Equivalence of Imperial and Australian Gallantry Awards

I first designed this table after having traced back the establishment of the various awards under the Imperial Honours System as a part of the research conducted in my role as a member of the Independent Review Panel for the End of War List - Vietnam, in 1999.

The central issue for that review was that the original recommendations for awards within the Australian Honours System had failed to identify that the Military Medal was the soldiers' equivalent of the Military Cross awarded to officers. The error arose because the Military Cross was much higher in the Order of Wearing than the medal, but both were clearly level three awards under the Imperial Honours System.

This table rather simplifies the Imperial Honours System, which was far more complex, with awards for gallantry also made within the Order of the British Empire, other Orders as well as through individual awards such as the Albert Medal.

The Australian Honours System, as the table shows, does not distinguish between ranks in respect of access to gallantry awards. There is only one award at each level.

The system is not without its flaws however, as there is a strong bias towards awards of the Conspicuous Service Cross (CSC) to officers and the Conspicuous Service Medal (CSM) to warrant officers and soldiers, when the original intent was to separate the awards by the level of contribution and not by the rank held.

Imperial gallantry awards have also gone through an egalitarian rationalisation which has put the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (CGM), Military Medal (MM), Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM) and Air Force Medal into abeyance, making all ranks eligible for the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross (CGC), Military Cross (MC), Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and the Air Force Cross.

Table of Equivalence - Imperial and Australian Gallantry Awards

[Post-nominals, where applicable, follow in brackets. The fourth level awards, MID and Commendation for Gallantry do not have post-nominals.]

Level Imperial Honours System (WW1 to Vietnam Era) Australian Honours System
Rank (Army equiv) Navy Army Air Force All Ranks & Services
1 All Ranks Victoria Cross [VC] Victoria Cross for Australia [VC]
2 Officers Distinguished Service Order [DSO] Star of Gallantry [SG]
 Warrant Officers
& Other Ranks
Conspicuous Gallantry Medal [CGM] Distinguished Conduct Medal [DCM] Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (Flying) [CGM]
3 Officers &
Warrant Officers
Distinguished Service Cross [DSC]  Military Cross [MC] Distinguished Flying Cross [DFC] Medal for Gallantry (MG)
Warrant Officers
& Other Ranks
Distinguished Service Medal[DSM] Military Medal [MM] Distinguished Flying Medal [DFM]
4 All Ranks Mention in Despatches Commendation for Gallantry