Meritorious Service Medal (United Kingdom)

Meritorious Service Medal (United Kingdom)

The Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) is a silver medal for distinguished service, or for gallantry, principally by non-commissioned officers of all of the British armed forces and of Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service.



The medal was first instituted for the British Army in 1845, for the Royal Marines in 1849, for the Royal Air Force in 1918 and for the Royal Navy in 1919.

Following historic variations between the medals awarded in each of the armed forces, including slight differences in design and in the criteria for the award, the same medal is now issued for all of the services.

To be awarded the MSM, an individual must have "good, faithful, valuable and meritorious service, with conduct judged to be irreproachable throughout". Other ranks must have at least twenty years service, must already hold Long Service and Good Conduct Medals, and for the Army and the Royal Air Force must have reached the equivalent rank of sergeant. Officers of any service can also be considered for the medal immediately after being commissioned, provided they meet the other criteria, but not later.

The number of MSMs awarded is limited: no more than forty-nine a year may be awarded in the Royal Navy, three in the Royal Marines, eighty-nine in the Army and sixty in the Royal Air Force, and in practice these numbers are not reached.


The medal has the sovereign's profile on one side, on the other a small crown and a wreath surrounding the inscription For Meritorious Service. The recipient's name, rank and unit is inscribed on the rim. If a sovereign is shown in naval uniform, then the medal was awarded for service at sea or with a Naval or Royal Marines unit on land.


The medal's ribbon has had various colours:

  • Army, 1845-1916: crimson
  • Army, 1916-1917: crimson with white edges
  • Army, 1917-: crimson with white edges and a white centre stripe
  • Royal Navy: crimson with white edges and a white centre stripe
  • Royal Marines: dark blue
  • Royal Marines (award in the field, 1916-1919): crimson with white edges and a white centre stripe
  • Royal Air Force: crimson and light blue, with white edges and a white centre stripe


The British Army's medal was instituted in 1845, to recognise meritorious service by non-commissioned officers, and recipients were also granted an annuity. During 1916-1919, army NCOs could be awarded the medal immediately for meritorious service in the field.

Royal Marines

The medal for Royal Marines was instituted in 1849, for gallantry or for distinguished service. As a gallantry medal, it was superseded by the Naval Conspicuous Gallantry Medal. As with the Army, during 1916-1919 NCOs of the Royal Marines could be awarded the medal in the field. Since 1977, the Royal Marines' medal is only awarded for long service and is identical to the Royal Navy's.

Royal Navy

The Royal Navy's medal was instituted in 1919, for gallantry not in the face of the enemy and for meritorious service by petty officers and senior naval ratings. As a gallantry award, it was superseded by the Empire Gallantry Medal in 1928, but resumed in 1977. It is now awarded to senior NCOs in the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Women's Royal Naval Service and Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service.

Royal Air Force

The Royal Air Force's medal was instituted in 1918, for meritorious service by ground crew. It was superseded in 1928 by the British Empire Medal, but awards began again in 1977 as for the Army.

See also

  • British and Commonwealth orders and decorations


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