The British Empire Medal (BEM) was created by Royal Warrant on December 29th 1922 to replace the Medal of the Order of the British Empire (1907-1922).
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.
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 14th 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.
Between 1993 and 2012, the British Empire Medal was not awarded to subjects of the United Kingdom, although it continued to be awarded in some Commonwealth realms during that time. The practice of awarding the British Empire Medal to subjects of the United Kingdom was resumed in June 2012, to coincide with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, although only in the civil division. In the 2012 Birthday Honours, released on 16 June 2012, the BEM was awarded to 293 people.
Materials: The majority of the British medals and clasps are made of solid silver, though some were issue in bronze versions, mainly to Indian non-combatants. The majority of the British campaign awards are circular, usually 36mm in diameter.
Ribbons: Medals are worn suspended from their own specific ribbons. These were first made of silk but cotton was increasingly used as the nineteenth century developed. Their own colours often have a symbolic significance: the equal stripes of the ‘1939 to 1945 Star,’ for example, are dark blue to represent the service of the Royal and Merchant Navies, red, to represent that of the Armies and light blue to represent that of Air Forces.
Ribbon width can vary slightly though it is generally 32mm wide.
Ribbon – The civil ribbon was purple. The military ribbon had a narrow central red stripe added. Current (after 1937): The civil ribbon is rose-pink with pear-grey edges. The military ribbon is rose-pink with a central pearl-grey stripe.
Suspender - Ornate
Type – Medal affiliated with an order
Eligibility – Members of the Commonwealth
Awarded for – Meritorious service
Established – 1922–1993, 2012–present
Post Nominals - Recipients are entitled to use the post-nominal letters "BEM"
Bars / Clasps - A bar was awarded for additional acts of gallantry and from 1957 on a silver oak leaf emblem was worn on the ribbon to signify that the award was for gallantry and not for service
Description – Silver circular medal 36mm diameter - On the obverse the medal shows the seated figure of Britannia, her left hand resting on a shield and her right holding a trident, with a blazing sun in the upper right. The words ‘FOR GOD AND THE EMPIRE’ inscribed round the upper part of the circumference, and the words ‘FOR MERITORIOUS SERVICE’ in the exergue. (The Empire Gallantry Medal (EGM) had the inscription ‘FOR GALLANTRY’ on the bottom.) On the reverse of the award is the Royal Cypher surmounted by a crown with the words: ‘INSTITUTED BY KING GEORGE V’ within a border of four heraldic lions.
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