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An overview of South African military decorations and medals, which form part of the South African honours system.

File:Honoris Crux Diamond medal.jpg

Honoris Crux Diamond medal

Colonial forces 1894–1913[edit | edit source]

The colonial military forces received British military decorations in wartime. From 1894, the colonial governments awarded medals for distinguished conduct and for long service. This was the general practice in the British Empire at that time. The colonial medals were:

  • Decorations
    • Volunteer Officers' Decoration (VD) (1894–1901)
    • Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers' Decoration (VD) (1900–13)
    • Distinguished Conduct Medal (1896–1913)
  • Long service medals
    • Long Service & Good Conduct Medal (1896–1913)
    • Meritorious Service Medal (1896–1913)
    • Volunteer Long Service Medal (1894–1901)
    • Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal (1900–13).

Union Defence Forces 1913–1952[edit | edit source]

The colonial forces were replaced in 1912 by the Union Defence Forces, which continued the system. British decorations for gallantry and distinguished service were awarded during World War I and World War II, and the South African government granted the other categories of award. They were:

  • Decoration
    • Distinguished Conduct Medal (1914–40)
  • Long service medals
    • Long Service & Good Conduct Medal (1914–39)
    • Long Service & Good Conduct Medal (Military) (1939–52)
    • Meritorious Service Medal (1914–40)
    • Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers' Decoration (VD) (1913–39)
    • Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal (1913–39)
    • Efficiency Decoration (ED) (1939–52)
    • Efficiency Medal (1939–52)
    • RNVR Volunteer Officers' Decoration (VD) (1915–49)
    • RNVR Long Service & Good Conduct Medal (1915–49)
    • Air Efficiency Award (1950–52).


Boer war veterans[edit | edit source]

In 1920, the South African government instituted a separate set of awards, for Boer veterans of the 1899–1902 Anglo-Boer War — neither of the Boer republics for which they had fought had had its own honours system. The awards were:

Boer20.png

South African Defence Force[edit | edit source]

1952–1975[edit | edit source]

South Africa introduced its own honours system in 1952. Its largest component was a series of military decorations and medals, which not only replaced the existing long service medals, but provided substitutes for the decorations which the British government had awarded in wartime:


Decoration Name Post Nominals Period current Number awarded Awarded for Ribbon
Castle of Good Hope Decoration CGH 1952–2003 Never awarded Most conspicuous bravery Ribbon - Castle of Good Hope Decoration.gif
Louw Wepener Decoration LWD 1952–1975 7 Most conspicuous courage or greatest heroism Ribbon - Louw Wepener Medal.gif
Star of South Africa SSA 1952–1975 20 Exceptionally meritorious service Ribbon - Star of South Africa (1952).gif
Van Riebeeck Decoration DVR 1952–1975 2 Distinguished service in the field (officers) Ribbon - Van Riebeeck Decoration.gif
Honoris Crux – 1st Type HC 1952–1975 5 Gallantry in action against the enemy Ribbon - Honoris Crux (1952).gif
Van Riebeeck Medal VRM 1952–1975 5 Distinguished service in the field (other ranks) File:VRMlint.gif
Louw Wepener Medal LWM 1967–1975 8 Courageous or heroic deeds in saving lives Ribbon - Louw Wepener Medal.gif
Southern Cross Medal – 1st Type SM 1952–75 587 Outstanding devotion to duty Ribbon - Southern Cross Medal (1952).gif
Pro Merito Medal – 1st Type PMM 1967–75 374 Outstanding devotion to duty (other ranks) Ribbon - Pro Merito Medal (1968).gif
Danie Theron Medal 1970–2003 Diligent service in the Commandos Ribbon - Danie Theron Medal.gif
Jack Hindon Medal 1970–1975 18 Diligent service in the Commandos (other ranks) Ribbon - Jack Hindon Medal.gif
Campaign medals
Korea Medal 1953 Service in the Korean War Ribbon - Korea Medal (South Africa).gif
Long Service Medals
Permanent Force Good Service Medal 1952–1975 18 years service in the Permanent Force Ribbon - Union Medal.gif
John Chard Decoration JCD 1952–2003 20 years service in the Citizen Force Ribbon - John Chard Medal.gif
De Wet Decoration DWD 1952–2003 20 years service in the Commandos Ribbon - De Wet Decoration.gif
John Chard Medal 1952–2003 12 years service in the Citizen Force Ribbon - John Chard Medal.gif
Cadet Corps Medal 1966–1967 20 years service in school cadets Ribbon - Cadet Corps Medal.gif
Shooting Medals
Commandant-General's Medal 1965–2003 Winning the annual SADF shooting championships Ribbon - Commandant General's Medal.gif
Emblems
Mentioned in Despatches 1967–2003
Commendation by the Chief of the SADF 1968–1974

1975–2003[edit | edit source]

A new system was introduced in 1975. It retained seven of the existing decorations and medals. Innovations included a hierarchy of merit awards, cumulative long service medals, and colour-coded ribbons. As the South African Defence Force was engaged in military operations in South West Africa and Angola throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the number of awards granted each year increased significantly. Additional decorations were instituted between 1987 and 1991.

Decoration Name Post Nominals Period current Number awarded Awarded for Ribbon
Castle of Good Hope Decoration CGH 1952–2003 Never awarded Most conspicuous bravery Ribbon - Castle of Good Hope Decoration.gif
Honoris Crux Diamond HCD 1975–93 Never awarded Death-defying heroic deeds of outstanding valour Ribbon - Honoris Crux Diamond.gif
Honoris Crux Gold HCG 1975–93 6 Outstanding bravery in extreme danger Ribbon - Honoris Crux Gold.gif
Order of the Star of South Africa SSA/SSAS 1975–2003 meritorious military service. Ribbon - Star of South Africa, Gold.gif
Honoris Crux Silver HCS 1975–2003 27 Exceptional bravery in great danger Ribbon - Honoris Crux Silver.gif
Honoris Crux — 2nd Type HC 1975–2003 201 Bravery while in danger Ribbon - Honoris Crux (1975).gif
Pro Virtute Decoration PVD 1987–2003 Distinguished conduct and exceptional combat leadership (officers) Ribbon - Pro Virtute Decoration.gif
Southern Cross Decoration SD 1975–2003 Outstanding service of the highest order, and utmost devotion to duty (Officers) Ribbon - Southern Cross Decoration.gif
Pro Merito Decoration PMD 1975–2003 Outstanding service of the highest order, and utmost devotion to duty (other ranks) Ribbon - Pro Merito Decoration.gif
Pro Virtute Medal PVM 1987–2003 Distinguished conduct and exceptional combat leadership (other ranks) File:PVMlint.gif
Ad Astra Decoration AAD 1987–2003 Excellent flying skill or ingenuity by SA Air Force aircrew in emergencies or unusual situations[1] File:AADlint.gif
Army Cross CM 1991–2003 Exceptional courage, leadership, skill or ingenuity in dangerous or critical situations (army personnel) Ribbon - Army Cross.gif
Air Force Cross CA 1991–2003 Exceptional courage, leadership, skill or ingenuity in dangerous or critical situations (air force personnel) Ribbon - Air Force Cross (South Africa).gif
Navy Cross CN 1991–2003 Exceptional courage, leadership, skill or ingenuity in dangerous or critical situations (naval personnel) Ribbon - Navy Cross (South Africa).gif
South African Medical Service Cross CC 1991–2003 Exceptional courage, leadership, skill or ingenuity in dangerous or critical situations (military health service personnel) Ribbon - Medical Service Cross.gif
Southern Cross Medal — 2nd Type SM 1975–2003 Exceptionally meritorious service and particular devotion to duty (officers) Ribbon - Southern Cross Medal (1986).gif
Pro Merito Medal — 2nd Type PMM 1975–2003 Exceptionally meritorious service and particular devotion to duty (other ranks) Ribbon - Pro Merito Medal (1986).gif
Danie Theron Medal DTM 1970–2003 Exceptionally diligent and outstanding service in the Commandos Ribbon - Danie Theron Medal.gif
Military Merit Medal MMM 1974–2003 Service of a high order File:MMMint.gif
Campaign medals
Pro Patria Medal 1974– 1989 Operational service in combating terrorism or in defence of South Africa Ribbon - Pro Patria Medal (South Africa).gif
Southern Africa Medal 1989 Service in military operations outside South Africa and South West Africa between 1976 and 1989 Ribbon - Southern Africa Medal.gif
General Service Medal 1989 Operational service inside South Africa from 1983 Ribbon - General Service Medal (South Africa).gif
Commemorative Medals
Unitas Medal 1994 To commemorate the amalgamation of the SADF, APLA, MK and the homeland defence forces to form the SA National Defence Force Ribbon - Unitas Medal.gif
Long Service Medals
Medal for Distinguished Conduct & Loyal Service 1987–2003 40 years service in the Defence Force Ribbon - Medal for Distinguished Conduct & Loyal Service 3.gif
Good Service Medal (Gold) 1975–2003 30 years service in the Permanent Force Ribbon - Good Service Medal, Gold.gif
Good Service Medal (Silver) 1975–2003 20 years service in the Permanent Force Ribbon - Good Service Medal, Silver.gif
John Chard Decoration JCD 1952–2003 20 years service in the Citizen Force Ribbon - John Chard Medal.gif
De Wet Decoration DWD 1952–2003 20 years service in the Commandos Ribbon - De Wet Decoration.gif
John Chard Medal 1952–2003 12 (from 1986, 10) years service in the Citizen Force Ribbon - John Chard Medal.gif
Good Service Medal (Bronze) 1975–2003 10 years service in the Permanent Force Ribbon - Good Service Medal, Bronze.gif
De Wet Medal 1987–2003 10 years service in the Commandos Ribbon - De Wet Medal.gif
Shooting Medals
Commandant-General's Medal 1965–2003 Ribbon - Commandant General's Medal.gif
Cadet Corps Champion Shot Medal 1987–2003 Ribbon - National Cadet Bisley Grand Champion Medal.gif
Emblems
Mentioned in Despatches 1967–2003

Armed opposition organisations[edit | edit source]

In 1996, two separate sets of decorations were instituted for veterans who had served in the Azanian People's Liberation Army and Umkhonto we Sizwe during the armed campaign against the former government.

Azanian People's Liberation Army[edit | edit source]

Apla96.png

Umkhonto we Sizwe[edit | edit source]

South African National Defence Force[edit | edit source]

The South African National Defence Force, which was formed in 1994 by amalgamating the SADF, the liberation armies, and the military forces of the former homelands, used the SADF decorations and medals until 2003, when a new series of decorations was instituted:

South African military decorations 2003.gif

References[edit | edit source]

  • Alexander, E. G. M., Barron G. K. B. and Bateman, A. J. (1986). South African Orders, Decorations and Medals. Human and Rousseau.
  • Monick, S. (1988). South African Military Awards 1912–1987. South African National Museum of Military History.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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