The British Empire Medal (BEM) was established in 1922 to replace the Medal of the Order of the British Empire.
The British Empire Medal is a British medal awarded for meritorious civil or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown.
Recipients are entitled to use the post-nominal letters "BEM" and it is divided into civil and military medals in a similar way to the Order of the British Empire itself.
The Medal of the Order of the British Empire was first established in 1917 together with the Order of the British Empire itself. It was awarded 2014 times to its recipients, 800 of which were from foreign countries.
In 1922 the original medal was split into two new honours.
While the Medal of the Order of the British Empire for Gallantry (usually known as the Empire Gallantry Medal) was awarded for acts of bravery until it was replaced by the George Cross in 1940, the Medal of the Order of the British Empire for Meritorious Service (usually known as the British Empire Medal) was awarded in similar circumstances as the lower classes of the Order of the British Empire, but usually to people below management or professional level. In the uniformed services, it was awarded to non-commissioned officers of the armed forces, officers below superintendent rank in the police, and personnel below divisional officer level in the fire services.
From 1940, the British Empire Medal for Meritorious Service could again be awarded for gallantry, but now for acts of bravery (not in the face of the enemy) which were below the level required for the George Medal and to the same classes of people awarded the BEM for other services (with more senior recipients receiving the Order of the British Empire).
From 14 January 1958 these awards were instead designated as the British Empire Medal for Gallantry and consisted of the Medal of the Order of the British Empire for Meritorious Service with a silver oak leaf emblem worn on the ribbon.
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