The British first instituted a military long service medal in 1845 – the Army Meritorious Service Medal – followed by one for the Royal Marines in 1849. These medals were silver and identical except RM medals were named. The Army ribbon was plain crimson until 1916 when white edges were added; in 1917 three white stripes were added. The RM ribbon was plain dark blue until the Royal Navy MSM was added in 1919, and the RN dark blue edged in white ribbon was adopted for both medals.

The RAF MSM was instituted in 1918 and had a half crimson, half light blue ribbon with white stripes at the centre and on the edges. Ribbons changed in 1977 to the same ribbon as the Army MSM. The Colonial MSM was instituted in 1895 as an award for service in the British dominions and colonies. The Canadian MSM had the same ribbon as the Army MSM and the same obverse. Until 1936, the Canadian MSM had the words CANADA inscribed on the reverse.

The first British Long Service and Good Conduct Medal was awarded in 1830 for the Army. Infantry troops had to have 21 years of exemplary conduct; the cavalry needed 24. Both were reduced in 1870 to 19 years, and later to 18 years. In WWII, officers qualified for the LSGC medal provided that they had served 12 of their qualifying year’s service in the ranks. The medal was silver and was suspended from a plain crimson ribbon. In 1917, white edges were added.

In Canada, the medal was introduced for the Permanent Force Army and permanent RCAF in 1930, approved in 1932, and was issued to those who enlisted before September 1, 1939. The raised words CANADA on a bar were attached to the suspension claw. A bar for an additional 18 years service was added in 1944. The RCAF LSGC was approved in 1944 and was issued until September 1957 for members who enrolled on or before September 1, 1939. In 1950, Canada discontinued use of the Canadian LSGC medal upon introduction of the Canadian Forces Decoration in late 1949.

The RN Long Service and Good Conduct medal was instituted in 1831. The silver medal was suspended from a plain dark blue ribbon; in 1848, white edges were added. Initially the obverse contained an anchor surmounted by a crown within an oak wreath. The reverse contained details about the individual such as name, ship and years of service.

In 1848, the medal was changed so that the obverse displayed the sovereign’s effigy. The reverse had a three-masted man-of-war surrounded by a rope tied at the bottom by a reef knot with the legend FOR LONG SERVICE AND GOOD CONDUCT around the circumference. Over the years various techniques were used to suspend the RN LSGC medal and to name the medals around the edge. Length of service qualifying time varied. Canadians serving in the RCN were eligible for this medal from 1925 until 1954.

The Volunteer Officer’s Decoration (VD) was introduced for the Volunteer Force in July 1892, followed by the Volunteer LSGC medal in 1894. The VD was a silver skeletal badge suspended from a plain green ribbon.

The Volunteer LSGC medal, a silver medal suspended from a plain green ribbon, was approved for Canadians in 1898. In 1906, the Honorable Artillery Company was granted a distinctive ribbon of half scarlet, half dark blue with yellow edges. Canadian volunteers were eligible for the awards after 1894. The centre of the VD has the reigning sovereign’s Royal Cypher located below a crown. During Queen Victoria’s reign, the Royal Cypher was VRI. Territorial Force awards eventually superceded both awards. Canadians were not included.


by Lcol (Ret’d) John Stuart, OMM, CD