This page relates to the first MoD medal review, which was eventually rejected by the PM and DPM in May 2011. It remains here for reference purposes only.
Part Two: General
2.1 The UK’s approach to the award of medals for operational services is underpinned by a strong ethos within the Armed Forces. There is no appetite to follow the practice of some other nations where some medals are awarded purely as a record that an individual had served their country UK operational medals are an important element of the moral component of fighting power. For the vast majority of Service personnel, who do not earn individual recognition for gallantry or meritorious service, campaign medals are the means by by which dangerous and demanding operational service is recognised by the nation. However there is a general feeling that, to be of value, a medal must be earned and only awarded in circumstances that justify it.
2.2 The introduction of all new medals requires individual cases to be submitted through the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals (the HO Committee to the Sovereign for approval The HD Committee has been in existence since before WW2.
2.3 The award of UK medals for military service is bound by two enduring rules and one principle:
a. The Five Year Rule, The institution of a new medal or clasp or the amendment of existing conditions of an award will not beconsidered more than 5 years after the conclusion of operations, provided the issue was given due consideration at the time.
b. The Double Medalling Rule. An individual may not be awarded more than one medal in recognition of the same period of military service.
c. The Risk and Rigour Principle. This requires that there should be a significant degree of risk to life and limb and deployed personnel will be exposed to arduous conditions in excess of what might normally be expected.
The HD Committee
2.4 The HD Committee is the principal Government body concerned with Honours awards and medals. The Committee is chaired by the cabinet Secretary and other members are: the Private Secretary to the Queen; Permanent Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office; Permanent Secretary; Ministry of Defence; Defence Services Secretary; Permanent Secretary FCO, Home Office Office; Secretary of the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood; Head of Honours and Appointments Secretariat and Ceremonial Officer of the Cabinet Office (Secretary). The HD Committee provides the mechanism for consideration of all matters relating to United Kingdom honours, awards and medals, and the Committee is the only channel through which proposals for additions to, or changes in, the system, including proposals affecting Armed Forces awards specifically, may be submitted to the Sovereign.
The Five Year Rule
2.5 The ‘Five Year Rule' prevents the consideration of nominations for Honours and Awards where these are Intended to recognise events that took place many years previously. The ‘Five Year Rule' is not law but rather represents the custom of successive Governments since WW2 when applications are received for the belated or retrospective recognition for events that took place many years earlier
2.6 This policy is believed to date from June 1946 when His Majesty King George VI approved the advice of the HD Committee to institute a number of Campaign Stars and Medals for service In the Wan Having instituted these awards, it was agreed that no further WW2 Medals or Stars would be considered. A similar decision was taken that no further recommendations for gallantry awards arising from service during the War would be considered after1950 (i.e. after five years). This principle has continued to be applied since the War.
2.7 The rationale behind the Five Year Rule is that those In authority now cannot put themselves in the position of those who would have had the responsibility for assessing events at the time. This ruling remains in force today and the modem HD Committee has indicated on a number of occasions that it will not review Its policy that there can be no retrospective recognition of events that took place many years previously. However; there was one notable exception to this which was the review in 2003 of the Canal Zone Medal (for service in the Suez Emergency 1951 - 54). This case was unique as there was no conclusive evidence that the case for a medal had ever been considered by those in command at the time. The case for a Canal Zone Clasp for the General Service Medal 1962 was subsequently approved, as an exception, by The Queen In September 20033 At the time the HD Committee indicated that the retrospective institution of the ‘Canal Zone' Clasp was not to be regarded as a precedent.
The Double Medalling Rule
2.8 The double medalling rule is well founded in the inter-Allied agreement of 19422, which prevented the acceptance of foreign orders/decorations by British personnel who had already received a British award for the same service. This principle has been applied up to the present day.
2.9 Double medalling with campaign medals was first addressed at the end of the First World War, resulting in the ‘Inter-Allied Victory Medal’ and an agreement for no reciprocal exchange of national campaign medals. There was no similar medal at the close of the Second World War but the UK took stringent steps to prevent the award of Stars and Medals to Allied personnel who were to receive their own country’s equivalents and did not permit acceptance of Allied campaign medals other than by Supreme Commanders.
2.10 Any precedents cited for the double medalling of UK troops with campaign medals tends to stem from the 19th Century — when for diplomatic reasons the Government allowed troops who were already receiving Queen’s medals for Egypt/Sudan to receive another from the Khedive of Egypt, which at the time the Government had found impossible to refuse for diplomatic reasons. However, a more recent precedent was for the Korean War (1950-53) when both the UK and United Nations issued medals that were permitted for wear by UK personnel. This overlap is understood to have been largely due to the UK and UN failing to consult on their intentions to strike a medal but may also have been as a mark of courtesy by the Government to the still relatively new United Nations organisation. Since Korea, the UK policy of not accepting a second medal has hardened and, for example, at the end of the first Gulf War, when both a grateful Kuwait and Saudi Arabia offered medals, personnel were permitted to ‘accept but not wear’ these medals (i.e. receive as a keepsake). This policy continues for those who have served in Afghanistan under NATO command who are awarded the ISAF medal by NATO in duplication of the UK’s own Operational Service Medal Afghanistan. (Further details on the acceptance and wear of foreign medals are contained in Part Four of this Review).
Risk and Rigour and Institution of an Operational Medal
2.11 The procedures for considering the institution of a British award for the Armed Forces have been followed for many years, with only minor changes. In the case of campaign service or an emergency situation, the process starts if the Commander-in-Chief at the time considers that a medal for service in the particular theatre is justified. Timeliness is of great importance in order for the passage of time not to influence the relative merit, or otherwise, of the operation and to ensure the decisions are taken by those that best understand the situation as it occurs, Equally, proposals for a new medal should not be initiated too early before the nature of the campaign/operational service has become apparent.
2.12 The main factors that should be considered in the overall criteria for a proposal in any particular operational situation are:
a. The risk and danger to life.
b. The style and force of the enemy, adversary or opponent.
c. The physical and mental stress and rigours that had to be experienced
by individuals; and, indeed, the numbers of individuals and/or units involved or committed to the operation.
d. The extent to which climate, weather and terrain factors affected the operational situation.
e. The restrictions, limitations and difficulty in Implementing the operation.
f. The time (stated in number of days) and the number of air sorties (which may have a Limit on how many on any one day) that should count towards eligibility.
g. The geographical boundaries within which eligibility will count (this does not have to accord with the officially defined operational area).
2.13 On receipt of the proposal the MOD will, in the case of an award for specific operations, advise the single-Service Chiefs of Staff whether it appears that in principle:
a. An award is operationally justified
b. An award is not operationally justified;
c. It is not possible to reach a decision on an operational justification for the present but the matter should be kept under review.
2.14 If the Chiefs of Staff consider that the proposed award cannot for the time being be supported, the Chief of the Defence Staff will inform the appropriate Commander that it is not possible to proceed with the proposal at present but the matter will be kept under review. The MOD will arrange for the matter to be reviewed at appropriate intervals until it is possible to reach a decision on the justification, when the procedures outlined above will be followed.
2.15 If the single-Service Chiefs of Staff support an award in principle, the Chief of Defence Staff will instruct the Defence Services Secretary to have a formal proposal prepared by the initiating Commander. The initiating Headquarters will then staff the proposal, Including the detailed criteria and conditions of award, to the Front Line Commands before being returned to the Defence Services Secretary. The purpose of staffing to the Front Line Commands is to ensure that all who might be eligible have been included. The proposal is then considered by the Armed Forces Operational Awards Committee (AFOAC) for endorsement after which it is passed for consideration by the Chiefs of Staff.
2.16 Once the proposed award has been agreed, the endorsement of the Secretary of State for Defence will be sought before it is forwarded no the Secretary of the HD Committee for the Committee’s consideration and, lf agreed, put to the Sovereign for approval.
2.17 The principles underpinning the award of medals outlined above have been in place for many years and remain sound. Exceptions have been made In the case of the Five Year Rule (e.g. the Canal Zone) and Double Medalling (e.g. Korea) but these `precedents' have not created sufficient case law to invalidate the formal continuation of principles that have stood the UK medal system in good stead for over 60 years.
2.18 The enduring intentions of the Five Year and Double Medalling Rules and the principle of Risk and Rigour should continue to underpin all recommendations and decisions made by the Ministry of Defence on medallic matters.
Extract from Part Five: Veterans Campaigns for Medals for Past Service
National Defence Medal
5.43 Calls have been made in recent years for the institution of a new universal medal which recognises all efficient service in the Armed Forces of broadly two years or more since 3 September 1945.
Supporters of a National Defence Medal (NDM) seek recognition for all who have served irrespective of where they have been called upon to do that service.
Medals are generally introduced for particular operations where there is the presence of particular risk and rigour’ but many have served, and continue to serve, on commitments which are demanding in their own way but are not recognised by a medal. Examples would be those who completed National Service and those who served throughout the Cold War when they may not have been involved in armed conflict but were, in some circumstances, at a moments readiness to deploy.
5.44 The argument is strengthened by the fact that a number of allies have their own Defence Medals. Australia and, most recently, New Zealand have introduced Defence Medals for four years and three years Service respectively. The Prime Minister of New Zealand announced the introduction or the New Zealand Defence Service Medal on 11 October 2010. The intent of the Medal is to recognise the unique requirements of military service. These requirements are stated as including: commitment to service of the Crown, liability for operational service subject to military discipline and lifestyle and imposed constraints on employment conditions and personal freedoms.
5.45 The Liberal Democrats passed a motion at the 2010 party conference to support the introduction of a National Defence Medal in the UK In the debate and elsewhere supporters of the cause suggested that those entitled be invited to buy the medal rather the Government meet the cost.
5.46 There is no tradition in the UK for medals being awarded simply for being members of the Armed Forces Medals are not issued as a record of service, as is the case in some countries.
Qualification for medals is generally based on the risks and rigours of campaigns and operations, individual brave Or meritorious Service, long service and good conduct.
The only medals issued for simply having served in the Armed Forces are Coronation and Jubilee medals and even then there are strict qualifying criteria that have to be satisfied before a medal is issued.
Introduction of a medal for all irrespective of where and when they served would thus represent a change in ethos for the UK military.
5.47 There is no indication that currently serving personnel have any particular desire for a universal defence Medal.
New medals are generally instituted primarily for serving personnel, not for veterans, That was one reason why the MOD instituted the Armed Forces Veterans lapel badge in 2004.
The badge is a universal recognition of past military service without implying that the wearer has or has not been engaged or involved in activities that were subsequently recognised by the award of a medal. Whilst the NDM supporters claim that the badge is insufficient recognition for having served, there is evidence of its popularity with over 800,000 veterans claiming a badge and one is now issued to all personnel leaving the Armed Forces.
5.48 Medals introduced by the Governments of Australia, New Zealand and others are their own responsibility in line with their own customs and military ethos, Since Australia and New Zealand withdrew from the Imperial Honours System, advice from their Ministers to The Queen does not have to be mirrored by the British Government.
5.49 The potential number of applicants for a NDM would be huge. It is estimated that some 4 million people could apply either for themselves or on behalf of a deceased relative (2 million alone completed post War National service).
The cost of a National Defence Medal could therefore extend to as much as £300 million. Where is the evidence to back up this figure.
Campaigners for the medal have suggested that a medal could be paid for by individuals, Official medals are the gift of The Queen, who is the fount of all Honour in the UK. Medals are awarded free of charge to individuals who meet or exceed the published qualifying criteria laid down for each one. AU medals have eligibility criteria and only those who are awarded them in the name of The Sovereign may wear them. If a charge was placed upon such a medal it would devalue the status of the award and the UK Honours and Awards system more generally.
5.50 Having given this issue the fullest consideration, the MOD does not support the institution of a national defence Medal for the reasons outlined in paragraphs 5.46 to 5.49 above.