Medal Protocol

ANZAC Day Parade - wearing of medals

Rules and Customs for wearing Medals, Badges and Emblems by New Zealand Citizens


  • “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.

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; Boer War)

      World War I

      World War II

      World War II to Vietnam War (includes “Confrontation” in Malaya, Borneo, Sarawak) 

     Post Vietnam War

New Zealand Special Service Medals

Jubilee, Coronation and New Zealand Commemoration Medals

Efficiency and Long Service Decorations and Medals

Service Medals

Rhodesia Medal

Commonwealth Independence Medals

Instituted by the Sovereign. Worn in order of date of award.

Miscellaneous medals

Commonwealth Awards

Instituted by the Sovereign as Head of State, other than in right of New Zealand or the United Kingdom. Worn in order of date of award. 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.

Other Commonwealth Awards

Instituted by Commonwealth countries of which the Sovereign is not Head of State. Instituted since 1949, otherwise than by the Sovereign, and awards by the states of Malaysia and the State of Brunei. Worn in order of date of award. These awards may only be worn when The Sovereign’s permission has been given.

United States Awards and Decorations

These awards may only be worn when the Sovereign’s permission has been given.

Official Foreign Medals

Citations and Commendations

The process for obtaining approval for the acceptance and wear of unit citations and commendations by units of the New Zealand Defence Force or the New Zealand Police is the same as that for Commonwealth and foreign honours.  Official citations and commendations* permit the appropriate emblem to be accepted and worn:

  • on the right side of the jacket as a “permanent dress distinction” on all occasions by those personnel who served in the unit during the period for which the citation or commendation was earned; or
  • as a “dress distinction” on the right side of the jacket on all occasions by personnel who serve with the unit outside of the period when the citation or commendation was earned, and then only while they serve in that unit

Note:  * same rule applies for wearing uniformed service commendation badges – organisational variations may apply.

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.



Wearing a Poppy with medals

Poppy 4 (600x400)medalpoppy

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 being the international symbol of Remembrance.   The protocol in New Zealand for both males and females who are NOT wearing uniform are the same.  If wearing your own medals, the Poppy should be worn either directly above the medals (only those worn on the left chest) or on the left lapel.  For veterans of Navy, Army or Air Force who are wearing an official brevet (e.g. pilot wings, aircrew half wings, warfare badge etc) above their medals, the left lapel position for the Poppy is most appropriate.  For persons 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 NZ military 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 a name badge if worn).  This opposite chest location is applied to accommodate aircrew personnel who wear a flying brevet – a pilot’s badge (wings) and half-wing brevets.  

Lapel Badges

The NZ Year of the Veteran Badge (2006), known commonly as the “Veterans Badge” (NZVB), was first issued in 2006 and was accompanied by a Certificate of Appreciation signed by the Prime Minister of New Zealand.  The badge is not a medal or award but a token of appreciation from the Prime Minister of New Zealand on behalf of the NZ people,  for specified operational service (Active Service) rendered.   by a  only.  The Badge and Certificate are available to RETURNED Veterans only, upon application. 

The NZVB is worn on the RIGHT lapel and takes precedence over any NZRSA membership or other lapel badge, 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 RETURNED Veteran family member. 

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

Any Formation/Unit/Ship/Squadron Lapel Badge bearing the Royal Crown should be worn below the NZRSA membership badge, as a point of organisational seniority.  If no Crown is present badges may be worn as you wish.

UNOFFICIAL –  ‘Combat’ badge

This ‘infantry combat badge’ is an Unofficial badge produced privately for a restricted group.  It may be worn as a lapel badge only. (refer Unofficial Awards below).

Rule of thumb – avoid the ‘christmas tree’ look by wearing too many badges – those who do scream ‘wannabee’ ! 


Paying compliments 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 Veteran 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 Veteran Salute can be performed without error or effort (unlike a bad 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.


Guidance for Family Members wearing medals

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.              

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 should 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 Miniature Medals or a Replica set of medals of a living parent or other relative but to Veterans wearing the same awards is an insulting.  Medals are not designed to be children’s toys or clothing decorations.

To do so 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 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 ?

  • 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 are not to be worn ?

  • 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 deceased relatives medals ?

A direct descendant may wear a deceased relatives medals only on national days of commemoration, 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 (approx 6am to 6pm).

  • 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.           Source – 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 recognize 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 authorized 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 – the Queen (Sovereign Head  has authorized 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 family medals on Anzac Day 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 2nd Anglo-Boer (South African) War, the First and Second World Wars, Korean War, SE Asian conflicts, and numerous 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).

But most importantly ..

~ wear your 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

Medal components & terminology

Medal specifications & terminology

  • 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. MID).
  • 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 at the same time.  

Mounting medals

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


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 minimize 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 because they want your money, you should look for a reputable service.
  2. The MRNZ Team can advise you of reputable medal mounting services for have medals mounted either style, re-ribboned or repaired. 



Wearing 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 may also seek out known insecure or openly displayed medals from residences.  

The loss or theft of a Replica/copy set of your ancestor’s medals is minimal compared to the anguish that can result from the permanent loss of the original medals.  Wearing Replica/copy medals in no way diminishes the spirit or intent of how you honour the service or sacrifice of your family Veteran.  This practice is common among serving military personnel as it minimises the chances of weather or physical damage, loss or theft of their originals.  Wearing Replica/copy medals will give you the peace of mind of knowing your original medals remain safe and secure.

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

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 to the medal bar is also a very good idea.

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

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.  

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 how to clean medals, 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  if they have been dampened by rain and give them a buff with a soft, dry cloth.  

Lastly, always keep your original medals secure.  Keep them in your possession,  where you can see them, or out of sight under lock and key when not in use.  The merits of displaying your original medals openly at home should also be considered carefully.


Military Decorations and New Zealand Law

The 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.”

The Military Decorations and Distinctive Badges Act 1918, Section 46, paragraphs 4a., 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 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 (under 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 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 produced by a non-governmental, private or commercial organisations

Unofficial medals are designed to represent military or Crown uniformed service where no official medal was struck, or warranted, and have no official status whatsoever.   They are commonly referred to by the derogatory terms: JUNK / VANITY / TIN / FAKE / PLASTIC / TRINKET / MEMENTO, and include official but non-approved Commemorative medals. 

It is not illegal to wear an unofficial medal or badge however the DPMC Rules provide for 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 military and uniformed service badges of Merit or Qualification are not permitted, IAW Section 46 of the Military Decorations and Distinctive Badges Act 1918.  

Note:  As a rule of thumb, if you are unsure whether or not you are permitted to wear a particular medal or badge with official awards – if you had to pay for it, or were given it as a memento, then it is not permitted to be worn whilst you are wearing official awards. 

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 was (and still is) available for purchase by any NZ Army veteran who had served at any time during those years.  This commemorative medal is unofficial and therefore not permitted to be worn with, or at the same time, as official medals.   

**  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 retired Brigadier Brett Bestic presented eight of the 1000 medals as memorial mementos to the families of the eight fallen RF Cadets who had died on active service.  The remaining medals were purchased by ex cadets attending the 50th commemorative celebrations.  This commemorative medal is unofficial and therefore not permitted to be worn with, or at the same time, as official medals.    

*** United States Antarctic Service medal is given by the US Dept. of Defence (US Air Force) to those military and civilian personnel who spend either the Summer Season (6 mths) or Winter Over (12 mths) on the Antarctic continent.  The 2009 NZ government Medallic Recognition Joint Working Group considered Antarctic service for NZ military personnel non-operational, concluding that the NZ Defence Service Medal (NZDSM) and clasps was sufficient to recognise  this service.  The NZDSM 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 in Antarctic waters and all other non-operational military service.

The US Antarctic Service medal therefore is unofficial in terms of not having approval for inclusion in the DPMC NZ Order of Wear and therefore, is not permitted to be worn with, or at the same time, as official medals.

**** 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 recognize volunteerism however, in the case of the NZ Fire and Police services separate rules apply.  This commemorative medal is unofficial and therefore not permitted to be worn with, or at the same time, as official medals.  (although some individuals seem to have accorded this medallion that status themselves).   

“Infantry Combat Badge” – UNOFFICIAL Commemorative

This is the latest UNOFFICIAL badge appearing above NZ 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 legitimacyi.e. directly above an official medals bar in the manner of the Australian or Fiji Infantry Combat Badges (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. 

New medals 

In 2011 the New Zealand Defence Service Medal (NZDSM) 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 NZDSM was awarded to redress unrecognized 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) medals became irrelevant and not needed. 


The ‘WANNABEE’ (want-to-be)  

Wannabees 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 items and/or accoutrements, NZ or foreign, to which they have no entitlement or permission to wear. 

Official and Unofficial (last three) medals mixed – not permitted !

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

Types of ‘Wannabee’ 

1.  MEDAL  CHEAT (The ‘Poser’)

Not content with his official medals, this Medal Cheat/’Poser’ has enhanced his medal count with Unofficial medals and even a faked non-medal – a boy scout’s badge!  Source: The Waikato Show 2017

The Medal (and/or badge) Cheat is also termed a ‘Poser’.  A ‘Poser’ in essence is a show-off, someone who wears unofficial medals and/or non-entitled military badges of merit or qualification to impress others.  Medal Cheats are regrettably more often seen in the ex-military service veteran communities.  The temptation to boost one’s ego to impress others by adding unofficial medals to their legal entitlement cannot be contained by a deluded Medal Cheat who will give any and every justification for the Rules and medal protocol not applying to them.  Military Veterans more than most should know better since their service experience and education in the rights and wrongs of these practices is rammed home very early in their service, but still, some of these wannabe ‘Posers’ continue to think they have a some pre-ordained ‘right’ to break the rules and/or that no-one else will notice. WRONG !  

A wannabee Medal Cheat who has ZERO military service and ZERO entitlement to any medals.   Source: ANZMI

Wannabee Medal Cheats will sometimes seek or accept a high profile appointment in an ex-service organisations (ESO) such as the NZRSA in New Zealand 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, believing they are beyond the reach of someone who will recognise their fraud!  Adding an official name badge, e.g. President, Vice-President etc together with a blazer pocket badge for instance is also a favoured ploy to promote a Medal Cheat’s charade by (hopefully) deflecting undue scrutiny from that which they have no entitlement to wear.  

Ignorance, stupidity or both ?

Wannabee Medal Cheats will often wear a combination of official and unofficial medals or junk medals and/or official qualification or merit badges to which they have no entitlement. 

History has also shown that wannabee Medal Cheats are more likely to flourish in smaller and rural towns where any challenge to whatever medals or badges they may wear is less likely 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


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

These Wannabees are the lowest of the low – a ‘Valour Thief ‘ is one who steals valour by fraudulently representing him/herself as a self-styled hero by wearing official decorations, medals or badges normally reserved for those who have performed an act of gallantry, bravery, distinguished or meritorious service.  ‘Valour Thieves’ are 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. 


Sacked Otaki RSA President of six years – this wannabee Vietnam Veteran Medal Cheat and Impostor had ZERO military service.  Source:  Open

A Wannabee who fraudulently pretends to have had military or uniformed service, where they have none.  Usually characterised by a naive attempt to deceive by wearing any combination of a uniform together with medals, ribbons, badges or other accoutrements to which they have no entitlement.

The Wannabee Military Impostor will often represents him/herself as a Returned Veteran (SAS, Para, Special Forces, Clearance Diver, Warfare Officer, are favoured claims).  Impostors can usually be quickly unmasked by naive attention to detail – poor appearance, inappropriate dress, wearing replica or ‘junk’ medals and badges, incorrect ‘order of wearing’, medals and badges, and their obvious lack of specific professional knowledge, or failure to answer searching questions – all are the hallmarks of an Impostor.



‘Wannabe Medal Cheat & Impostor’ – Robert Clark (43) of Auckland on Anzac Day 2017 – 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 …

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. 


Wannabee Medal Cheats, Valour Thieves and Impostors are abhorred by the serving and veteran communities.  Once exposed Wanabees are generally treated with derision and disdain by sometimes very unforgiving veterans.  Wannabees of any type should be reported to the relevant authorities (the organisation or NZ Police) without delay. 

Note:  If you suspect a ‘Wannabee’ of any sort but are not sure, ask an experienced veteran or serving uniformed person whom you can trust – they will know what to do.

Wannabee Vietnam Veteran Medal Cheat & Impostor – former President of Hakaru RSA wearing non-entitled official campaign medals; has NEVER been on Active Service – 25 April 2017

Medal Cheat & Impostor – his only entitlement is to the NZ Defence Service Medal (2nd right)








NZDF plaque