Distinguished Service Medal (DSM)

The Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) was established on 14th October 1914 and awarded to petty officers and ratings of the Royal Navy, NCOs and other ranks in the Royal Marines and all other persons holding corresponding ranks or positions in the naval forces, who "show themselves to the fore in action, and set an example of bravery and resource under fire, but without performing acts of such pre-eminent bravery as would render them eligible to receive the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (CGM)”. It was later extended to cover the Merchant Navy and Army, the WRNS and RAF personnel serving aboard ships in the Second World War.

The DSM was the Other Ranks' equivalent to the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), which was awarded to commissioned officers and Warrant Officers, although it ranked below that decoration in order of precedence, between the George Medal (GM) and the Military Medal (MM) after those medals' respective establishments in 1940 and 1916.

As a result of the 1993 Review of gallantry awards and resultant changes to the operational gallantry award system, the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) has been replaced by the Distinguished Service Cross which is now available to officers and other ranks.


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 – Dark blue, white, and dark blue, with a thin dark blue stripe down the centre of the white

Distinguished Service Medal ribbon
Distinguished Service Medal ribbon

Suspender - Straight

Type – Military decoration

Eligibility – Other ranks of the British and (formerly) Commonwealth forces

Awarded for – Setting an example of bravery and resource under fire

Established – 14th October 1914

Post Nominals - Recipients of the Distinguished Service Medal are entitled to use the post-nominal letters DSM

Bars / Clasps - Bars were authorised for subsequent awards. Bars issued during the First World War were dated on the reverse, while those awarded during the Second World War were undated

Description – Silver circular medal 36mm diameter – The obverse of the medal bears the crowned effigy of the reigning monarch. The reverse has the inscription 'FOR DISTINGUISHED SERVICE' in three lines, within a laurel wreath surmounted by an Imperial crown.

Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) (George VI shown)

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


Bigbury Mint

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

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