South African Medal for War Service

Era: 1939 - 1946

Instituted by a Royal Warrant on 29th December 1945 the South African Medal for War Service is a medal for voluntary unpaid service in support of the war effort between 6th September 1939 and 15th February 1946.  It was awarded to men and women who served for at least two years, of which at least one year was continuous in any of the voluntary organisations in South Africa or overseas, so long as the service was without pay and voluntary.


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 stripes of red, white and blue

South African Medal for War Service ribbon
South African Medal for War Service ribbon

Suspender - Straight

Type – Service medal

Eligibility – Whether British subjects or not

Awarded for – Voluntary & unremunerated service

Established – 1945

Total awarded – 17,500+

Description – Silver circular medal 36mm in diameter. The medal reverse depicts a wreath of Protea flowers and the centre has the inscription ‘1939 / 1945’. Legend above: ‘SOUTH AFRICA. SUID-AFRIKA’ and below between stops: ‘FOR WAR SERVICES. VIR OORLOG DIENSTE’. The obverse shows the Coat of Arms of the Union of South Africa with antelope supporters, lion crest and motto: ‘EX UNITATE VIRES’.


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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