Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM)

Era: 1854 - 1993

The Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) was (until 1993) an extremely high level award for bravery. It was a second level military decoration awarded to other ranks of the British Army and formerly also to non-commissioned personnel of other Commonwealth countries. Recipients are entitled to the post-nominal letters DCM and were announced in the London Gazette, accompanied by a citation.

The medal was instituted by Royal Warrant on 4th December 1854, during the Crimean War, to recognise gallantry within the other ranks, for which it was equivalent of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) awarded for bravery to commissioned officers, but the DCM ranked well below the DSO in precedence. Prior to the institution of this decoration, there had been no medal awarded by the British government in recognition of individual acts of gallantry in the Army.

Although the Distinguished Conduct Medal remained available the lesser Military Medal was usually awarded from the spring of 1916 other than for exceptional acts of bravery.

From 1942, members of the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and the Navy’s and Air Forces of the Dominions and Colonies also became eligible for the award.

In 1993 the medal was replaced by the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross after a review of the operational gallantry award system.


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 – Three equal parts crimson, dark blue, and crimson.

Distinguished Conduct Medal ribbon
Distinguished Conduct Medal ribbon

Suspender - Ornate

Type – Gallantry medal

Eligibility – Other ranks

Awarded for – Gallantry in the field

Established – 4th Dec 1854

Naming – All medals awarded bear the recipient’s number, rank, name and unit on the rim

Total Awarded – 29,800

Clasps – Bar to the medal awarded in recognition of each subsequent act of distinguished conduct

Description – A silver medal 36 mm in diameter. The original obverse of this medal depicted a trophy of arms as seen on early Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medals. However in 1902 after the accession of King Edward VII, the effigy of the reigning monarch replaced the trophy of arms, with the respective titles of the monarchs inscribed around the perimeters-

King Edward VII (1901 – 1910) – "EDWARDVS VII REX IMPERATOR".

King George V, bareheaded (1910 – 1936) – "GEORGIVS V BRITT: OMN: REX ET IND: IMP:".

King George V, crowned (1910 – 1936) – "GEORGIVS.V.D.G.BRITT.OMN.REX.ET.INDIÆ.IMP"

King George VI – Two versions were made, inscribed "GEORGIVS VI D:G:BR OMN REX ET INDIAE IMP:" and awarded during the Second World War, or "GEORGIVS VI DEI GRA: BRITT: OMN: REX FID: DEF: BIU" and awarded, instead of the Elizabeth II version, to Canadians during the Korean War.


The reverse on all issues bears the four line inscription "FOR DISTINGUISHED CONDUCT IN THE FIELD" underlined by a laurel wreath between two spear blades.

Clasps are usually referred to as ‘bars’.  They are single-faced metal bars carried on a ribbon attached to the medal, indicating the recipient’s service in a particular campaign or battle.  The clasps carry side flanges to enable them to be attached to the medal and riveted to each other, so that new ones can be attached as earned.  Usually the first earned Clasp is closest to the medal, so that the latest earned should be at the top, although they can be found in the wrong order. 

A Bar to the medal, introduced in 1881, could be awarded in recognition of each subsequent act of distinguished conduct for which the medal would have been awarded.

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


The King's Own Royal Regiment Museum, (Lancaster), Distinguished Conduct Medal

Medal Year Book 2006

< gov.uk/medals-campaigns-descriptions-and-eligibility>

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