Wearing Medals

ANZAC Day Parade - wearing of medals

Protocol for wearing medals …

Wearing a family member’s medals is an HONOUR.  By wearing these medals you are not only acknowledging a veteran’s military service (war or other) to their Country, but you are also honouring their memory and the sacrifices they made when answering their country’s ‘Call to Arms’.

Medals are the taonga of a family’s military heritage that link your ancestor veterans with descendants of the present.  When worn or displayed medals are a visible reminder of the veteran and their service, and that their memory will not be forgotten by you or the successive generations of family who will become the custodians of the medals.                            

WHO is permitted to wear a relative’s medals ?

No person, with the exception of a direct descendant of a deceased service/civilian man or woman, may wear medals which have not been awarded to him or her personally. This also applies to the wearing of miniature medals and medal ribbons.  

In other words, you may NOT wear the medals of another living immediate family member or direct descendant to whom the medals were awarded.  It might look “cute” to dress up an infant, grandchild or other juvenile relative with your medals (including miniature medals) but it an offence contrary to The Military Decorations and Distinctive Badges Act 1918, and the Military Decorations and Distinctive Badges Amendment Act 1974.

Note: For the purpose of this protocol a direct descendant of the deceased person who the medals belonged to means: a husband or wife/partner, or their immediate children, the deceased persons brother or sister, father or mother, grandfather or grandmother.  In practice, and given the length of time that has passed since some medals were awarded (Boer War, WW1 etc), some latitude is permitted in this protocol for remotely (several times removed) but directly related relatives to wear the medals of a deceased family veteran/person, particularly where the veteran was unmarried, or has no surviving direct descendants.

Tom Brodie with his grandfather, former RNZAF Sqn Ldr. (Pilot & A&S GST) Paul A. Brodie, MBE on Anzac day 2014 at Kaikoura.  Tom is wearing the WW1 and WW2 medals of his great-grandfather (Paul's father).    Source - Kaikoura Star

Tom Brodie with his grandfather, former RNZAF Sqn Ldr. (Pilot & A&S GST) Paul A. Brodie, MBE on Anzac day 2014 at Kaikoura. Tom is wearing the WW1 and WW2 medals of his great-grandfather (Paul’s father). Source – Kaikoura Star

WHAT medals am I allowed to wear ?

A direct descendant may wear a deceased relative’s official full size or miniature decorations and medals, in addition to their own.  A descendant is limited to wearing ONLY those awards designed to be suspended from a standard medal brooch bar.  

You should wear only one full size or miniature set of medals of a deceased relative, and always on the RIGHT chest.  If there is more than one set of medals, one solution is to share them with other family members to wear.  

If wearing miniature medals some discretion may be applied for wearing more than one set, this being largely dependent on the number of miniatures to be worn (rule of thumb – avoid looking like a ‘christmas tree’).  If more than one set of miniatures is worn, the earliest awarded set, e.g. WW 1 medals, are worn closest to the center of the chest, and a the next set, e.g. WW 2, beside it (i.e. closest to the right arm). An alternative is to wear one set above the other, e.g. WW1 on the right chest in the same position as for those worn on the left, and the second set, e.g. WW2, immediately below the WW1 miniatures.

Wearing Miniature vs Full Size Medals

Elderly or infirm veterans who have been awarded a number of medals may sometimes be seen wearing miniature medals in lieu of full size ones when attending commemorative events.  It is perfectly acceptable to wear miniature medals mounted on a medals bar if the weight (and potential clothing damage) is easier to manage than wearing the weight of full size medals – this is a personal choice.

NZ Veterans & Other Badges

NZ Veterans Badge (2006) – whilst not a medal the NZ Veterans Badge (NZVB) is awarded by the GONZ (ergo, the Prime Minister of New Zealand) for a Veteran’s operational  Active Service.  The badge is worn on the RIGHT lapel and takes precedence over any RSA membership badge.  

The NZVB may be worn by a direct descendant but ONLY those wearing the medals of a deceased relative Veteran.  The NZVB should not to be worn at any other time.

RNZRSA  Membership Badges – worn by RSA financial members and associates on the RIGHT lapel below the NZVB if one is worn.  Relatives of a deceased member/veteran are not permitted to wear this badge.

Formation/Unit/Ship/Squadron Badges  may be worn below any RSA membership badge (avoid the ‘christmas tree’ look by wearing too many!).  Alternatively they may be worn on the left lapel below the Poppy if one is worn.

WHAT medals am I NOT  allowed to wear ?

  • No person, with the exception of a direct descendant of a deceased serviceman or woman, may wear official medals (i.e. NZ Government approved) which have not been awarded to him or her personally.  It is also an offence in law to do so, for which criminal proceedings can be initiated.
  • Non-approved foreign awards are NOT to be worn on the same medal bar as official decorations and medals. 
  • The insignia of any Royal Honour such as a neck decoration/badge, sash, sash badge or breast star is NOT  to be worn by anyone other than the original recipient, even if that recipient has deceased.
  • Medals that are NOT those of a direct relative.
  • Not more than one set of a relatives medals should be worn (refer ‘WHAT medals am I allowed to wear’ for conditions that permit this protocol to be relaxed).
  • Unofficial medals (self-awarded/purchased/’Junk’) may NOT be worn on the same medal bar as any official award.  Whilst not illegal to wear an unofficial medal, the Governor General’s Protocol directs that Unofficial Medals are NOT to be worn (at all !) when official awards are worn.
  • Any military badge of qualification, NZ or foreign, (including rank or insignia) that has NOT been approved for wear by the GONZ is also an offence in law, for which criminal proceedings can be initiated.

Note: Official medals and medal ribbons should never be worn as a decorative adornment on theater costume, or with fancy dress – to do so disrespects and dishonours Veterans who have legitimately earned their awards, by degrading the status of the award and its issuing authority (usually the Sovereign).

WHEN can I wear my relative’s medals ?

The official occasions on which a deceased family member’s medals may be worn by a descendant is Anzac Day (25 April) and Armistice / Remembrance Day (11 November).   Armistice Day (often called Remembrance Day now) commemorates the day in November 1918 that the Armistice (cessation of hostilities) was signed thus officially ending the First World War.

On rare occasions it may also be appropriate for a family member to wear their deceased relative’s medals if that relative’s armed service, or the unit in which they served, was commemorating a particular event where the wearing of medals was appropriate.  Wearing a relatives medals on any other days, or by people unrelated to the recipient, is a breach of protocol and NOT permitted.

Full sized medals are normally worn during daylight hours (from approximately sun-up to sun-down – 6am to 6pm).  Miniature medals are designed to be worn after sun-down by both men and women, to make the wearing of them more practical and comfortable while in evening  dress.  Miniatures may also be worn in lieu of full sized medals as discussed above.

WHERE are medals worn ?

  • Observing correct medal & poppy wearing protocol ... Holly Moore (12), of Queenstown, wore her great-grandfather's WW1 medals when she walked in the Queenstown Anzac Day parade alongside her grandfather Pat Moore, of Auckland. Photo by Henrietta Kjaer. Source - ODT

    Observing correct medal & poppy wearing protocol … Holly Moore (12), of Queenstown, wore her great-grandfather’s WW1 medals when she walked in the Queenstown Anzac Day parade alongside her grandfather Pat Moore, of Auckland. Photo by Henrietta Kjaer.           Source – ODT

    The honour of wearing medals on the LEFT chest remains solely with the medal’s recipient and does not pass to a widow, parent, child or other relative after that recipient dies. The same rules apply in cases when a posthumous (after death) award is made.
  • Why the LEFT chest ? – contrary to popular belief, the origin of wearing medals on the left chest has nothing to do with wearing them over the heart, as many seem to think.  It stems from a very practical historical reason which has been adopted as the standard practice to the present day. When swords were used they were worn predominantly on the left side as most officers were right handed.  The swords were heavy so a sash or belt was worn over the right shoulder to support it, either with or without a belt. This would mean that if medals were worn on the right chest they would be covered, and could be knocked off by the sash or belt or when drawing the sword.
  • Wearing medals on the LEFT chest also serves to differentiate between serving and former service men and women medal recipients (particularly when they are wearing civilian clothing), and family members wearing a deceased relatives medals.  
  • Next-of-kin, grandchildren or other family members who wish to wear the medals of a deceased veteran ancestor or family member may only wear them on the RIGHT chest.  
  • Why the RIGHT chest only for family members? – to easily distinguish between living recipients and those wearing the medals of a deceased relative.  

Official medals that are worn on the RIGHT Chest

The award of official Government medals for acts of bravery and self-sacrifice in saving life is only relatively recent.  Prior to the introduction of medals such as the Albert and George medals, it was left to private organisations to honour those who risked their lives to save others.  Many organisations such as the Royal Humane Society, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Order of St John and Lloyds of London as well as cities and both private and public companies struck and issued lifesaving medals.  British lifesaving medals were awarded to New Zealanders until 1998 when a specific range of New Zealand Bravery Awards designed to recognize both military and civilian personnel was instituted.

Some organisations such as the Royal Humane Society and Order of St John still continue to issue lifesaving medals in their own right. Medals issued by the British or New Zealand Governments for saving life are assigned a place in the New Zealand Order of Wear and are to be worn with all other Decorations and Medals on the LEFT chest.   All other life-saving medals (e.g. Royal Life Saving Society, RHS, RNLI, Lloyds etc) are worn on the RIGHT chest (in the same relative position as for medals worn on the left). 

WHY wear a Veteran’s medals on Anzac or Armistice Day ?

The desire of families to honour and remember their family’s military veterans is evident by the ever increasing numbers, particularly children, who proudly wear their ancestor’s medals on Anzac Day and Armistice/Remembrance Day.  Regrettably the disposal or loss of these medals has been all too frequent since WW1 and effectively has denied many families a precious part of their ancestral military heritage.   

Both the New Zealand and Australian governments have frequently acknowledged and honoured the selfless service of our military Veterans, past and present. As their descendants we should never forget the voluntary spirit that motivated them to answer their Sovereign’s Call to serve in the Anglo-Boer (South African) War, the First and Second World Wars, Korean War, SE Asian conflicts, and Peacekeeping missions since.   We should also never forget the toll their departure from NZ to various theaters of operations took upon their struggling and fearful families left behind, many of whom would never set eyes upon their loved ones again.  

Our war and service Veterans’ selfless service in pursuit of preserving that which we hold dear to our way of life in New Zealand, is worthy of our eternal gratitude.  You can acknowledge and honour your deceased Veterans’ service and sacrifice by wearing their medals with dignity and pride on our two national days of remembrance – Anzac Day (April 25th) and Armistice/Remembrance Day (Nov 11th).

HOW are medals worn ?

  • Medals are to be positioned centrally over a real or imaginary chest pocket (just above the pocket), whether the medals are worn on the left or the right chest. 
  • Medals are to be worn in a horizontal line (overlapped if necessary) suspended from a single medal brooch bar, or they may be stitched directly onto the jacket/outer garment.  
  • When medals are worn on a coat, the coat should be worn buttoned up.  
  • But most importantly ..

~ wear your family Veteran’s medals with dignity and pride ~

Irene Turkington wears the Australian Bravery Medal awarded posthumously to her husband Alan 'Turk' Turkington for a selfless act of bravery that claimed his life -  Marlborough Express, 2015

Mrs Irene Turkington wears the Australian Bravery Medal awarded posthumously to her husband, former RNZAF Sgt. Alan ‘Turk’ Turkington, for a selfless act of bravery that claimed his life – 2015

Note:  If in doubt as to the what, when, where or how to wear your medals, ask us at  MRNZ or someone who should know – never assume, ask as it may  save you from uncomfortable embarrassment.

Orders, Decorations, and Medals

Aside from the Victoria Cross for New Zealand and the New Zealand Cross, the remaining medallic awards are classified as either Orders, Decorations or Medals.   The term ‘medal’ is frequently used as a collective noun when referring to all awards in a general sense.  The Order of Wearing in the next section is prescribed by the NZ Government and shows the sequence of wearing medals.

Order – an Order refers to an award made for exceptional devotion and/or service to the Crown or State (in times of war or peace).  It may be in the form of a neck decoration, or a chest worn medal.

Decoration – Decorations are predominantly awards made for Gallantry (in the face of the enemy), Bravery (not in the face of the enemy). These are predominantly chest worn medals.

Medal – Medals are sub-grouped and include all awards made for War or Campaign service, Meritorious, Long and Efficient service, Royal Jubilee and Coronation commemorative service.

Order of Wearing

Medals are worn in a specific order (or precedence) known as the ‘Order of Wearing’ which is as follows:

  • Victoria Cross / Victoria Cross for New Zealand

  • George Cross / New Zealand Cross

  • British / NZ Orders  e.g. DSO, ONZ, OBE, ONZM, MNZM etc

  • British / NZ Decorations  e.g. MC, DCM, MM, NZGS, NZBM, DSD etc

  • British / NZ Medals – worn in chronological order of their date awarded

    The following is the sequence for wearing Medals:

  • War (or Campaign) Service medals

  • Meritorious, Long & Efficient Service medals

  • Jubilee & Coronation medals

  • Foreign Orders, Decorations & Medals (as above, in chronological date of award) 

For more information: http://medals.nzdf.mil.nz/info/orderofwear.html 

Wearing a Poppy with Medalsmedalpoppy

When attending national days of Remembrance, a returned serviceman or woman’s funeral, or a military memorial service it is usual to wear a Poppy which has been adopted by many countries as an international symbol of Remembrance for such events.   The protocol in New Zealand for both males and females who are NOT in uniform are the same.  If wearing your own medals, the Poppy should be worn either directly above the medals or on the left lapel, but only above those medals worn on the left chest.  For veterans of Navy, Army or Airforce who are wearing an officially awarded brevet (pilot wings, aircrew half wings, submariner’s badge etc) above their medals, the left lapel position for the Poppy is the appropriate location.  If ONLY wearing a deceased family member’s medals the Poppy is worn on the left lapel of a jacket/coat (or in this relative position on any other garment).  The NZ Army is the only Service to wear a Poppy on their uniform head dress – behind their beret badge or inserted into the Pugaree of the ceremonial ‘Lemon Squeezer’.  The RNZAF have a variation to the above in that when in uniform they will wear their Poppy on the right chest (above name badge).  This standard is applied to accommodate the wearing of the pilot’s Flying Badge (Wings) and other aircrew Half Wing brevets.  

 Poppy 4 (600x400)




The ‘Veterans Salute’

The Veterans Salute provides an  excellent means for Veterans, not in uniform, with or without medals, to paying a compliment in lieu of the hand salute.  The Veterans Salute may be used to either pay a compliment to the living (e.g. on a parade march past, or to an individual), or when saluting ‘Fallen Comrades’.

The Veterans Salute originated in London on Armistice Day 1920 during the ceremony to unveil and dedicate the national Cenotaph in Whitehall.  At the same time a funeral procession accompanying the remains of the Unknown Soldier halted at the Cenotaph during the ceremony before proceeding to Westminster Abbey for internment.  Those present included the senior Sailor, Soldier and many Victoria Cross recipients.  The ceremony concluded with a march past.  The Regimental Sergeant Major of the Guards Regiment conducting the ceremony, faced with a gathering of highly decorated and high ranking men (including VC holders), all of whom were wearing rows of medals, decreed that all personnel would salute the Cenotaph as they marched past by placing their right hand over their medals, signifying that ‘no matter what honours we may have been awarded, they are nothing compared with the honour due to those who made the supreme sacrifice’.

Veterans and Hand Salute with/without medals

Veterans attending  parades, commemorative events or funerals who are wearing civilian clothing, with or without an item of military or civil head dress, e.g. beret, DO NOT salute with the hand – this is incorrect protocol on any occasion.  The hand salute is performed only by personnel in full uniform who are wearing head dress.  A Veteran wearing military head dress does not constitute full uniform.

The Veterans Salute, whilst an unofficial gesture of respect is an excellent alternative to the hand salute, should be encourage.  It can be applied by Veterans whether under command or not, or at any time Veterans are mixed with uniformed personnel, or indeed on any occasion a uniformed person would normally perform either a hand salute or a salute with a weapon.  

How to perform the ‘Veterans Salute’

When STATIC the normal procedure is, after bowing the head briefly (if appropriate), cover your medals on the left chest with the right hand, fingers together.  The same gesture of respect may applied even if no medals are worn.  Persons wearing a deceased  Veteran’s medals (on the right chest) do not cover the medals with their left hand – placing their right hand over the heart (in the manner of the Veterans Salute) is entirely appropriate.  

For Veterans marching as a formed body (under command) who are required to pay a compliment, the Veterans Salute is usually paid during a March Past (on the command Eyes Left/Right & Front), during the playing of the ‘Last Post’, and the Royal or National Anthems (of any country).  On other occasions it may be appropriate for a Veteran to pay an individual compliment, such as: upon greeting or presenting oneself to dignitary, or at a Funeral.

Funerals – in  the Chapel or other location it is appropriate to salute before laying a Poppy on the casket and again after laying the Poppy before you depart; at the graveside – when paying personal respects to the deceased prior to and after laying a poppy / throwing it into the grave.  In both cases where practicable briefly bow your head, followed by the Veterans Salute and then lay your Poppy – repeat this procedure before leaving the casket / graveside.   It is appropriate also to salute when the ‘Last Post’, Royal or Anthems are played – not required when the ‘Rouse’ (Reveille) is played.  

Medals – Components & Terminology

General Specifications of Medals

  • Decorations and medals are worn with the ‘OBVERSE’ or Front side showing – the Obverse usually depicts the Sovereign’s head, the Royal Cypher or a Coat of Arms.  The back side of a medal is known as the ‘REVERSE’. 
  • Two medals or more suspended together are referred to as a a medal Group.
  • A medal is suspended from a medal Brooch/top Bar down to a Suspender (a ring or bar) and the medal itself is attached to the suspender by the Claw.
  • Most medals are Impressed with the recipients service number, rank, initials and surname, and service on the Edge of the medal.  The medal Rim is the raised part of medal Edge that prevents damage when the medal is laid flat.

WW1 medals were issued Impressed (named)

WW2 medals were issued un-named







  • The maximum width of a medal brooch (bar) when all full size medals are worn suspended from a single brooch bar should be no more than 16cm (14.5cm for miniatures) with the medals overlapped as required, so as to all fit onto the bar.
  • The length of a medal ribbon between the top of the ribbon and the bottom of each medal should measure 9.5cm for full size medals (5cm for miniatures). Medal ribbon width will vary with design and manufacture.
  • The medal ribbon may have Clasps attached naming specific operations or service, or the ribbon may have a Bar attached denoting a subsequent award of the medal.  Medal ribbons may also have a Rosette, Numeral or other Emblem attached to denote qualifying service or a distinction (e.g. m.i.d.).
  • When Medal Ribbons alone are worn, they are worn thus: highest award closest to the left lapel (center of the chest); maximum of three ribbons per row (following military example); the incomplete row on top and located centrally.
  • Medal ribbon bars and medals are NOT worn together.  

For more information: http://medals.nzdf.mil.nz/info/documents/nzdfmedalmountingstandard-approvedbycdfon28may2012.pdf 

Medal Mounting

Full size (and miniature) medals are mounted on a single medal brooch bar in either of the following two styles:

COURT Mounted – the ribbon is visible behind all medals (below) and all medals are overlapped and fixed in place to avoid ‘clinking’ or damage when worn.

court-mounted medals

SWING Mounted – all medals are overlapped however swing freely from the medal brooch bar (below) and are not restrained from ‘clinking’ together.


It was traditional for all medals awarded up to and including WW2 to be worn ‘swing’ mounted – ‘court’ mounting was reserved for those required for duties at the Sovereign’s Royal Court.  By tradition, RN and RNZN personnel continued to wear their medals in the ‘swing’ mounted style as a point of difference (which is still permitted), however most naval personnel now ‘court’ mount their medals for convenience and security.  

Note:  For information on having medals mounted, re-ribboning or repairs contact Ian or Brian. 

Medal Maintenance & Storage

Medals should always be treated with respect, be safeguarded, and maintained in a clean but ORIGINAL condition – this condition is reflective of any medals’ history, particularly those of ww2 vintage or earlier (much like the patina of an antique).  NEVER clean medals with any type of metal polish !  If medals require cleaning, e.g. medals that have a silver content may need polishing to remove the dark tarnish – only use a proprietary impregnated polishing cloth that has been especially prepared for cleaningMedal Protection such metals.     Bronze and the more modern nickle plated medals need only be cleaned with a warm water dampened cloth and then polished with a soft, dry cloth (bronze medals are not designed to be polished !).  If unsure, seek the advice of a professional as permanent damage may result.  Keep the medal ribbons in good repair and store medals in a purpose made container.  This in turn needs to be kept in a warm, dry place (the hot water cylinder cupboard is highly suitable).  Always dry medals off that have been dampened by rain and give them a buff up with a soft, dry cloth.  Lastly, always keep your medals secure – either keep them in your possession, or out of sight under lock and key when at home to deter any potential for theft.

Wearing Original or Replica/Copy Medals

Whilst it remains a personal choice to wear your family veteran’s original medals, we at MRNZ highly recommend you purchase a duplicate replica/copy set of your ancestor’s medals to wear on public occasions.  Medals are easily lost, ribbons damaged, and are susceptible to the ravages of weather and spillage.  Original medals are also a valuable target for sharp-eyed thieves who are inclined to frequent memorial and commemorative occasions where medal pickings can be easy, particularly from unsupervised children who may be wearing family medals.  Medal thieves can also seek out insecure or openly displayed medals from homes.  

The loss or theft of a replica/copy set of your ancestor’s medals (available for about $35 per medal) is minimal compared to the anguish that can result from the permanent loss of original medals.  Wearing replica medals in no way diminishes the spirit or how you honour the service or sacrifice of your veteran, indeed the practice is common among serving military personnel. 

Wearing replica medals will give you the peace of mind of knowing your original medals remain safe and secure for future family generations to enjoy and with which to honour an ancestor veteran’s memory.

Keep original medals in a dry, safe place under lock and key ! 

If you are going to wear original medals, ensure they are firmly clipped to your clothing and that you keep a close eye on them at all timesAttaching a safety chain to the medal brooch bar is also a very good idea.

If you intend wearing original medals, NEVER leave them unattended !

Official and Unofficial Medals

OFFICIAL medals include any order, decoration or medal that is recognized or issued by the Crown and/or New Zealand Government. The exceptions are those produced for Sovereign recognized organisations such as the Order of St John, and Royal Humane Society.  The Order of St John is another exception in that it is permitted to be worn on the medal brooch bar ahead of all other official medals on the left side of the chest.  Whilst some other Sovereign sanctioned awards are not ‘official medals’ in the trues sense of the word, they are authorized to be worn on the right side of the chest, e.g. Albert Medal for Saving Life, Royal Humane Society medals etc.  

Unofficial VANITY or TIN medals

Unofficial VANITY / JUNK / TIN / FAKE medals

UNOFFICIAL medals are those that do not have NZ Government authorization to be worn.  These are referred to as VANITY or JUNK MEDALS (also called TIN , FAKE  medals/trinkets/mementos) which include all self purchased COMMEMORATIVE type medals.  

VANITY/JUNK medals are designed to ‘represent’ military service where no official medal was struck, or warranted.

They are created and produced in large numbers by ex-service and commercial organisations for profit, to commemorate an event or military service and retail  for about $30.00 @.  These items are normally purchased by the individual, i.e. they are Self-Awarded and therefore fraudulently worn when added to a medal bar containing official awards.  

Some common examples of unofficial VANITY/JUNK medals are:

NZ Army 150th Anniversary, Compulsory Military Training (CMT), National Service, Regular Force Cadet School 50th Anniversary, Cold War Service, British Commonwealth Occupation Forces (BCOF – Japan), International Year of the Volunteer, Fire & Police Associations, Ex-Service Associations, New Zealand Rural Fire Service, Antarctic Service, Foreign Service, Navy, Army, and Air Force Service, and so on – there are dozens.

Here are some common examples you can see being worn: 

NZ Army 150

NZ Army * 150th Anniversary


Compulsory Military Training


National Defence

Front Line Service

Front Line Service


BCOF – Japan







Korea Vets

Korea Veterans

Foreign Service

Foreign Service

Year of the Volunteer

YOV **


Volunteer Service

Aviation Service

Aviation Service






* The NZ Army 150th Anniversary commemorative medal was a commemorative medal produced by the Wellington Army Association in 1995 that could be purchased as a memento.  It was officially presented to ONLY ONE group of Veteran’s descendants – the families of the 1st NZ Contingent NZMR who went to the Boer War.

** The Year Of the Volunteer medal was a memento available to some volunteer organisations such as some of the Fire Services (e.g. NZ Rural Fire Service).  It was designed to recognize volunterism however, in the case of the NZ Fire Service, NZ Police, or any other uniformed service, was never authorized for general issue and wear – it remains an UNOFFICIAL memento not to be worn on uniform, i.e. it is not an official medal (although some individuals seem to have accorded this medallion that status themselves).   

  • In 2011 the New Zealand Defence Service Medal was issued to redress outstanding medalic recognition grievances for unrecognized periods of military service.  As a result, the UNOFFICIAL medals produced privately to acknowledge service such as Compulsory Military Training (CMT) and National Service, became irrelevant and not needed. 

Wearing UNOFFICIAL Medals

VANITY/JUNK medals have no status whatsoever and should never be worn on the same medal bar as official awards.  To do so destroys the integrity of the New Zealand honours system and degrades the significance of all OFFICIAL awards. 

Note:  As a rule of thumb, if you are unsure whether you can wear a particular medal or award – if you had to pay for it, then it should not be worn if you are wearing official awards. 

The ‘WANNABE’ (want-to-be)  

MAJOR JOHN EDWARD HANCOX medalsWANNABES (also called ‘Posers’) all have one thing in common – for whatever reason they feel the need to fraudulently misrepresent themselves or their service by wearing a combination of medals including Official & Vanity/Junk/Tin/Fake/Replica medals, and/or badges, uniforms or accoutrements (NZ or foreign) to which THEY HAVE NO ENTITLEMENT !

There are generally four types of WANNABES to be found in and around ex-military gatherings and commemorative events, particularly Anzac and Armistice/Remembrance Days:

1.  ‘Wannabe’ – one who wears self-purchased VANITY/JUNK medals to pretend military or returned service.

‘Medal Cheat & Military Imposter’ – Robert Clark (43) of Auckland on Anzac Day 2017 – wearing 14 active service medals after ZERO overseas service – Photo: NZ Herald


2. ‘Medal Cheat’ – one who adds any OFFICIAL or UNOFFICIAL medals to their official awards medal bar in order to ‘pretend’ service, or to increase their medal count in order to fraudulently enhance their personal status.  



'Stolen Valour' - wearer of an impossible array is being hunted - Warwickshire, England. Source - Daily Mail (UK)

‘Stolen Valour’ – wearer of an impossible array in Warwickshire, England. Source – Daily Mail (UK)

3.  ‘Valour Thief’  one who would STEAL VALOUR by fraudulently representing themselves as self-styled heros by wearing official or replica medala or badges representing distinguished or valourous service, e.g. Gallantry or Bravery medals.  These thieves also include those who wear any medal or badge to which they HAVE NO ENTITLEMENT and are breaking the law – they can be prosecuted ! 

4.  ‘Military Imposter’ – these  people are criminals that can be prosecuted !  Military Imposters will pretend military service where they have none.  They may present by wearing any combination of  uniform along with medals, ribbons or accoutrements, or carry fraudulently acquired/forged documents, cards, photos etc, in order to represent themselves as either a serving or former military service-person, for their personal gain or prestige – read more here … http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/9773280/SAS-phony-ignored-warning

WANNABES are often men or women (usually men) who have never served in any Defence Force or para military service, or if they have it may have been for a very short period.  Most WANNABES  like to represent themselves as a Returned Veteran and can usually be quickly unmasked by their naive attention to detail (appearance and/or obvious lack of military knowledge – e.g. incorrect medal order of wearing; the addition of VANITY/JUNK medals), or by failing to answer a few searching questions.  Sadly there are also WANNABE ex-career service persons (and Returned Veterans) who indulge in the practice of adding VANITY/JUNK medals to boost their self importance by boosting their medal count , and/or by wearing non-entitled qualification badges (e.g. combat badges, wings, naval qualifications).  The desire to boost their ego by faking their entitlement to look more ‘operationally’ experienced’ to an unknowing and easily impressed family or members of the public is all too common.  Of all people, these military Veterans should know better.  No doubt they would never have tolerated such fraudulent practices during their own military careers, and would probably have been at the head of the queue to discipline or report such a transgression !

Many WANNABES seek and /or accept high profile appointments, particularly of ex-service organisations such as the NZRSA, both in New Zealand and Australia (where they think they are beyond the sight of their fellow ex-servicemen. Wearing an organisations official name plate e.g. President, Vice-President etc, along with an official blazer pocket (usually accompanied by a mix of official (entitled or not) and VANITY/JUNK medals) is a favourite ploy of  WANNABES, particularly in smaller towns in New Zealand and in Australia.  Apart from self-inflation of their ego, the name plate, blazer pocket etc is usually to deflect any undue scrutiny of their bogus medals and fraudulently misrepresented service. 

Medal Cheats, Valour Thieves or Military Imposters are abhorred by the majority of serving, ex-military, and Returned Veterans.  Once exposed WANNABES are treated with derision and disdain by a very unforgiving veteran community.  WANNABES should be reported to the authorities without delay; if prosecuted and if convicted, these persons can be liable for a hefty fine, three months in prison, or both !

Note:  If you suspect a ‘WANNABE’ of any sort but are not sure, ask an experienced veteran or service person you can trust who will know what to do.

Fraudulently Wearing Medals  – The Law

It is illegal and a civil offence for someone to fraudulently represent themselves as a military service person (serving or formerly serving) by wearing any uniform, or to wear any official medal (or qualification), if this is not in fact the case.  It is also illegal to wear any medal or badge that conveys the intention, and understanding, that the wearer is entitled to wear such a badge or medal.  To do so is an offence against the New Zealand Summary Offences Act 1981 which incorporates Section 46 of the Military Decorations and Distinctive Badges Act 1918 * which states in part:

4a.  Offences in relation to military decorations

  1.  In this section the term military decoration means any medal, clasp,  badge, ribbon, stripe, emblem, or  decoration issued, supplied, or authorized, or purporting or reputed to be issued, supplied or authorized, by  a naval, military or air force authority, whether in New Zealand or any other Commonwealth country; but  does not include any ordinary regimental badge or any brooch or ornament representing such a badge.

  2.  Every person commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $500.00:

    • who represents himself contrary to the fact, to be a person who is or has been entitled to wear any military decoration; or

    • who wears or uses any medal, clasp, badge, ribbon, stripe, emblem or decoration that is intended, or likely by reason of its appearance or in any other manner, to cause any person to believe, contrary to the fact, that it is a military decoration, or

    •  who without reasonable excuse, supplies or offers to supply:

    • ——– any military decoration, or

    • ——– any medal, clasp, badge, ribbon, stripe, emblem or decoration that is intended, or likely, by                        reason of its appearance or in any other manner, to cause any person to believe, contrary to the fact, that it is a military decoration – to any person who is not authorised to wear or use that military decoration.

      3. In a prosecution under this section, the burden of proving that anyone is authorised to wear or use any                 military decoration shall be on the defendant.

Additionally, no person may wear an order, decoration, medal or qualification badge awarded to them by a foreign government unless it has been approved for wear by the New Zealand Government

Wearing Medals – NZ Government Protocol

While it is not against the law to wear Vanity/Tin/Commemorative medals, the New Zealand Government (under the authority of the Governor General) has issued a specific Protocol for New Zealanders related to the wearing honours and awards, which states in part:

Order of Wear, Orders, Decorations and Medals in New Zealand – dated 1st April 2008 and signed by the Governor General:

Section 11 Part I – Awards issued by public and private organisations, other than those of the Order of St John and the Royal Humane Society of New Zealand, may NOT be worn, either with (on the left side), below, or on the right side, WITH  official Orders, Decorations and Medals.

Section 11 Part II – Awards produced on a commercial basis may NOT be worn, either with, below or on the right side, WITH official Orders, Decorations and Medals.

An inquiry made of the NZ Government was answered as shown below:

“NZ Government policy is that NO commemorative medals may be worn on any official NZ Government uniform.  That is, as far as they can limit them.  Once a person retires from the Services and is a ‘civilian’ in theory the same restriction applies, but is widely flouted by many ex-service personnel…”

“Having said that, the conservative view of most veterans is that only ‘posers or wannabes’ wear these medals and they do not add to the regard of any wearer.”

“Within Government agencies, Defence and Police for example, there are specific directions that no unofficial medals are to be worn – this is complied with and checked.”


NZ Government Legislation


 Other photo acknowledgements: Medals New Zealand Ltd; Open Sources

NZDF plaque