Medal Protocol

ANZAC Day Parade - wearing of medals

Protocol, Customs and Rules for

NZ citizens wearing Honours & Awards


  1. Interpretation
  2. Medal & Ribbon Terminology
  3. Parts of a Medal
  4. Medal Mounting Styles
  5. Safeguarding Medals
  6. Replacement & Replica Medals
  7. Duplicate Medals
  8. Medal Maintenance & Storage
  9. Medal Guidance for Families
  10. Wearing the Poppy with Medal
  11. Saluting Wearing Medals
  12. Commendations, Citations & Lapel Badges
  13. Medals and NZ Law
  14. UNOFFICIAL Medals
  15. Valour Theft, Medal Cheats, Impostors & Wannabees
  16. NZ Royal Honours System
  17. New Zealand Order of Wear


  • Honour – means any order, decoration, medal or commendation conferred by a Head of State, head of government or recognised international organisation.
  • Award – for the purposes of this website is a generic term whose context will determine its exact meaning, which may mean ‘to be presented’, or a reference to a non specified order, decoration, medal or badge.  
  • Order – means refers to an official 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, and/or  medal, and/or breast star, sash.
  • Decoration – means any official award for Gallantry (in the face of the enemy), or Bravery (not in the face of the enemy), or exceptional merit. 
  • Medal – is any official (or unofficial) award designed to be suspended from a medal bar worn on the chest.
  • Badge – for the purposes of distinction on this website means any official armed forces or Crown employed uniformed service badge of Merit or Qualification, e.g. unit citation,  service commendation, pilot,  aircrew or other brevets, warfare officer, submariner, parachutist/dispatcher wings, clearance diver, ordnance demolition, special force, marksman etc, that is designed to be worn on official uniform
  • Insignia – means the badge or star, or both, of any Order.
  • Official – means any order, decoration, medal, commendation or badge authorised (approved) by an Authority or Delegated Authority for acceptance and/or wear by a New Zealand citizen.
  • Official Uniform means any uniform provided for the wear of a person in the service of the Crown.

Medal & ribbon terminology

  • Decorations and medals are worn with the ‘OBVERSE’ (front) side of the medal showing – the Obverse often depicts the Sovereign’s head, a Royal Cypher or Coat of Arms.  The opposite side (back/rear) of a medal is known as the ‘REVERSE’. 
  • Two medals or more suspended together are referred to as a medal Group.
  • A medal is suspended from a medal Brooch Bar. The ribbon extends from the brooch bar to the medal/ribbon Suspender Bar, or Ring; the medal itself is generally attached to the suspender bar by a Claw or may be fixed directly onto the edge of the medal by steel pinions.
  • Most medals are Impressed with the recipient’s service number, rank, initials, last name and force/ship/unit/squadron, 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 are IMPRESSED with names.

NZ and UK 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 16 cm (14.5 cm 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 9.5 cm for full size medals (5 cm for miniatures).  Medal ribbon width will vary with design and manufacture.
  • The medal ribbon may have a Clasp attached naming specific operations or service, or the ribbon may have a Bar attached denoting a subsequent award of the medal for a second operation to the same theatre.  Medal ribbons or bars may also have a Rosette, Numeral or other Emblem/Device attached.  Generally these represent a number of years of qualifying service, or a perhaps a distinction, e.g. a Mention in Dispatches (MiD), or Commendation for Valuable Service.
  • When medal ribbons alone are worn, they are worn with  the highest ranked award closest to the centre of the chest; a maximum of four ribbons per row (the military altered their rules to three to accommodate arm swing and weapons drills); any single or incomplete row of ribbons is located centrally on the top row of ribbons.
  • Medal ribbon bars and medals are NOT worn at the same time.  



Parts of a medal

Medal mounting styles

Full sized and Miniature medals are mounted on a single medal brooch bar in either of the following two styles:


The ribbon is visible behind all medals (below) with medals overlapped where necessary, and wired into place to avoid ‘clinking’ or excessive damage when worn.

court-mounted medals

SWING or FREE Style 

Medals are overlapped as necessary however swing freely from the medal brooch bar as issued (below), and are not restrained from ‘clinking’ together.


  • Medals awarded up to and including WW2 were normally worn ‘swing/free’ style – ‘court’ style mounting was reserved for those required to attend (the Royal) Court.  
  • Traditionally R.N. and R.N.Z.N. personnel wore their medals mounted in the ‘swing/free’ style as a point of difference (still permitted) however R.N.Z.N. while serving conform to regulation (commonly ‘court’ style to minimise damage).  Many ex-R.N.Z.N. personnel will return their medals to ‘swing/free’ style mounting after their release for their service.
  • With the exception of armed forces and uniformed services, medal mounting style is the choice of the medal owner.


  1. A professional medal mounting service will NOT mount unofficial medals with official awards.  If they are prepared to do this because they want your money, you should reconsider and look for a reputable service.
  2. MRNZ can advise you of a reputable medal mounting service closest to your area who can mount medals in either style, re-ribbon them if necessary, or carry out repairs. 



Replacement and Replica medals

Should you ever need to replace a medal that is missing from your medal rack, obtaining a replacement is easy.  Since the Ministry of Defence will only replace medals during the lifetime of WW1 servicemen, and only while a service person is still  serving, that means a loss will necessitate you paying for a Replacement.  These can be obtained from the same source as the NZDF – Singapore, or you might source what you need from several reputable medal makers in the UK.  A missing medal from an original group should have an original or an official replacement to maintain the integrity of the group.  If this proves to be to expensive, you may wish to opt for a Replica in its place.  High quality replica medals are available mainly from overseas sources – I urge you to seek professional advice before buying anything.

Duplicate your medals 

It remains a personal choice to wear a relative’s original medals however if you do, we at MRNZ highly recommend you purchase a duplicate Replica set of your relatives’s medals for wearing on public occasions.  There is always the possibility original medals and ribbons might be lost or damaged, and are always susceptible to the ravages of weather and spillage at any time.  

Besides this, the loss or theft of a Replica set of your ancestor’s medals in monetary terms is very minimal compared to the anguish that can result from the permanent loss of the originals.  Wearing Replica medals in no way diminishes the spirit or intent of how you honour the service or sacrifice of your Veteran.  Wearing Replica medals will give you the peace of mind of knowing your originals remain protected and secure.

Safeguarding your medals


PHOTOGRAPH your medals – both sides and the naming.  These are particularly useful for insurance purposes or to give to police in the event of loss or theft.  It also helps MRNZ and other like agencies to advertise, identify and prove ownership of your medals if found.

INSURE your medals!  Old and valuable family medals should be insured separately.  Recovering some value of these is better than total and permanent loss.

SECURE your medals – particularly when wearing the originals.  Ensure they are firmly attached to the medal bar, securely clipped to your clothing and that you keep a close eye on them at all times.  Attaching a safety chain to the medal bar is also a very good idea.  Lock them aware when you get home!


Wear your medals securely 

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

If attending an event before or after, NEVER leave your medals unattended, i.e. either wear them or, if not wearing them, remove them from sight by securing on your person, in your vehicle etc. 

Medals left attached to a garment (jacket) that has been removed for comfort, be it hung over a chair, left in a cloak room, or is visible on the back seat of your car while you are attending an ‘after match’ function, are all prime targets with varying degrees of ‘easy’ for an opportunist or determined medal thief. 

‘Five-finger Discounters’ …

At any event where medals are worn, particularly large gatherings such as Anzac Day, Armistice Day, a commemorative church service, a veteran’s funeral and other military occasions, there are always persons interested in the medals that are being worn. Original (incl current), old and rare medals e. g. Crimea, Boer South Africa or WW1, and those that are highly collectable/valuable such as gallantry or meritorious service medals are of particular interest. 

While an opportunist medal thief will seize any medals left unattended, the determined medal thief is in a different league and well practised in the art.  These can often show an inordinate interest in what medals are being worn, particularly if your grouping is uncommon or unique.   Occasionally they may unwittingly identify themselves by direct questioning about your medals, or engaging you in aimless conversation whilst their eyes are otherwise fixated on your medal rack, or perhaps furtively watching your movements  from across the room.  

Play it safe: either keep your medals on, or remove them from sight and circumstance as soon as you are able. 

Children and medals

Watch your children!  Family medals given to unsupervised children to wear (e. g. on the Boy Scout, Cub, Guide, Brownie uniform, or a child in ordinary civilian clothing) on occasions such as Anzac Day and Armistice Day parades, are particularly susceptible to losing medals or having them stolen from an opportunist or determined thief.  I have seen children at various times wearing a Distinguished Conduct Medal group, an Air Force Cross group, and another with a Military Medal and BEM group, playing with other children, climbing trees and generally doing what kids do while parents are out of sight at an ‘after match’, oblivious to where their kids are or what they might be doing.  It is just too easy for valuable medals to either be lost (or stolen?).  If you value the medals your kids are wearing, watch them and remove the medals as soon as the official part of the occasion is over.

Security of medals at home

The overt display of your family medals at home (e.g. a framed wall display) is a personal choice however do consider the impact of passive ‘advertising’ to non-family visitors, tradesmen and the like who may come into your home, and the potential for a future theft.  Opportunist as well as ‘steal to order’ thieves can be found in every community.  These people are generally are not your cat-burglar type who will break into your house and steal anything and everything of value, particularly your treasured family medals that have been left unsecured on the table in the kitchen.  This type of thief knows the value of medals and will often know where medals can be accessed easily, such as those invitingly hung on a wall in the family home that can be clearly seen through a convenient window. 

Medal loss and recovery

Original medals which have been lost, stolen or sold are rarely recovered.  Original named medals that have been lost, recovered and reunited with descendants is a relatively rare event since serious collectors (or profiteering opportunists!) tend to snap these up as soon as they surface on the open market (internet).  Some collectors are unconcerned where their medals have come from if they have a particular need in their collection.

If you locate, or are aware of the location of medals that were missing from your family, being in the possession of another person or organisation, you have little chance of recovery unless: they were stolen, and the theft was reported to the Police at the time the medals were taken.  Should this situation arise, tell the Police immediately and they will assess what, if any, action can be taken.

If your medals were not NAMED, you have next to no chance of proving ownership, even in the unlikely even medals are found.  If you follow the PREVENTION advice at the top of this section, you may just have a fighting chance of recovery.

Remember  >>> Your inattention and poor personal security of your family medals could result in a lifetime of anguish and regret – know where they are at all times and secure them when not in use.

Medal maintenance & storage

Medals should always be treated with respect, be safeguarded and maintained in a clean but ORIGINAL condition – particularly old medals.  Condition is reflective of a medal’s history (much like the patina of an antique) and should be maintained at all costs, provided you value their history.  

NEVER clean medals with metal polish of any type!  

Victorian era and WW1 medals, e.g. the British War Medal, 1914-15 have a silver content which tarnishes to black when left unpolished.  Use only a proprietary impregnated polishing cloth that is specially designed for polishing such metals. Silver coloured medals manufactured between the 1930s and mid-1960s are a mix of nickle/silver and nickle plate with some being of dubious quality. Age or neglect may have also dulled these.  A touch up with an impregnated cloth once clean should be all that is required.
Medal Protection

Silver medals

Modern silver coloured medals from the 1970s onwards generally have a high quality, glass hardened and permanent, highly polished surface. To spruce up, simply clean with a warm, damp cloth and buff dry with a soft cotton polishing cloth.

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 how to clean medals, seek the advice of a professional as permanent damage may result.

Bronze medals

Bronze medals such as the 1914 “Mons” Star, 1914-15 Star and the WW2 campaign Stars are not designed to be polished!  These should be left to age naturally which will give them a characteristic dark coloured patina.  To clean, remove any surface dirt/stains with warm water and a buff dry.  The WW1 Victory Medal is also made of Bronze and is coated with a ‘gold wash’ to give it a shiny  brass/gold colour.  The ‘gold wash’ is VERY thin and easily removed by cleaning with metal polish, or even rubbing too vigorously with an impregnated cloth – go carefully.  To clean these medals, again if possible use only warm water to remove dirt and water stains, and then pat dry and polish with a soft, dry cloth.  Stubborn stains may need careful use of the impregnated cloth – proceed with care.  

If unsure how to proceed with cleaning your medals, seek advice from a professional as permanent damage may be irreversible.

Medal storage  

Keep medal ribbons in good repair and store your medals in a purpose built container.   Using tins is not a good idea as condensation can form on the inside as heat and cold conditions change around it.  Always dry medals off if they have been dampened by rain and give them a buff with a soft, dry cloth.  Failure to do this can quickly lead to pitting, corrosion or the formation of verdigris spots on brass, gold and bronze metals.  Ideally keep medals wrapped in tissue or a handee towel, and store in a warm, dry place (the hot water cylinder or linen cupboard is very suitable). 


Medal guidance for families

WHO is allowed to wear family medals ?

Medals are the taonga of a family’s military heritage that link both ancestor Veterans to family and descendants of the present.  When medals are worn they are not only a visible reminder of the Veteran and their service but also an acknowledgement that their memory is not forgotten.  They also remind others of a family tradition that needs to be continued by future generations.

Wearing a family member’s medals is an HONOUR.  You are not only acknowledging their military service (war or other) but also that particular Veteran’s memory and sacrifices they made in the service of the State.              

It looks cute, but it is a No No if the Veteran is still living – and on the wrong side!

When the named medal Recipient is living – ONLY the named recipient of official orders, decorations, medals or badges (including miniature medals and ribbon bars) is entitled to wear them.  A Veteran’s medals are not be worn by any other person whilst the named recipient Veteran is alive.

Note:  It might look cute or be a fun idea to have children wear the genuine medals, or a Replica set of a living veteran relative, but to Veterans wearing the same awards it is an insult and devalues the service they gave in the achievement of these awards.  Medals are not designed to be children’s play-things or dress-up decorations.  If wearing a deceased Veteran’s medals, they should be worn on the correct side – the RIGHT.

Children inappropriately wearing medals also disrespects the office of the Approving Authority (Sovereign, Governor General or Prime Minister) by degrading the status of the honour/award that other Veterans have legitimately earned in their service of the State.

Recipient is deceased – ONLY a direct descendant of a deceased family Veteran may wear their medals.

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 pilot Sqn Ldr. (GD and A&S-GST) Paul A. Brodie, MBE seen here on Anzac Day 2014 at Kaikoura. Tom is wearing the WW1 and WW2 medals of his great-grandfather (Paul’s father).  Photo: Kaikoura Star

WHAT medals am I allowed to wear ?

  • Only official service medals and decorations mounted on a medal bar (full-size or miniature) – neck badges, sashes, sash badges, or breast stars are not permitted to be worn.
  • Only official medals which are suspended from a medal bar may be worn and specified in the NZ ‘Order of Wear’. 
  • If wearing miniature medals some latitude is permitted to wear more than on set of miniature medals where appropriate, e.g grandfather and father, this being largely dependent on the number of miniature medals to be worn, e.g. two groups of  say 2-4 miniature medals worn on the right chest, is not excessive.  
  • If more than one set of miniature medals are to be worn, e.g. WW1 and WW2, the earliest awarded medals (WW1) take precedence and are to be placed on the right chest in the same relative position as for medals worn on the left.  The second medal set (WW2) may be placed either directly beside (closest the right arm), or directly below the WW1 medals.  

Wearing Full Size or Miniature medals

Elderly or infirm veterans who have been awarded a significant number of medals may sometimes be seen wearing miniature medals in lieu of full size ones.  It is perfectly acceptable to wear miniature medals if the weight (potential clothing damage) and/or practicality due to infirmity, or nature of the occasion make it easier to manage than wearing full size medals – this is a personal choice (also refer to the next section for guidance of when to wear Full or Miniature sized medals).

WHAT medals am I NOT allowed to wear ?

  • NO PERSON is permitted to wear any medal which has not been awarded to them (with the exception of a deceased relatives medals, as described above).  To do so is an offence contrary to Section 46 of the Military Decorations and Distinctive Badges Act 1918 from which criminal proceedings can be initiated.  
  • NO PERSON is permitted to wear the insignia of any Royal Honours such as a neck decoration/badge, sash, sash badge or breast star, other than the recipient (even if the recipient is deceased).
  • NO PERSON is permitted to wear the medals of a living Veteran (includes children wearing the miniature medals).
  • NO PERSON is permitted to wear official medals for ‘fancy dress’ or as a theatrical adornment.                                                  
  • Not more than one set of  full size medals should be worn on the right chest.  
  • Unofficial medals (commemorative, self-purchased or non-approved official or unofficial foreign awards) are not permitted to be worn on the same medal bar, OR at the same time, as official awards are worn (refer ‘Unofficial medals and badges’ below).
  • Although not medals or honours per se, official badges of Merit or Qualification, i.e. those designed to be worn with uniform, e.g. Unit citations, badges of Commendation, brevets etc are only to be worn by the recipient.

WHEN can I wear my relatives medals ?

A direct descendant may officially wear a deceased relatives medals only on national days of remembrance, which are Anzac Day (25 April) and Armistice Day (11 November).  The medals may be worn only for the duration of the remembrance or commemoration ceremony/service, and are to be removed immediately the official part of the occasion is complete.

Note: Veterans wearing medals are guided by the occasion as regards the duration their medals are worn.    

The following is a timing guide for wearing Full Size or Miniature medals:

  • Daylight hours – Full-sized medals are worn during daylight hours, defined as the hours between sunrise and sunset (approximately 6 AM to 6 PM).

  • Evening hours – Miniature medals are designed to be worn after sunset in the interest of comfort and practicality, and when wearing formal evening attire / evening dress, where medals are ordered.  

Note: Official medals and medal ribbons must never be worn with fancy dress or as a decorative adornment on a costume.  To do so disrespects the approving Authority (Sovereign, Governor General or Prime Minister) and degrades the status of honours/awards Veterans have legitimately earned  in their service of the State.

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 – ODT.

    The honour of wearing official medals on the LEFT chest is the sole prerogative of the medal 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.
  • British lifesaving medals were available to New Zealanders until 1998 when a specific range of New Zealand Bravery awards was instituted to recognise both military and civilian personnel who performed acts of self sacrifice and life saving.  The only official honours from non-governmental or private organisations which have been authorised by the Sovereign (Royal patronage) for acceptance and wear by NZ citizens are, the Order of St John and Royal Humane Society honours.  Official non-governmental or private organisation honours are worn on the RIGHT chest; with one exception.  

  • The Order of St John – Queen Elizabeth II as Sovereign Head of the Order has authorised those classes of the Order worn on a medal bar, to be worn ahead of all other official medals on the LEFT chest.

  • Why the LEFT chest for Recipients? 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.
  • Why the RIGHT chest for family members? – to clearly distinguish between medal recipients and those wearing the medals of a deceased relative.

HOW are medals worn ?

  • Official medals are attached to a medal brooch bar, or stitched directly onto the jacket/outer garment.
  • The medal bar is positioned central and horizontally, on the left (or right) chest, immediately above a real or imaginary chest pocket – the brooch pin being located immediately above the top edge of the pocket flap. 
  • When medals are worn on a coat, the medal bar is worn in the same relative position – the coat should be worn buttoned up.
  • Medals are worn in a single row on a medal bar (overlapped as necessary depending on the number of awards).  It is inappropriate to wear two or more medals not on a medal bar (i.e., individually attached to to clothing).
  • Medals are worn in a specified sequence on a medal bar IAW the DPMC Rules – refer NZ ‘Order of Wear’ 
  • Medals should be mounted in either SWING/FREE style or COURT style (refer Medal Mounting below).  

WHY wear a deceased relative’s medals ?

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 which motivated them to answer their King’s “call to arms” to serve in the South African War (2nd Anglo-Boer), the First and Second World Wars.  Queen Elizabeth II subsequently required theirs, and our present veteran community, to serve in the Korean War, SE Asian conflicts (Malaya, Borneo, Vietnam) as well as the numerous United Nations, Peacekeeping and Special Service missions since.  In fulfilling these obligations we should also never forget the affect their departure from NZ had upon often fearful and struggling families left behind, many of whom would never set eyes upon their loved ones again.  

The selfless service of our war and service Veterans, past and present, in their 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), and Remembrance Sunday.

But most importantly …

.. wear their medals with Dignity and Pride

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

Irene with son Steve and daughter Corinne back home in NZ shortly after receiving Turk’s Bravery Medal (BM).

Australian Bravery Medal













Wearing a Poppy with medals

Poppy 4 (600x400)

When wearing medals, it is appropriate to wear the Poppy immediately above the medals (or brevet if worn), or on the LEFT lapel.  When wearing the medals of a relative on the right side, the Poppy is worn on the LEFT lapel/side.  When attending a commemorative occasion or funeral where poppies are to be laid as a personal tribute, positioning your Poppy on the left side (lapel or above medals) permits ease of access to remove it at the appropriate time to place at the memorial, on a coffin, at the graveside, or drop into the grave.


Saluting when wearing medals 

Traditional Right-hand Salute

Veterans attending parades, commemorative events, wreath laying or funerals who are wearing civilian dress, with or without medals or an item of military head dress (e.g. beret) do not salute with the hand on any occasion – to do so is incorrect protocol !   The hand salute is performed only by the armed forces and uniformed service personnel who are wearing full uniform, i.e. inclusive of head dress.  A Veteran wearing military head dress in civilian clothing does not constitute ‘full uniform’.

Veteran Salute

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’. This method of paying a compliment provides a versatile and practical method for Veterans in civilian dress to pay a compliment on any occasion, when saluting is appropriate.  The Veterans Salute can be performed without error or effort (unlike a poor hand salute), with or without medals, with or without head-dress, individually (e.g. at a funeral or wreath laying) or on command when a member of a marching group.  

The Veteran Salute is not prescribed in any NZ document of protocol however, it has proved its purposefulness internationally on occasions attended by Veterans wearing civilian dress.  It avoids the need for any kind of hand salute (usually performed badly) and can be performed individually, or on command when in a marching formation.  It can also be used at any time non-uniformed veterans and uniformed serving personnel are mixed together, or on any occasion when accompanying uniformed military persons who would normally perform either a hand salute or a salute with a weapon.  

Performing the Veteran Salute

  • By individuals when stationary – the normal procedure is, after bowing the head briefly (when appropriate), cover your medals on the left chest with the right hand, fingers extended and closed together.  This same gesture of respect may be made if no medals are worn.  Persons, whether or not a veteran, wearing a deceased Veteran’s medals (on the right chest), do not cover the medals with their left hand but rather salute by placing their right hand over their heart (in the manner of the Veterans Salute) as an appropriate alternative.  
  • When on the March – for Veterans marching as a formed body (under command) when a compliment is required, the Veterans Salute is usually paid during a March Past (on the command Eyes Left/Right & Front), during the playing of the ‘Last Post’, during a Royal/General Salute, or National Anthem (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 comrade’s funeral.
  • At Funerals – it is appropriate to pay an individual compliment (salute) before and after a Poppy is placed on a casket, or the Poppy or soil is thrown into a grave.  It is also appropriate when the ‘ODE’ is recited, and the ‘Last Post’ is sounded.  No compliment is required when the ‘Rouse’ (Reveille) is played.  It is appropriate to salute at any time the Royal or national anthems are played.
  • The general procedure at funerals whether the casket is inside a church/service location or sitting atop/lowered into the grave, the method of paying an individual compliment is the same: approach the casket or grave, stand to attention, simultaneously bow your head and perform the Veterans Salute, lay/throw your Poppy at/into the grave – repeat the compliment before departing from the casket or graveside.


Commendations, Citations & Lapel badges

The Commendation (sometimes a Citation) is an individual award made to military Service personnel and Defence Civilians who perform to an ‘excellent’ level either over a sustained period or during a specific event or project.  These awards are made to recognise performance which would be unlikely to meet the criteria for a New Zealand State Honour.  Commendations are presented with a manuscript narrative outlining the reason for the award.

The Citation is an organisation or group award made to military units, or civil organisations / groups (uniformed or not) who perform to an ‘excellent’ level either over a sustained period or during a specific event or project.  


Personal and Unit Military Commendations

Top to bottom – New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), Chief of Navy (CON), Chief of Army (COA), Chief of Air Force (CAF)

  NZDF (no image)

Military Unit Citations & Commendations worn by NZers 

US Army Meritorious Unit Commendation



  • Awarded to 161 Battery RNZA – Vietnam (1966) – 1966

The Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm Presidential Unit Citation

  • Awarded to 161 Battery RNZA – Vietnam (1965-1971) – 1971
  • Awarded to 2 NZ Army Training Team Vietnam [2 NZATTV]  (1965-1971) – 1971

US Navy Presidential Unit Citation 



  • Awarded to 1 NZSAS – Afghanistan – 2004

Korean Presidential Unit Citation



  • Awarded to 16 Field Regiment RNZA – Kapyong, Korea (1950-51) – 2011

Australian Meritorious Unit Citation

 1.  3 Squadron RNZAF – INTERFET, East Timor – 2002

 2.  Force Communications Unit (FCU), Cambodia (1992-93) – 2015

Personnel who served with the FCU in Cambodia wear Citation with Star; personnel posted to unit subsequently wore the Citation without Star – unit was disbanded before this could occur).

The Australian Meritorious Unit Citation is awarded to a unit, for sustained outstanding service in warlike operations. The Honour comprises an award of a Certificate of Citation to the unit signed by the Australian Governor-General and insignia of the Citation (as above) worn by members of the unit.  The Meritorious Unit Citation was approved for introduction into the Australian Honours System on 15 January 1991. To date there have been 24 Meritorious Unit Citations presented, including two awards to New Zealand Defence Force personnel.

Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry




  • Awarded to D Company, 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment at the Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam (1966) – 2010. The Citation was awarded in 2010 to three NZ soldiers who took part in this battle.
  • Awarded to 161 Battery RNZA,Vietnam (1968) – 2019

The Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry is awarded to a unit for ‘extraordinary gallantry’ as a team in warlike operations.  It is not awarded for acts of gallantry performed by an individual or by small groups of personnel. 

Approximately 120 members of 161 Battery, RNZA who participated in the Battles of Fire Support Bases “Coral” and “Balmoral” in Vietnam between 12 May and 6 June 1968, as well as other New Zealand Armed Forces personnel directly involved in one or both battles.  Fourteen veterans who supported Australian troops in the Vietnam War have been the first soldiers from a New Zealand military unit to be awarded an Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry.

While this is the first Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry offered to a New Zealand military unit, in 2010 approval was given for three New Zealand Army personnel who were attached to D Company, 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment at the Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam in 1966, to accept and wear the Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry awarded to D Company.

2011 Canterbury Earthquake Citation – NZ Police


On 26 June 2012, the Commissioner of Police announced that a “2011 Canterbury Earthquake Citation” (CEC) would be issued to acknowledge approximately 3,200 members of the NZ Police who worked in or were deployed to Christchurch during the state of emergency period of 22 February to 30 April 2011.  The CEC is worn by Police personnel as a dress distinction on the RIGHT side of their uniform.

The CEC is recognised as an ‘official’ award for NZ Police only.  The CEC was also given to a number of military and civilian persons and organisations who assisted in the aftermath.  It is not permitted to be worn by serving or former NZDF personnel when wearing military uniform.   It may be worn in civilian dress as outlined above.

Wearing Commendations & Citations

  • Uniformed military and government service personnel position a personal military Commendation or Unit Citation on the RIGHT chest, in a corresponding position to a full-size ribbon bar worn on the left side of the uniform.
  • If more than one Commendation or Citation is to be worn, position the personal award first, closest to the centre of the chest, followed by unit/group awards beside it in order of the date awarded. 
  • In civilian dress, when full-size medals are worn on a lounge/business suit or jacket (ladies equivalent dress), personal Commendations and Unit Citations are worn on the RIGHT lapel (above any other lapel badge or pin if worn).  
  • A personal Commendation takes precedence over a unit or group Citation and is positioned first, closest the centre of the chest with the Citation beside, to the right. 
  • Commendations and Citations are not included in the NZ Order of Wear.

Lapel badges

NZ Year of the Veteran Badge (2006) – known commonly as the ‘NZ Veterans Badge’ (NZVB) it was first issued in 2006 by then Prime Minister Helen Clark to mark the Year of the Veteran.  The NZVB was also accompanied by a Certificate of Appreciation signed by the Prime Minister of New Zealand.  The NZVB is not a medal or an award as such, it is a token of appreciation from the Prime Minister and Government of New Zealand on behalf of the New Zealand citizens, for service rendered in a specified operational area overseas (Active Service).  The badge and certificate continue to be presented to the most recent Returned Veterans, and remain available to all RETURNED Veterans who have not previously received one. 

The NZVB is worn on the RIGHT lapel and takes precedence over any NZRSA membership or other lapel badges worn on the right side, i.e. it is worn above the NZRSA membership badge.  

The NZVB may only be worn by the family member wearing the medals of their deceased Veteran. 

The NZRSA  membership badge may only be worn by financial and associate members of a NZRSA.  The badge is positioned on the RIGHT lapel below the NZ Veterans Badge (if worn).  

Any Formation/Unit/Ship/Squadron Lapel Badge or Pin bearing the Royal Crown, Arms or Cypher should be worn below the NZVB.  

‘Combat’ badge – this look-alike ‘infantry combat badge’ is Unofficial and is produced privately for a restricted former RNZIR group.

It should be worn as a lapel badge only and not positioned above medals or a ribbon bar to convey the impression it is an officially approved NZDF embellishment, such as the ICB as worn by Australian Defence Force personnel (refer Unofficial Awards below). 


Rule of Thumb: avoid the ‘christmas tree’ look by wearing too many badges; those who do scream ‘wannabe’

How many is too many?… avoid the ‘christmas tree’ look — LESS is more!

Medals and New Zealand Law

New Zealand Summary Offences Act 1981 incorporates Section 46 of the Military Decorations and Distinctive Badges Act 1918  and providers the legal framework to pursue a prosecution against every person who:

“wears any medal or badge (includes honour, award, medal, clasp, ribbon, badge, stripe, emblem, decoration or qualification) that conveys the intention, and understanding, that the wearer is entitled to wear such a medal or badge.”

Military Decorations and Distinctive Badges Act 1918, Section 46, paragraphs 4 a., 1. and 2. 

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 authorised, or purporting or reputed to be issued, supplied or authorised, 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 (subject to revision):
    • 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.
  1. 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. 

UNOFFICIAL medals, medalettes and badges

“Unofficial” means any NZ or foreign order, decoration, medal or badge that does not have the approval of either the Governor-General (foreign honours) or the Prime Minister (for Commonwealth honours where the Sovereign is NOT the head of state) for acceptance and wear by a New Zealand citizen.

“Unofficial” also means any medal or medalette produced by a non-governmental, private or commercial organisations (whether for commemorative purposes e.g. a unit/ship/establishment or event/anniversary, or for commercial gain

Two Types

Type 1.   Commemorative MedalsUnofficial

Not all unofficial medals are produced purely for commercial gain.  Some are produced to commemorate a particular occasion or event and while there is usually a nominal cost attached to these, the primary purpose is commemoration of a one-of event, usually limited to a particular group, rather than to gain from ‘ever-after’ sales as commercial producers and retailers do.  Examples are: the RF Cadet 50th Anniversary Commemorative medal, Dunkirk Medal, Tobruk ‘T’ Medal, Bomber Command Medal, US Antarctic Service Medal, Korean War Veterans Medal.  These medals have no official status whatsoeverThe DPMC Rules regarding the wearing of unofficial medals apply.

Type 2.   MedalettesUnofficial aka JUNK / VANITY / TIN / FAKE / TRINKET 

The various derogatory names (above) are entirely descriptive of the medalette category of unofficial awards.  These are only produced in order to represent military or Crown uniformed service, where no official medal has been struck, or was warranted.  They are favourites with military Impostors and Wannabees, targeting this market including the disenchanted who have been discharged from military service early, often as being unsuited.  Medalettes have no official status whatsoever.  Medalettes are produced for commercial gain by multiple organisations world-wide, who take no responsibility for either the design, marketing or wearing of this Junk. 

Legality of Wearing Unofficial Medals

It is not illegal to wear an unofficial medal, medalette or badge however the DPMC Rules impose the following restrictions:

  • Unofficial NZ or foreign medals are not permitted to be worn on the same medal bar as official medals.
  • Unofficial NZ or foreign medals are not permitted to be worn at the same time as official medals.
  • Unofficial NZ or foreign medals are not permitted to be worn on the right side when official medals are worn
  • Unofficial military and uniformed service badges of Merit or Qualification are not permitted, IAW Section 46 of the Military Decorations and Distinctive Badges Act 1918.  There is no restriction to wearing an official qualification badge (if appropriate) by a person so qualified, when wearing civilian attire.

Note:  If you are unsure whether or not you are permitted to wear a particular medal or badge with, or at the same time, as your official awards – Rule of Thumb: if you had to pay for it, or were given/presented with it as a memento, then it is not permitted to be worn at any time you are wearing your official medals. 

Some examples of unofficial medals are:

NZ Army 150th *

RF Cadet 50th **

US Antarctic Service ***

Korea War Vets

Front Line Service










IYOV ****

BCOF (Japan)

Tobruk Siege

Foreign Svc







*  The NZ Army 150th Anniversary Commemorative Medal was produced by the Wellington Army Association in 1995 to commemorate 150 years since the formation of a permanent military force in New Zealand in 1845.  It was presented officially to ONLY ONE group of Veteran’s descendants – the families of the 1st NZ Contingent NZMR who served in the 2nd Boer War, 1899-1902.  The medal is now manufactured widely by commercial enterprises.  This commemorative medal is unofficial and therefore not permitted to be worn with, at the same time as, or on the right side, when official medals are worn.    

**  The Regular Force Cadet 50th Anniversary Commemorative & Memorial Medal was produced by the Regular Force Cadet Association (NZ Army) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the formation of the RF Cadet School at Trentham in 1948.  Ex-RF Cadet and Brigadier (Ret’d) Brett Bestic presented eight of the 1000 medals as memorial mementos to the families of the eight fallen RF Cadets who have died on active service.  The remaining medals were purchased by ex-cadets attending the 50th anniversary commemorative celebrations.  The medal is now manufactured widely by commercial enterprises.  This commemorative medal is unofficial and therefore not permitted to be worn with, at the same time as, or on the right side, when official medals are worn.    

UNOFFICIAL and JUNK/VANITY medals are NOT permitted to be worn on the same medal bar as OFFICIAL awards.

*** United States Antarctic Service medal is an official special service medal the US Dept. of Defence presents to all military and civilian personnel who have spent either a Summer Season (6 months) or Wintered Over (12 months) on the Antarctic continent.  New Zealand citizens (military and civilian) are permitted to accept the medal (and certificate) irrespective of the conditions under which it is presented (formal parade or not) as a memento of their time in Antarctica.  As it is an “official” US Defence Dept award, it is worn by US service persons when in uniform in accordance with US single Service dress regulations.  The medal in New Zealand however has no official status whatsoever, but it may be worn in accordance with the DPMC (Honours Unit) rules for wearing non-approved medals from governments where Her Majesty the Queen is not the head of state.  Refer last paragraph below.   

The 2009 NZ Government’s Medallic Recognition Joint Working Group (MRJWG) after lengthy debate resolved that service in Antarctica for military personnel was deemed to be ‘non-operational’ service, i.e. it is conducted in a non-operational area (no belligerent threat exists), as opposed to ‘operational service’ usually conducted in an Area of Operations (AO) where a threat  (or potential threat) exists from a belligerent or potentially belligerent group or nation).  The MRJWG concluded that the NZ Defence Service Medal (NZ DSM) was sufficient recognition to acknowledge Antarctic service, where the only threat is an environmental one.  The NZ DSM recognises all loyal, attested service by NZ military personnel, whether in New Zealand or overseas, and is the official recognition of service on land or air in Antarctica and Antarctic waters, and all other non-operational military service.

To summarise, the US Antarctic Service medal is deemed an unofficial medal in terms of not having NZ governmental approval for inclusion in the NZ Order of Wear, as set down in the the DPMC (Honours Unit) Rules.  Accordingly, the US Antarctic Service medal is not permitted to be worn with, at the same time as, or on the right side, when official medals are worn.    

**** The International Year Of the Volunteer (IYOV) medal was a memento available to some volunteer organisations such as some Fire Services (e.g. NZ Rural Fire Service).  It was designed to recognise volunteerism however, in the case of the NZ Fire and Police services separate rules apply.  This commemorative medal is unofficial and therefore is not permitted to be worn with, at the same time as, or on the right side, when official medals are worn. 

New medals 

In 2011 the New Zealand Defence Service Medal (NZ DSM) was instituted to redress outstanding medalic recognition grievances that were acknowledge after a comprehensive study was completed into decorations and medals awarded for military service.  The NZ DSM was awarded to redress unrecognised periods of military home service of up to 15 years.  It is now awarded to all regular and territorial military personnel who complete 3 years full time / efficient years service in the NZDF.

As a result, unofficial medals such as the Compulsory Military Training (CMT) and National Service (NS) commemorative medals  became irrelevant and not needed. 


This is the latest UNOFFICIAL BADGE which sometimes is seen above NZ veteran medal groups.  It has been privately produced and is available, like the Wellington Army Association’s 150th Anniversary of the NZ Army commemorative medal, upon application from a private seller.  Wearing this unofficial badge in a position that implies legitimacy, i. e. directly above an official medals bar in the same manner of the Australian or Fijian Infantry Combat Badge (ICB), or the US Expert Infantry Badge (EIB), is contrary to the provisions of Section 46 of the Military Decorations and Distinctive Badges Act 1918. 


Valour Theft, Medal Cheats, Impostors & Wannabees


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

The lowest of the low is the‘Valour Thief.’  These are persons who steal valour by fraudulently representing him/herself as a self-styled hero by wearing official or replica decorations, medals or badges reserved for those who have performed acts of gallantry, bravery, distinguished or meritorious service.  Anyone who, without entitlement, wears a decoration or medal designed to recognise such acts, is breaking the law and can be prosecuted under the Summary Offences Act 1981, by being in contravention of Section 46 of the Military Decorations and Distinctive Badges Act 1918. 

2.  MEDAL  CHEATS (the ‘Poser’)

Not content with his official medal entitlement, this Medal Cheat/’Poser’ enhanced his medal count with Unofficial commemorative medals and even added a home-made, faked non-medal – the Boy Scout one on the end!  Source:  Waikato Show, 2017.

The Medal (or Badge) Cheat in military parlance is also termed a ‘Poser’, a show-off who wears unofficial medals, or non-entitled military badges of merit or qualification (or both) to impress the unknowing.  These are the most common type of Wannabe usually seen on public occasions at locations where medals are being worn. 

Medal Cheats regrettably are more frequently seen in the ranks of the ex-military veteran community.  These people know exactly what they are doing by disregarding the Rules.  The temptation to boost their own ego and impress others by adding unofficial / junk / vanity medals to their rack, or qualification badges they have no legal entitlement to wear, is to much to resist.  The deluded Medal Cheat will ignore protocol and the Rules by dreaming up every justification under the sun as to why the accepted medal  protocol, practices and the Rules, do not apply to them. 

Military veterans, more than most others who wear medals, know the Rules and the protocol for wearing them.  Every one of those veterans have at sometime in their service, been well schooled in rights and wrongs of wearing medals and qualification badges – and, usually several times over during their military careers.  Military regulations differ only slightly from the known Rules accepted practice for wearing medals in NZ when in civilian dress so, ignorance is no excuse.  But still there are the ‘Posers’ who continue to think they have some pre-ordained right to side-step the Rules and accepted practices, hoping like hell no-one will notice – WRONG !  

An unconvincing Medal Cheat who has ZERO military service and ZERO entitlement to any of this ‘mixed bag’ of medals = Stupid!   

Medal Cheats will also sometimes seek or accept a high profile appointment in an ex-service organisations (ESO) such as the NZRSA or the RSL in Australia.  This gives a Medal Cheat yet another opportunity to ‘strut their stuff’ by parading their fraudulently enhanced medal rack publicly in the belief  they are beyond the reach of someone who will recognise their fraud! 

Adding an official looking name badge which includes the words, President, Vice-President etc, together with an organisation’s blazer pocket badge, is also a favoured ploy a Medal Cheat will use to promote their charade of legitimacy and (hopefully) deflect undue scrutiny away from the medals they have no entitlement to wear.   

Mental Stability

On occasions, an apparent Medal Cheat may draw undue attention to themselves by being excessively bedecked in a mixed array of medals, sometimes worn haphazardly, and obvious to most veterans that the individual just looks plainly ridiculous (such as in the picture at right).  A large array of mixed medals and badges, poorly mounted and an obvious absence of embarrassment in wearing the array, may also be an indication that while no actual fraud is intended, the wearer may have issues of mental stability. These situations therefore should be handled with care and preferably with the assistance of qualified medical professionals.

Ignorance, stupidity or both?

Medal Cheats will sometimes wear a combination of official and unofficial / junk / vanity medals and/or official qualification or merit badges to which they have no entitlement.  History has shown that these are more likely to flourish in smaller and rural towns where whatever medals or badges they might chose to wear, is less likely to be challenged by unknowing locals.  

Medal Cheats can be prosecuted under the Summary Offences Act 1981 by being in contravention of Section 46 of the Military Decorations and Distinctive Badges Act 1918. 

3.  The WANNABE (want-to-be)  

Wannabes all have one thing in common; for whatever reason they feel the need to fraudulently misrepresent themselves and their military service (if any) by wearing medals, badges, uniform and/or accoutrements, NZ and foreign, to which they have no entitlement to wear. 

From the left – a mixture of Official (1-4), Junk/Vanity (5) and Unofficial medals (6-7) on the same bar, worn at the same time, or on the right side, is NOT permitted.

The Wannabe may have no military service, some service (may have been discharged for unsuitability, or on medical grounds), or a whole career of uniformed and returned service behind them.  These individuals may wear unofficial / junk / vanity medals, badges and items of military dress, in order to represent themselves (usually poorly) as a former uniformed Veteran or a Returned Veteran.


Sacked Otaki RSA President of six years – this wannabee Vietnam veteran, medal cheat and impostor had ZERO military service.  Looks credible doesn’t he ?

The Military Impostor fraudulently pretends to have had uniformed military service when they have had none.  These individuals are often characterised by naive attempts to deceive others by wearing any combination of a uniform and/or medals, ribbons, badges and other accoutrements, to which they have no entitlement.

A Military Impostor will often represent him/herself as a Returned Veteran (Para, SAS, Special Forces, “Black Ops”, Clearance Diver, Warfare Officer and Pilot are the favoured pretences).  Impostors can usually be quickly unmasked by their naivety of attention to correctness – poor personal appearance, inappropriate dress combinations, wearing replica or ‘junk’ medals and badges, medals arranged in an incorrect ‘order of wearing’.  In addition their back story will not stand up to even rudimentary scrutiny– they lack the specifics of professional and general military knowledge by failing to adequately answer searching questions.  The above are the hallmarks of a Military Impostor whether dressed in civilian clothing or military uniform.



Wannabe Medal Cheat & Military Impostor’ – Robert Clark of Auckland on Anzac Day 2017 passed himself off as a NZSAS returned veteran – Photo source: NZ Herald.

More sophisticated Military Impostor attempts are rare.  These tend to present as believable both in appearance and back story.  An Impostor may carry a counterfeited or stolen Identity Card, dog tags, stolen or replica medals/badges etc in order to represent themselves as either a serving or former military/uniformed service veteran, for the purposes of gaining access and/or personal prestige – read more here …

Military Impostors are breaking the law and can be prosecuted under the Crimes Act 1961 (Fraud, Trespass, etc); and the Summary Offences Act 1981, contrary to Section 46 of the Military Decorations and Distinctive Badges Act 1918.


Valour Thieves, Medal Cheats, Wannabees and Impostors are abhorred by the serving and veteran military communities. Once exposed these transgressors can expect to be treated with derision and disdain by often very unforgiving veterans.  Fraudsters of any type should be reported to the relevant authorities (the organisation concerned, or NZ Police) without delay. 

Note:  If you suspect a person of being a medal or military fraud but are unsure of your facts, ask the advice of an experienced Veteran or a serving military person whom you can trust – they will know what to do.

Medal Cheat and Returned Veteran Impostor – former President of Hakaru RSA wearing official Vietnam campaign and service medals he never earned. – 05 May 2017 

Medal Cheat and Impostor – his only entitlement is to the NZ Defence Service Medal (2nd right). He has NEVER been on Active Service. – 25 April, 2017








NZ Royal Honours System

The New Zealand Royal Honours system is a uniquely New Zealand system.  Honours are administered by the Honours Unit, which is part of the Cabinet Office.  The final honours lists are approved by The Queen of New Zealand, hereinafter referred to as”Sovereign”, on the Prime Minister’s advice.  

The New Zealand Royal Honours system is made up of:

  • The Order of New Zealand
  • The New Zealand Order of Merit
  • The Queen’s Service Order and associated Queen’s Service Medal
  • The New Zealand Bravery and Gallantry Stars
  • The New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration
  • The New Zealand Antarctic Medal

Over the years there have also been some special or one-off awards, such as the New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal, and the New Zealand Suffrage Medal 1993. 

As well as these core elements, the armed forces and uniformed services also have medals for their personnel, which are administered by those agencies.  For a complete list of all the orders, decorations and medals that are officially part of the New Zealand Royal Honours system, see the honours listed in the New Zealand ‘Order of Wear’.

Rules relating to the acceptance and wearing of Commonwealth, Foreign and International Honours by New Zealand citizens

The Authority for approving NZ Honours  and awards is the Queen of New Zealand.  The Queen has:

  • delegated Authority to the Governor-General of New Zealand, on the advice of the Prime Minister, to approve the acceptance and wearing of any foreign honour by a New Zealand citizen;
  • delegated Authority to the Prime Minister of New Zealand to approve the acceptance and wearing of any Commonwealth honour by a New Zealand citizen;
  • delegated authority to the Governor-General of New Zealand, on the advice of the Prime Minister, to amend these Rules from time to time, with the exception of Rule 2 (a) to (c) above.

The Rules and the DPMC Honours Unit

The rules that govern the acceptance and wearing of NZ and foreign orders, decorations and medals in New Zealand are administered by the Honours Unit, an office of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC).   The primary work of the Honours Unit is managing all matters related to Queen’s Birthday and New Year Honours lists, Gallantry and Bravery honours lists from time to time, and investitures.

The Honours Unit also has an advisory responsibility to the Prime Minister, in consultation with the NZ Herald of Arms for all honours designed by the Herald, and with the Heads of  organisations employed by the Crown, e. g. the armed forces (NZDF) and non-military uniformed services (NZ Police, Customs etc).

The Honours Unit administers and promulgates the  ruleshereafter called the DPMC Rules (including  amendments), approved by the approving Authority of any NZ or foreign order, decoration and medal worn by a New Zealand citizen.

Uniformed services employed by the Crown

The armed forces and uniformed services employed by the Crown produce agency specific regulations for wearing honours and awards by their personnel when in uniform. 

Wearing OFFICIAL Honours and Awards

Official honours are those orders, decorations or medals,  NZ and foreign, authorised by the Sovereign or Delegates, the Governor General and/or Prime Minister of New Zealand, for acceptance and wear by a New Zealand citizen.  Official NZ and foreign orders, decorations and medals are listed in the NZ ‘Order of Wear’ authorized by the Governor General of New Zealand and administered by the Honours Unit.


New Zealand ‘Order of Wear’

Official NZ orders, decorations and medals are worn suspended from a medal brooch bar in an approved sequence, known as the NZ Order of Wear. 

Order of Wear – NZ & Imperial medals (as at Jan 2019)


State Orders & Post-Nominals


The Order of St John is a semi-independent Order of Chivalry and while it is outside ministerial authority it remains within the New Zealand system.  All appointments to, and promotions in, the Order are sanctioned by The Queen as “Sovereign Head” of the Order.  In New Zealand the Order is constituted as a Priory and the Governor-General is Prior (head).

          >> Grade I – Bailiff or Dame Grand Cross – GCStJ

          >> Grade II – Knight or Dame of Justice or Grace – KStJ or DStJ

          >> Grade III – Chaplain – ChStJ

          >> Grade III – Commander – CStJ

          >> Grade IV – Officer – OStJ

          >> Grade V – Member – MStJ

          >> Grade VI – Esquire – EsqStJ

Medals for Gallantry and Bravery

Medals for Meritorious Service

Campaign Medals

19th century (NZ Land Wars)

South African War (Anglo-Boer or Boer War)

World War I  (1914-1920)

  • 1914 Star  (“Mons” Star) with clasp 5TH AUG – 22 NOV 1914
  • 1914-15 Star
  • British War Medal
  • Mercantile Marine War Medal
  • Victory Medal (emblem of the award of a Mention in Dispatches worn on this ribbon) 
  • Memorial Plaque – awarded from the commencement of World War 1, to the next of kin of New Zealand servicemen and women who were killed while serving overseas, or who died of wounds received while serving overseas, during the First World War.  The plaque (sometimes referred to as Death Penny, Death Plaque, Widow’s Penny etc) was also awarded to servicemen and women, including those who served in the Mercantile Marine (Merchant Navy) after the end of the work for those who died as a result of their war service, within three years from the date the war officially ceased. 
  • Memorial Scroll – A Memorial Scroll produced in the UK together with the plaques, accompanied each Memorial Plaque.  The scroll was 20×32 cm in size and had the number, rank, name and unit of the deceased person penned in calligraphy with red ink.  It was intended to be framed.

World War II – service to 3 Sep 1945 (includes UN, NATO & European Union awards – worn in order of date of participation)

  • 1939-1945 Star – with clasps BATTLE OF BRITAIN (10 Jul-31 Oct 1940 only) and BOMBER COMMAND
  • Atlantic Star – with clasps AIRCREW EUROPE and FRANCE & GERMANY (only the first clasp earned is worn)
  • Air Crew Europe Star – with clasps ATLANTIC and FRANCE & GERMANY if qualified (only the first clasp earned is worn)
  • Arctic Star
  • Africa Star – with clasps 1ST ARMY, 8TH ARMY, NORTH AFRICA 1942-43 (only one worn)
  • Pacific Star – clasp BURMA if later qualified for Burma Star 
  • Burma Star – clasp PACIFIC if later qualified for Pacific Star
  • Italy Star – no clasps
  • France and Germany Star – with clasp ATLANTIC if qualified (no Aircrew Europe clasp for this star)
  • Defence Medal
  • War Medal 1939–1945 (emblem of the award of a Mention in Dispatches worn on this ribbon) 
  • New Zealand War Service Medal
  • New Zealand Memorial Cross (King George VI) – awarded since the commencement of World War 2 to the next of kin of New Zealand service personnel who died overseas while on “active service”, or subsequently died from causes attributable to that service.  The award was suspended from a purple neck ribbon.  Since 1960 the New Zealand Memorial Cross (Queen Elizabeth II) has been award as a brooch design.

Post World War II – service from 3 Sep 1945 (includes UN, NATO & European Union awards – worn in order of date of                participation)

United Nations Medals

Service by military personnel and by civilian Police personnel in United Nations peace-keeping missions throughout the world since 1948 is recognised by the award of a medal bearing the United Nations emblem.

United Nations medallic policy is that other civilians are not awarded United Nations awards, with the exception of:

  • The United Nations Medal (Korea) was also awarded to a limited range of civilians whose organisations were certified by the United Nations Commander-in-Chief as having directly supported military operations in Korea between 1950 and 1954. (emblem of an award of a Mention in Dispatches worn on this ribbon)  
  • The Dag Hammarskjöld Medal is awarded to military personnel, civilian Police personnel and other civilians who lose their lives while in the service of the United Nations.  The medal is not designed to be worn.

UN Mission Medals  

  • To date, there have been more than 60 individual UN missions established each one recognised by the award of the United Nations Medal. Many New Zealand military and civilian Police personnel have taken part in UN missions all over the world. As a consequence the UN medal with a great variety of different mission ribbons is commonly worn in this country.  View the ribbons of missions New Zealand has participated in here.
  • The United Nations Special Service Medal (UNSSM) was created in 1995 to recognise United Nations service of at least 90 days            duration by military personnel and civilian police for which no other award is authorised

New Zealand Special Service, Polar & Imperial Service Medals

Jubilee, Coronation and New Zealand Commemoration Medals

Merit, Efficiency and Long Service Awards

Defence Service Medal

Commonwealth Medals

No approval is required for the acceptance and wearing of official medals issued by a Commonwealth or foreign country, or international organisation, to commemorate previous military or operational service approved by government, including peacekeeping operations, by former New Zealand military and other personnel.  

Note: The above is distinct from non-approved (Unofficial) Commemorative medals produced by organisations for the purposes of commemoration and profit.

Australian Defence Medal

Commonwealth Independence Medals

Miscellaneous Medals

Commonwealth Countries – Orders, Decorations and Medals

Instituted by the Sovereign as Head of State, other than in right of New Zealand or the United Kingdom.  At the discretion of the holder, a Commonwealth award may be worn in a position comparable to, but following, the equivalent New Zealand or British Order, Decoration or Medal.  Worn in order of date of award.


  • Royal Military Order of St George (Tonga)

Decorations (nil)


Foreign Awards

Worn in order of date of award, according to participation or approval by foreign government.

Foreign Orders

Foreign Decorations

Official Foreign Medals

Note:  ** Restricted Wear.  The level of approval granted by the Sovereign which allows for an award to be worn only on specified occasions. Most of the awards which are approved for restricted wear only are foreign awards. Where restricted permission has been given the insignia may be worn on the following occasions:

  • in the presence of any member of the Royal Family or Head of State of the country concerned;
  • at the residence of any ambassador, minister, or consular officer of that country in New Zealand or abroad, but not if meeting him or her elsewhere;
  • when attached to or officially meeting any officer of the Armed Forces or official deputation of that country;
  • at any official or semi-official ceremony held exclusively in connection with that country, and
  • on all occasions whilst in that country.

Foreign Commendations and Citations

Persons awarded an official Commendation or Citation must obtain approval from the Governor General or delegate, to acceptance and wear a military unit citation or personal commendation.  The process for New Zealand citizens is the same as that for Commonwealth and foreign honours.  





NZDF plaque



Medals Reunited New Zealand©