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A purple service ribbon with thin white edges
The Purple Heart with the corresponding service ribbon (top).

Service ribbons or ribbon bars are small ribbons mounted on small metal bars equipped with attaching devices, and are generally issued for wear in place of medals.[1] Each country's government has its own rules on what ribbons can be worn in what circumstances, and in which order. This is usually defined in an official document and is called "the order of precedence" and/or "the order of wearing". In some countries, (particularly the U.S.), some awards are "ribbon only", having no associated medal.


The service ribbon for a specific medal is usually identical to the suspension ribbon on the medal. For example, the suspension and service ribbon (US standard size, 1 1/4 inches by 3/8 inches) for the US Government's Purple Heart medal is purple with a white vertical stripe at each end (see Photo).

However, there are some military awards that do not have a suspension ribbon, but have an authorized ribbon and unit award emblem. The Soviet Order of Victory is a badge that was worn on the military parade uniform. However, a ribbon bar representing the Order of Victory was worn on a military field uniform.


There is a variety of constructions of service ribbons. In some counties, service ribbons are mounted on a "pin backing", which can be pushed through the fabric of a uniform and secured, with fasteners, on the inside edge. These ribbons can be individually secured and then lined up, or they can be all mounted on to a single fastener. After the Second World War, it was common for all ribbons to be mounted on a single metal bar and worn in a manner similar to a brooch. Other methods of wearing have included physically sewing each service ribbon onto the uniform garments.


"Orders of wearing" define which ribbons may be worn on which types of uniform in which positions under which circumstances. For example, miniature medals on dinner dress, full medals on parade dress, ribbons on dress shirts, but no decorations on combat dress and working clothing. Some countries (such as Cuba) maintain a standard practice of wearing full service ribbons on combat utility clothing. Others strictly prohibit this. These regulations are generally similar to the regulations regarding display of rank insignia, and regulations regarding saluting of more senior ranks.

Service medals and ribbons are generally worn in rows on the left side of the chest. In certain commemorative and/or memorial circumstances, a relative may wear the medals or ribbons of a dead relative on the right side of the chest. Medals and ribbons not specifically mentioned in the "Order of wear" are also generally worn on the right side of the chest.


The study, history and collection of ribbons, among other military decorations, is known as phaleristics (sometimes spelled faleristics by users of U.S. English).

Notable examplesEdit


Victoria Cross (UK) ribbon OrderAustraliaRibbon Australian Active Service Medal 1945-75 ribbon Korea Medal
United Nations Service Medal Korea General Service Medal 1962 BAR Vietnam Medal ribbon Australian Service Medal 1945-1975 ribbon
Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal ribbon Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal ribbon QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon Centenary Medal (Australia) ribbon
DFSM with Rosette x 2 National Medal (Australia) ribbon Australian Defence Medal (Australia) ribbon Meritorious Service Medal (UK)
Medal for Long Service and Good Conduct - Army (UK) ribbon Distinguished Service Cross ribbon Silver Star ribbon Cross of Gallantry with Bronze Star (South Vietnam)
Vietnam Campaign Medal ribbon General Service Medal (Oman) Endurance Medal (Al-Sumood) (Oman) Pingat Jasa Malaysia ribbon
Order of Australia (Military) ribbon Military Cross ribbon
Australian Active Service Medal 1945-75 ribbon Vietnam Medal ribbon Australian Active Service Medal ribbon INTERFET Medal ribbon
Australian Service Medal 1945-1975 ribbon Centenary Medal (Australia) ribbon DFSM with Fed Star National Medal (Australia) ribbon
Australian Defence Medal (Australia) ribbon Vietnam Campaign Medal ribbon New Zealand Order of Merit ribbon US Legion of Merit Commander ribbon
Tong-il Medal (South Korea) ribbon Darjah Utama Bakti Cemerlang (Tentera) ribbon Legion Honneur Officier ribbon PRT Order of Prince Henry - Grand Cross BAR




Admiral of the Fleet Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma (incomplete)

Order of the Garter UK ribbon Order of the Bath UK ribbon Order of Merit (Commonwealth realms) ribbon Ord.Stella.India

Order of the Indian Empire ribbon Royal Victorian Order ribbon sm Dso-ribbon VOStJ ribbon

British War Medal BAR World War I Victory Medal ribbon 39-45 Star BAR Atlantic Star BAR

Africa Star BAR Burma Star BAR Italy Star BAR Defence Medal BAR

War Medal 39-45 BAR Naval General Service Medal 1915 BAR King George V Coronation Medal ribbon GeorgeVSilverJubileum-ribbon

GeorgeVICoronationRibbon ElizabethIICoronationRibbon Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal ribbon Indian Independence Medal 1947

Distinguished Service Medal ribbon US Legion of Merit Chief Commander ribbon Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon Greek War Cross 1940 3rd class ribbon

Order of George I Silver Cross ribbon Bronze Star ribbon Legion Honneur GC ribbon Croix de Guerre 1939-1945 ribbon

Order of the Cloud and Banner 1st PRT Military Order of Aviz - Grand Cross BAR Ord.Neth.Lion Most Refulgent Order of the Star of Nepal

POL Polonia Restituta Kawalerski BAR DNK Order of Danebrog Grand Cross BAR Star of Romania Ribbon ESP Isabella Catholic Order GC


Dick Marcinko's ribbon rack


See alsoEdit

External linksEdit


  1. US Army Regualtion 600-8-22, 2006, P. 72&73, 6--2 Service ribbons, a.

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