Defence Medal


The Defence Medal was a campaign medal of the British Commonwealth, awarded for service in World War II. It was instituted to recognise both military and some types of civilian service.

This type of service in the UK includes, but is not confined to, those civilian personnel who worked as members of:

Categories of Entitlement

  1. Ex-member of the Armed Force or of the Women’s Military Auxiliary Services
  2. Home Guard
  3.  Medical Services (overseas)
    Joint War Organisation of British Red Cross
    Society and the Order of St John of Jerusalem
    Chartered Physiotherapists
    (British Red Cross Society)
    American Field Service
  4. Philanthropic Bodies (Overseas)
    Army Scripture Readers’ Association
    Catholic Women’s League
    Christian Scientists (Officiating Minister).
    Christian Scientists Welfare Workers( Librarians and Secretaries )
    Church Army
    Church of England Soldiers’,Sailors’ and Airmen’s Institute
    Church of Scotland.
    Hibbert House
    Incorporated Soldiers’, Sailors’ and Airmen’s Help Society
    Methodist and United Board Churches
    Mission to Mediterranean Garrisons.
    Salvation Army.
    Soldiers’, Sailors’ and Airmen’s’Families Association
    Toc H
    Young Men’s Christian Association
    Young Women’s Christian Association
  5. Voluntary Societies under the Council of British Society for Relief Abroad
    Catholic Committee for Relief Abroad
    Guide International Relief Service
    International Voluntary Service for Peace
    Jewish Committee for Relief Abroad
    Joint War Organisation of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St John of Jerusalem.
    Salvation Army
    Save the Children Fund, Registered Charity
    Scout International Relief Service
    World Student Relief ( also known as International Student Service) ( London Committee).
    Young Women’s Christian Association.
  6. N.A.A.F.I. ( Overseas)
    N.A.A.F.I.Women’s Voluntary Service
    Civilian Uniformed Employees.
    Entertainment National Service Association
  7. Other Organisations and independent members ( Overseas)
    Allied Expeditionary Force Club
    Army Schoolmistresses, Malta.
    Assistant Commissioners H.M Forces war Savings Committee
    Civil Defence Service Overseas Column
    National Fire Service Overseas Column
    Technical Representative Civilian . R.E.M.E
    Telecom Personnel (Cable and Wireless Ltd
    War Correspondents including Americans who served between 3/9/39 and 8/12/41 inclusive
    War Office King’s Messengers
    Women’s Voluntary Service A.W.S.
    Women’s Transport Service A.W.S.
    Women’s Transport Service F.A.N.Y.Special Parties.
  8. Civil Defence Warden service including Shelter Warden
  9. Civil Defence Rescue Service, including former First Aid Party Services, or in London, Stretcher Party Services
  10. Civil Defence Decontamination Service
  11.  Civil Defence Report and Control Service
  12.  Civil Defence Messenger Service.
  13.  Civil Defence Ambulance Service including sitting Case Cars.
  14.  Civil Defence First Aid Service, including First Aid Posts and Points. Public Cleaning Centres. Mobile Cleaning Units and the Nursing Service for public air-raid shelters.
  15. Civil Defence Gas Identification Service.
  16. Rest Centre Service.
  17. Emergency Food Services including Queen’s Messenger Convoy Services
  18. Canteen Services.
  19. Administration and Information Centre Services not Ministry of Information Services
  20. Mortuary Services
  21.  Fire guards
    who performed duties under a local authority in any areas where the establishment of a fire guard organisation was compulsory or was approved by the Regional Commissioner in Northern Ireland, the Ministry responsible being service which was qualifying service for the award of Chevrons for war services
    including civil defence and Fire brigade personnel who performed duties at government or business premises under arrangements made under the Fire Guard Business and Government Premises Order 1943, or any previous provision or under the corresponding Order in Northern Ireland being service which was qualifying service for the award of Chevron for war service
  22.  E.N.S.A (Entertainments National Service Association)
  23.  Women’s Voluntary Service for Civil Defence
    being members who were eligible for war service red chevrons by reasons that they performed on behalf of a local authority duties analogous to those, of the eligible local authority civil defence services, and were engaged in a section of the W.V.S, which had,or would have had, operational functions during or immediately after enemy Reserve.. authorities, who do not qualify for the W.V.S members who were enrolled members of one of the eligible local authority services should apply as laid down for categories 8 - 19 above.
  24.  Civil Nursing Reserve.
  25.  Nurses or Midwives in hospitals for which Government Department or Local Authorities are responsible, or in the recognised voluntary hospitals
  26.  National Fire Services including services in a local authority Fire Brigade or the Auxiliary Fire Services prior to nationalisation.
  27.  Police Regular Police, First Police Reserve, Police War Reserve, Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps, Police Auxiliary Messenger Service, Special Constabulary.
  28.  Royal Marine Police Special Reserve..
  29.  Admiralty Civil Police.
  30.  War Department Constabulary.
  31.  Air Ministry Constabulary.
  32.  Railway and Dock Police
  33.  Civil Defence Services set up by Railway Dock authority and Canal Undertakings
  34. American Ambulance. Great Britain
  35. Civil Air Transport, Air crew only
  36. Air Transport Auxiliary, Air crew only
  37.  Civil Defence Reserve
  38.  Kent County Civil Defence Mobile Reserve
  39.  West Sussex County Civil Defence Mobile attacks
  40.  Coast Guard
  41.  Civil Servants forming departmental Civil Defence organisations
  42.  Lighthouse keepers who served under the three general lighthouse Authorities, and keepers of Light Vessel under those authority, who do not qualify for the 1939 - 45 Star
  43.  Port of London Authority River Emergency Service
  44.  Clyde River Patrol.
  45.  Royal Observer Corps.
  46.  Volunteer Stretcher Bearers Emergency Hospital Scheme
  47.  Male Orderlies in Casualty Evacuation Trains Emergency Medical Service.
  48. Emergency Information Officers and their helpers( who served under the Ministry of Information, and including Deputy E.I.Os.Announcers, Drivers, and Messengers, if engage in a section of the Service which had, operational functions during or immediately after enemy attack.
  49.  R.A.F. Education Officers serving in the United Kingdom
  50.  Enrolled lifeboat men R.N.L.I. who do not qualify for the 1939 - 45 Star.

The qualifying time required depending on the area served is:

•        UK - 1080 days

•        Overseas non-operational - 360 days

Overseas non-operational in an area deemed to be closely threatened or subject to air attack -180 days

This medal's qualification requirements are numerous and varied. They have been summarised into the following points.

•        Service in the Forces in non-operational areas subjected to air attack or closely threatened, providing such service last at least three years.

•        Non-operational service in the Forces overseas or outside the country of residence, providing that this service lasted for at least one year. If the territory was threatened by the enemy, or subjected to air raids, the duration requirement was reduced to six months.

•        Civil defence in military operational areas providing these civil defence activities were not eligible for campaign stars.

•        Members of any of the civilian services entitled to wear chevrons for their war service were eligible for this medal.

•        Members of the Home Guard resident in the UK, who had completed at least three years service.

•        Recipients of the George Cross or George Medal, regardless of their occupation, provided the George Cross or George Medal was won for service in civil defence.

The Defence Medal was also awarded for non-operational service overseas, for example in India or South Africa.


Materials:   The majority of the British medals and clasps are made of solid silver, though some were issued 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 – Centre flame coloured with green edges, symbolical of the enemy attack on our green land. The black-out will be forever commemorated by two thin black stripes down the centre of the green one.

Defence Medal ribbon
Defence Medal ribbon

TypeCampaign medal

Eligibility – British and Commonwealth forces

Awarded for – Campaign service

Established – 16th August 1945

Clasps – None

Designers – Obverse, T. H. Paget and the reverse, H. Wilson Parker.

Description – Cupro-nickel or silver disk 36mm dia.  The Canadian version was in 0.800 silver. The obverse of the award has the coinage head of King George VI, facing left, and the legend: ‘GEORGIVS VI D:G:BR:OMN:REX F:D:IND:IMP:’ (George 6th, by the grace of god, king of all the Britain’s, defender of the faith, emperor of India) . The reverse shows the Royal Crown resting above a small oak tree and flanked by a lion and lioness. The dates ‘1939’ and ‘1945’ appear in the top left and right respectively on the reverse, whilst beneath are the words ‘THE DEFENCE MEDAL’ in two lines.


This guide will help you through all the parts and descriptions of military medals


Major L L Gordon ‘British Battles and Medals’


Some of the material on this page was also partially derived from

< Defence_Medal_(United_Kingdom) >

Which are released under the terms of

Search for a name in our archive

Please enter a surname

Small Medium Large Landscape Portrait