Indian Distinguished Service Medal (IDSM)

Instituted on the 25th June, 1907 the Indian Distinguished Service Medal (IDSM) was a military decoration awarded by the British Empire to Indian citizens serving in the Indian armed forces. When originally instituted it was the second highest award available to Indians, behind the Indian Order of Merit, however, when eligibility for the Victoria Cross was extended to cover all Commonwealth subjects in 1911, the Indian Distinguished Service Medal (IDSM) became third highest in the order of precedence.

The medal would be awarded for distinguished service in the field by Indian commissioned and non-commissioned officers and men of the Indian Army, the Reserve Forces, Border Militia and levies, Military Police and troops employed by the Indian Government. After 1917 it was extended to 'non-combatant' followers, such as carriers and grooms. In 1929 eligibility was extended to the Royal Indian Marine and to the Indian Air Force in 1940. Finally it was extended in 1944 to include non-European personnel of the Hong Kong and Singapore Royal Artillery although it became obsolete in 1947.


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 edges and red centre

Indian Distinguished Service Medal Ribbon
Indian Distinguished Service Medal Ribbon

Suspender - Ornate

Type – Military decoration

Eligibility – Indian citizens in the armed forces and police

Awarded for – Distinguished service

Established – June 1907

Post Nominals - Recipients are entitled to the post-nominal letters IDSM

Naming – The medals were issued either with the engraved or impressed details of the recipient, including service number, name and regiment

Total awarded - Approx. 6,000 including bars

Bars / Clasps – Bars are awarded in recognition of the performance of further acts of distinguished service meriting the award

Description – Silver circular medal, 36mm diameter – The medal obverse bears the sovereigns effigy while the medal reverse has the wording on three lines ‘FOR DISTINGUISHED SERVICE’

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




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

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