British Empire Medal

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British Empire Medal
British Empire Medal (Civil) , obverse.jpg British Empire Medal (Civil) , reverse.jpg
Obverse (left) and reverse: British Empire Medal, civil division ribbon
TypeMedal affiliated with an order
Awarded forMeritorious service
CountryUnited Kingdom
Presented by Charles III
Post-nominalsBEM
MottoFor God and the Empire
StatusCurrently awarded
Established1922–present
1993–2011 Commonwealth but not UK
Last awarded 2022 New Year Honours
UK OBE 1917 civil BAR.svg UK OBE 1917 military BAR.svg
Ribbon bars: Civil and Military BEM (to 1937)
OBE Civil ribbon.svg OBE Military ribbon.svg
Ribbon bars: Civil and Military BEM (since 1937)
Precedence
Next (higher) Royal Victorian Medal [1]
Next (lower) King's Police Medal [1]
Related Order of the British Empire
Medal of the Order of the British Empire, obverse. Awarded 1917-22. Medal of the Order of the British Empire, obverse.png
Medal of the Order of the British Empire, obverse. Awarded 1917–22.

The British Empire Medal (BEM; formerly British Empire Medal for Meritorious Service) is a British and Commonwealth award for meritorious civil or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown. [1] The current honour was created in 1922 to replace the original medal, which had been established in 1917 as part of the Order of the British Empire.

Contents

Award

The British Empire Medal is granted in recognition of meritorious civil or military service. Recipients are entitled to use the post-nominal letters "BEM".

Since December 1918, the honour has been divided into civil and military divisions in a similar way to the Order of the British Empire itself. While recipients are not members of the Order, the medal is affiliated to it. [2]

Between 1993 and 2012, the British Empire Medal was not awarded to subjects of the United Kingdom, although it continued to be awarded in some Commonwealth realms during that time. The practice of awarding the Medal to British subjects was resumed in June 2012, to coincide with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, [3] but only in the civil division. [4]

Since March 1941 a clasp attached to the ribbon can be bestowed to denote a further award. [2]

A holder of the BEM subsequently appointed to membership of the Order of the British Empire is permitted to wear the insignia for both. [5]

History

1917–1922

The Medal of the Order of the British Empire was established in June 1917, along with the Order of the British Empire of which it was a part, and could be awarded for either meritorious service or for gallantry. It was awarded to 2,014 people, 800 of whom were from foreign countries. [1] [2]

1922–1940

In 1922, the original medal was discontinued, and was replaced by two separate honours, both of which still formed part of the Order of the British Empire. These two honours were known as the Medal of the Order of the British Empire for Meritorious Service (usually referred to as British Empire Medal, BEM) and the Medal of the Order of the British Empire for Gallantry (usually referred to as Empire Gallantry Medal , EGM). Of these medals, the EGM was awarded for acts of bravery, until it was replaced by the George Cross in 1940. [5] The BEM was awarded in similar circumstances as the lower classes of the Order of the British Empire, but usually to people below management or professional level. In the uniformed services, it was awarded to non-commissioned officers of the armed forces, officers below superintendent rank in the police,[ citation needed ] and personnel below divisional officer level in the fire services.[ citation needed ]

1940–1992

Silver oak-leaf emblem for gallantry, awarded 1958-74 Order of the British Empire for gallantry, oak leaves ribbon emblem.jpg
Silver oak-leaf emblem for gallantry, awarded 1958–74

On 24 September 1940, the George Cross was established, and the EGM was revoked by Royal Warrant the same day. All living recipients, other than honorary recipients, and the next-of-kin of those posthumously awarded the EGM after 3 September 1939, the start of the Second World War, were to exchange their insignia for the George Cross. Recipients of the BEM were not affected by these changes. [6]

From 1940, the war led to an increasing number of BEMs awarded to service personnel and civilians, including the merchant marine, police and civil defence, for acts of gallantry that did not reach the standard of the George Medal (GM). Such awards often had citations, while awards for meritorious service usually did not. [2]

From 14 January 1958, awards of the BEM for acts of gallantry were formally designated the British Empire Medal for Gallantry and consisted of the BEM with a silver oak leaf emblem worn on the ribbon. [7] The first recipients of this newly designated award were two Board of Customs officers, George Elrick Thomson and John Rees Thomas, who ventured into a burning steamship hold in an attempt to rescue a colleague. [8] Like the GM, the BEM for Gallantry could not be awarded posthumously and was eventually replaced in 1974 with the Queen's Gallantry Medal (QGM). [9] Again, recipients of the BEM for services other than acts of bravery were not affected by these changes.

1992–2012

The BEM continued to be awarded to subjects of the United Kingdom until 1992. After a 1993 review of the British honours system, the government decided that the distinction between the BEM and MBE had "become increasingly tenuous" and the Prime Minister, John Major, ended the award of the BEM [10] to British subjects, although the medal continued to be awarded in some Commonwealth countries, such as the Bahamas and the Cook Islands. [11]

From 2012

Following the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the BEM would once again be awarded in the United Kingdom, although only in the civil division; this would start beginning in 2012, to coincide with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. [10] In the 2012 Birthday Honours, released on 16 June 2012, the BEM was awarded to 293 people. [12]

Although those awarded the honour do not receive it from the monarch in person, but from the Lord Lieutenant of their county, recipients are invited to a Buckingham Palace garden party to celebrate their achievement. [12]

Appearance

The Medal of the Order of the British Empire awarded from 1917 to 1922 was a circular silver medal, 30 millimetres (1.2 in) in diameter, showing a seated Britannia and the inscription FOR GOD AND THE EMPIRE on the obverse and the Royal cypher on the reverse. The medal had a ring suspender for the 27 millimetres (1.1 in) wide ribbon of plain purple, the military division having a red central stripe. The medal was awarded unnamed. [9]

The medals introduced in 1922 broadly follow the same design but, with a diameter of 36 millimetres (1.4 in), are larger than the previous medal, and have either FOR MERITORIOUS SERVICE or FOR GALLANTRY in the obverse exergue. The medal has a straight bar suspender for the 1.25 inches (32 mm) wide ribbon. This was plain purple, with a red central stripe for the military division, until 1937 when, like the Order, the ribbon changed to the current design of rose-pink with pearl-grey edges, with an additional pearl-grey central stripe for the military division. The medal was presented with the recipient's name on the rim. [9]

Related Research Articles

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The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of the order.

The George Cross (GC) is the highest award bestowed by the British government for non-operational gallantry or gallantry not in the presence of an enemy. In the British honours system, the George Cross, since its introduction in 1940, has been equal in stature to the Victoria Cross, the highest military gallantry award. It is awarded "for acts of the greatest heroism or for most conspicuous courage in circumstance of extreme danger", not in the presence of the enemy, to members of the British armed forces and to British civilians. Posthumous awards have been allowed since it was instituted. It was previously awarded to residents of Commonwealth countries, most of which have since established their own honours systems and no longer recommend British honours. It may be awarded to a person of any military rank in any service and to civilians including police, emergency services and merchant seamen. Many of the awards have been personally presented by the British monarch to recipients or, in the case of posthumous awards, to next of kin. The investitures are usually held at Buckingham Palace.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Distinguished Service Order</span> UK military decoration

The Distinguished Service Order (DSO) is a military decoration of the United Kingdom, as well as formerly of other parts of the Commonwealth, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat. Since 1993 it has been awarded specifically for 'highly successful command and leadership during active operations', with all ranks being eligible.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">George Medal</span> British award for gallantry, established in 1940

The George Medal (GM), instituted on 24 September 1940 by King George VI, is a decoration of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, awarded for gallantry, typically by civilians, or in circumstances where military honours are not appropriate.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Distinguished Conduct Medal</span> Award

The Distinguished Conduct Medal was a decoration established in 1854 by Queen Victoria for gallantry in the field by other ranks of the British Army. It is the oldest British award for gallantry and was a second level military decoration, ranking below the Victoria Cross, until it was discontinued in 1993 when it was replaced by the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross. The medal was also awarded to non-commissioned military personnel of other Commonwealth Dominions and Colonies.

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The Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) is a third-level military decoration awarded to officers; and, since 1993, ratings and other ranks of the British Armed Forces, Royal Fleet Auxiliary and the British Merchant Navy have been included. Additionally, the award was formerly awarded to members of other Commonwealth countries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Distinguished Service Medal (United Kingdom)</span> Award

The Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) was a military decoration awarded until 1993 to personnel of the Royal Navy and members of the other services, and formerly to personnel of other Commonwealth countries, up to and including the rank of Chief Petty Officer, for bravery and resourcefulness on active service at sea.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Military Cross</span> Military decoration of the British Armed Forces

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Air Force Cross (United Kingdom)</span> Award

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To be mentioned in dispatches describes a member of the armed forces whose name appears in an official report written by a superior officer and sent to the high command, in which their gallant or meritorious action in the face of the enemy is described.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Military Medal</span> Award

The Military Medal (MM) was a military decoration awarded to personnel of the British Army and other arms of the armed forces, and to personnel of other Commonwealth countries, below commissioned rank, for bravery in battle on land. The award was established in 1916, with retrospective application to 1914, and was awarded to other ranks for "acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire". The award was discontinued in 1993, when it was replaced by the Military Cross, which was extended to all ranks, while other Commonwealth nations instituted their own award systems in the post war period.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Air Force Medal</span> Award

The Air Force Medal (AFM) was a military decoration, awarded to personnel of the Royal Air Force and other British Armed Forces, and formerly to personnel of other Commonwealth countries, below commissioned rank, for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying, though not in active operations against the enemy". The award was discontinued in 1993 when all ranks became eligible for the Air Force Cross (AFC) as part of the reform of the British honours system.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Conspicuous Gallantry Medal</span> British military decoration for courage in action

The Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (CGM) was, until 1993, a British military decoration for gallantry in action for petty officers and seamen of the Royal Navy, including Warrant Officers and other ranks of the Royal Marines. It was formerly awarded to personnel of other Commonwealth countries. In 1943 a Royal Air Force version was created for conspicuous gallantry in action against the enemy in the air.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Queen's Gallantry Medal</span> United Kingdom decoration awarded for exemplary acts of bravery

The Queen's Gallantry Medal (QGM) is a United Kingdom decoration awarded for exemplary acts of bravery where the services were not so outstanding as to merit the George Medal, but above the level required for the Queen's Commendation for Bravery.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Empire Gallantry Medal</span> British medal (1922-1940)

The Medal of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for Gallantry, known as the Empire Gallantry Medal (EGM), was a British medal awarded for acts of gallantry. Unlike the then existing Sea Gallantry Medal (SGM) (1854), the Albert Medal (AM) (1866) and the Edward Medal (EM) (1907) which each had two classes with restricted eligibility criteria, the EGM was a single class award with wide eligibility. It was instituted by King George V on 29 December 1922. In July 1937, recipients were granted the right to use the post-nominal letters "EGM". The EGM was superseded in 1940 by the George Cross which was also a single class award with wide eligibility but unlike the low placed EGM on the Order of Wear, the George Cross was listed immediately after the Victoria Cross.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Indian Distinguished Service Medal</span> Award

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Medal for Long Service and Good Conduct (South Africa)</span> Award

The Medal for Long Service and Good Conduct is a distinctive South African version of the British Medal for Long Service and Good Conduct (Military). It was awarded to members of the Permanent Force of the Union of South Africa who had completed eighteen years of reckonable service.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Distinguished Conduct Medal (Natal)</span> Military decoration for bravery in Natal

In 1895, Queen Victoria authorised Colonial governments to adopt various British military decorations and medals and to award them to their local military forces. The Colony of Natal introduced this system in August 1895 and, in 1897, instituted the Distinguished Conduct Medal (Natal), post-nominal letters DCM.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Meritorious Service Medal (South Africa)</span> Award

In May 1895, Queen Victoria authorised Colonial governments to adopt various British military medals and to award them to their local permanent military forces. The Cape of Good Hope and Colony of Natal instituted their own territorial versions of the Meritorious Service Medal in terms of this authority. These two medals remained in use in the respective territories until after the establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1993 reviews of the British honours system</span> Changing of honours

In 1993 two separate reviews reported on the British honours system. The first, under prime minister John Major, reported in March and focused on civilian awards. The second was started in March, at Major's suggestion, and carried out by the Ministry of Defence. Major's review abolished the minimum rank requirements for certain civilian awards when made to military personnel and ended the practice of making awards purely on the basis of the recipient holding a certain appointment in the public or private sector. Major's review also ended the award of the British Empire Medal (BEM) and Imperial Service Order, compensated for by increasing the number of awards made to the Order of the British Empire. As a means of increasing the proportion of awards made to community figures and the voluntary sector he introduced direct nominations from the general public.

References

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  2. 1 2 3 4 P E Abbott; JMA Tamplin (1981). "chapters 35–38". British Gallantry Awards. London: Nimrod Dix & Co. ISBN   0-9026-3374-0.
  3. Second Report on Operation of the Reformed Honours System, The Cabinet Office, 12 December 2011, pp.3–4
  4. "Worcestershire Medal Service: Emblems for Orders". Archived from the original on 7 January 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  5. 1 2 H. Taprell Dorling (1956). Ribbons and Medals. A. H. Baldwin & Son, London. p. 36. OCLC   930416375.
  6. P E Abbott; JMA Tamplin (1981). British Gallantry Awards. London: Nimrod Dix & Co. pp. 139–140. ISBN   0-9026-3374-0.
  7. "No. 41285". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 January 1958. p. 365.
  8. "Page 1127 | Supplement 41316, 14 February 1958 | London Gazette | the Gazette". Archived from the original on 8 November 2017. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  9. 1 2 3 John W. Mussell, ed. (2014). Medal Yearbook 2015. Token Publishing Limited, Honiton, Devon. pp. 68–69. ISBN   978-1-908-828-16-3.
  10. 1 2 "British Empire Medal is to return". BBC News. 29 October 2011. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  11. See 2008 New Year ( "No. 58558". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 December 2007. p. 29.) and Queen's Birthday Honours ( "No. 58731". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2008. p. 31.)
  12. 1 2 "Birthday Honours: 'Working class' British Empire Medal revived". BBC News. 15 June 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2012.