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British Commonwealth Gallantry, Meritorious and Distinguished Service Awards - Companion of the Distinguished Service Order

Obverse View

Companion of the Distinguished Service Order obverse view

About this medal

The Distinguished Service Order (DSO) was instituted in 1886 to recognise acts of gallantry by military officers for which a Victoria Cross was not considered appropriate. In 1942 the regulations were amended to allow the award to be made to officers of the Merchant Navy for gallantry in the presence of the enemy. Following a UK review of gallantry awards in 1993, the purpose of the DSO was changed to recognise outstanding leadership at all ranks. At that time the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross replaced the award of the DSO for gallantry. The DSO was awarded to over 300 New Zealanders during both World Wars.

The DSO is no longer awarded in New Zealand since the introduction of New Zealand's own system of Gallantry and Bravery awards in 1999.

Royal Warrant

Many of these Decorations and Awards are very old and the Royal Warrants which instituted them have been subject to significant amendment during their currency. More information on the Royal Warrant and criteria for the British Gallantry, Meritorious and Distinguished Service Awards can be found in the publications listed in the Bibliography. A publication titled British Gallantry Awards by P.E. Abbott and J.M.E. Tamplin is particularly recommended.

Medal Regulations

Most Gallantry, Meritorious and Distinguished Service Awards do not have separate Regulations. Instructions for their administration are usually included in the Royal Warrant.

Clasps and Bars

Bars are awarded for subsequent acts of gallantry. For example, during his military career Lieutenant General Sir Bernard Freyberg received the DSO and three bars.

Order of Wear

The position of this award in the Wearing of Medals in New Zealand Table can be viewed here.

Further Reading

The following three books provide detailed information on the award of the DSO to New Zealanders: