. He was killed in action over New Guinea when the bomber he was flying in was shot down.

Arthur Ernest Newland

Sergeant Arthur Ernest Newland DFM & Bar (1882–1964) was a British World War I observer ace credited with 22 victories.

Donald Kingaby

Donald Ernest Kingaby, (7 January 1920 – 31 December 1990) was a Royal Air Force (RAF) aviator and flying ace of the Second World War. He was the only person to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal three times.

During an operational career of some 300 operations, Kingaby scored 21 air victories against enemy aircraft, as well as two shared victories, six probables and 11 damaged during the war. 14 of his solo victories came against the Messerschmitt Bf 109.

Geoffrey Allard

Geoffrey "Sammy" Allard & Bar (12 August 1912 – 13 March 1941) was a Royal Air Force (RAF) flying ace of the Second World War. Allard scored 19 victories against enemy aircraft, as well as five shared kills, two probable kills during the war.

George Unwin

George Cecil Unwin, (18 January 1913 – 28 June 2006) was a Royal Air Force officer and flying ace of the Second World War.

Jackie Mann

Jackie Mann (11 June 1914 – 12 November 1995) was a British RAF fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain, who in later life was kidnapped by Islamists in Lebanon in May 1989, and held hostage for more than two years.

James Francis Edwards

James Francis "Stocky" Edwards, CM, DFC & Bar, DFM, CD (born 5 June 1921) is a former Canadian fighter pilot during World War II. With 19 confirmed aerial victories, Edwards is Canada's highest scoring ace in the Western Desert Campaign.

James Grant (aviator)

Sergeant James Grant was a Scottish flying ace credited with eight aerial victories during World War I. The teenage non-commissioned officer was a rarity among aces. While most were commissioned officers and fighter pilots, he was an observer and gunner aboard a bomber. Nonetheless, his accuracy with a machine gun and his doughtiness led to his being awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal when he was only 18 years old.

James Harry Lacey

James Harry Lacey, (1 February 1917 – 30 May 1989) was one of the top scoring Royal Air Force fighter pilots of the Second World War and was the second highest scoring RAF fighter pilot of the Battle of Britain, behind Pilot Officer Eric Lock of No. 41 Squadron RAF. Lacey was credited with 28 enemy aircraft destroyed, five probables and nine damaged.

Jimmy Gardner (actor)

Edward Charles James Gardner, DFM (24 August 1924 – 3 May 2010) was an English actor.During World War II, Gardner served in the Royal Air Force as an air gunner with No. 10 Squadron. He completed 30 sorties as a Halifax rear gunner and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal.His first film appearance was in The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb released during 1964. Thereafter he appeared in over 30 films and also made extensive TV and theatre appearances. Some of his best known Shakespearean roles such as Adam in As You Like It, and Gravedigger in Hamlet were performed under the direction of Terry Hands.He played Knight Bus driver Ernie Prang in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third film in the Harry Potter film series.

John Jones (RAF airman)

Sergeant John Jones was a World War I flying ace credited with 15 aerial victories.John Jones served as an observer/gunner in the Bristol F.2 Fighters of No. 22 Squadron. Flying with such pilots as Second Lieutenants Frank George Gibbons, Sydney A. Oades, Stanley Wallage, Frank George Gibbons, and Captain William John Mostyn, Jones began his victory streak on 5 December 1917. Six months later, on 2 June 1918, he had run his total to four enemy aircraft and an observation balloon destroyed, and ten aircraft driven down out of control.

John Wooldridge

John De Lacy Wooldridge, (18 July 1919 – 27 October 1958) was a Royal Air Force officer and bomber pilot, and a British film composer.

Josef František

Josef František DFM & Bar (7 October 1914 – 8 October 1940) was a Czechoslovak fighter pilot and Second World War fighter ace who flew for the air forces of Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, and the United Kingdom. He was the highest-scoring non-British Allied ace in the Battle of Britain, with 17 confirmed victories and one probable, all gained in a period of four weeks in September 1940.

František was a brilliant pilot and combatant but had frequently breached air force discipline first in Czechoslovakia, then in France and finally in Britain. The RAF found it best to let him patrol alone, a role in which he was highly successful. He was killed in a crash in October 1940 in the final week of the Battle of Britain.

Paul Farnes

Paul Caswell Powe Farnes, (born 16 July 1918) is a former Royal Air Force fighter pilot and Second World War flying ace who flew during the Battle of Britain as one of "The Few", during which he scored 8 kills (comprising 7 and 2 shared destroyed, 2 'probables' and 11 damaged).

Peter Isaacson

Peter Stuart Isaacson, AM, DFC, AFC, DFM (31 July 1920 – 7 April 2017) was an Australian publisher and decorated military pilot. He was the owner of Peter Isaacson Publications, publisher of various trade journals and suburban newspapers including the Southern Cross and the Sunday Observer in Melbourne. During World War II, he served in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as a pilot with RAF Bomber Command and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Force Cross and the Distinguished Flying Medal.

Isaacson grew up in Melbourne and started working for a newspaper when he was sixteen. He joined the RAAF in 1940. Following his stint in Bomber Command, he became well known in Australia for his tours in the Avro Lancaster Q-for-Queenie to promote the sale of war loans and, in particular, for flying his plane under the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1943. He transferred to the RAAF Reserve after the war, retiring as a wing commander in 1969. From 1956 he served as a Trustee, Chairman, and finally Life Governor of the Victorian Shrine of Remembrance. In 1991 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for his publishing and community work.

Reg Grant

Reginald Joseph Cowan "Reg" Grant, (3 June 1914 – 28 February 1944) was an officer of the Royal New Zealand Air Force and a flying ace of the Second World War. He commanded No. 485 Squadron RNZAF and later No. 65 Squadron RAF in operations over Europe, but was killed in a flying accident in 1944.

Virgil Brennan

Virgil Paul Brennan, (6 March 1920 – 13 June 1943), also known as Paul Brennan, was an Australian aviator and flying ace of the Second World War. Enlisting in the Royal Australian Air Force in November 1940, he briefly served in the European Theatre before transferring to Malta. Over the next five months, Brennan was officially credited with the destruction of 10 Axis aircraft from a total of twenty-four operational sorties. Reposted to England, he was assigned as a flying instructor and collaborated in the writing of Spitfires over Malta, a book about his experiences on the island. Returning to Australia during 1943, Brennan was killed in a flying accident at Garbutt, Queensland, in June that year.

William Dyke (RAF airman)

Sergeant William Norman Dyke, was a British World War I flying ace credited with five aerial victories.

Royal family
Orders of chivalry
Civil bravery
Nursing service
Meritorious service
South Africa
until 6 April 1952






we Sizwe

Azanian People's
Liberation Army
South Africa
From 1994


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.