This guide focuses on Australians serving in World War 1. It also includes some information relevant to Great Britain, other Commonwealth nations and other combatant nations. There is a section on nurses and women's war occupations.
The resources listed on this page mainly relate to decorations awarded to Australian soldiers. Many of the decorations are listed below. They were Imperial honours usually awarded to members of the British Commonwealth.
Try the first link below to search honours and awards online through the Australian War Memorial (AWM).
The Victoria Cross
Awarded for "the most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy." Highest award. All ranks.
Distinguished Service Order
Instituted in 1886. Awarded to senior officers for "distinguished services under fire or under conditions equivalent to service in actual combat with the enemy". Often awarded for distinction in command or service.
The Military Cross
The principal army officers' award, established during World War I for junior officers, as there was no decoration for them for acts of bravery in the face of the enemy. Awarded to members of the Australian Flying Corps who came under Army control and to junior officers in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.
Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM)
Established 1854. Awarded to non-commissioned officers and other ranks of the Army for "distinguished conduct in action in the field."
Most common award. Instituted March 1916 and awarded retrospectively for gallantry and devotion to duty performed by non-commissioned officers and other ranks of the Army. In June 1916 it was extended to women of all nationalities for "bravery and devotion under fire".
Distinguished Service Cross (DSC)
Formerly named the Conspicuous Service Cross, it was renamed the Distinguished Service Cross in October 1914. Awarded to naval officers (commissioned and warrant) below the rank of Lieutenant Commander for gallantry during active operations against the enemy.
The Distinguished Flying Cross
Established June 1918 as the principal officers' flying gallantry decoration. Awarded for acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy
The Air Force Cross
Established in 1918. Awarded for gallantry and distinguished service in flying which was not in active operations against the enemy.
The Air Force Medal
Established 1918. Awarded to non-commissioned officers and men of the Air Force for "an act of valour, courage or devotion to duty performed whilst flying though not in active operations against the enemy".
The Albert Medal
Instituted 1866. Awarded for exceptional acts of gallantry in saving life on land or sea. Only three Albert Medals were awarded to members of the Australian Army during World War 1.
The Meritorious Service Medal
Instituted 1916. Awarded to Warrant Officers, non-commissioned officers and men who had rendered valuable and meritorious service, and could be awarded for gallantry in the performance of military duty. All services.
The Royal Red Cross
Instituted 1883. The First Class - Royal Red Cross was awarded to fully-trained nurses who were part of the officially recognised nursing services. Awarded for exceptional devotion or competency in nursing duties in the field or military hospitals over a long or continuous period or for an exceptional act of bravery or devotion to duty.
Source: Maton volumes listed above.
King George V inspects Australian troops, probably on Salisbury Plain, England,
The War pictorial, June 1917, page 2
Mentioned in Despatches
Not a decoration in itself, an "MiD" was commendable action which rated a "mention" in a Commander-in-Chief's military despatch. A certificate was awarded, and an emblem of bronze oak leaves was worn on the ribbon of the Victory Medal.
The Inter-Allied Victory Medal was instituted in March 1919.
Awarded to those who had served in the armed forces, to civilians contracted to the armed services and to those who served in military hospitals on battlefronts during wartime.
The 1914 Star
This campaign medal was awarded to those who served with either the British or Indian Expeditionary Force in France or Belgium between the outbreak of war in August 1914 and 22-23 November 1914.
Most awards to Australians during World War I were for British medals, as Australia did not have its own medals for war service at that time. The Commonwealth Government Gazette lists awards to Australian servicemen and nurses. This includes awards by allied countries such as Belgium, France, Serbia and Russia.
If you know the name of the person who was awarded a British medal, it is quickest to search the books by Michael Maton Gallantry and distinguished service awards to the Australian Army during the First World War / Michael Maton
See listings of other books by Michael Maton on the State Library catalogue.
You can search the Commonwealth Gazette on the Trove website under the heading Government Gazettes. If you want to read through a particular issue or issues, click on Browse articles by Place / National / C. Click on Commonwealth of Australia Gazette 1901-1973. This lets you browse by date of publication.
British medals awarded to Australians
If you are looking for lists of persons awarded a particular British medal, you can search the government gazettes by the name of the medal, for example a search using the words Distinguished conduct medal brings up a page from the gazette of 14 February 1918, Issue no. 19, page 284. Copy and paste the following link to see the page:
You can search the gazettes for listings of non-British medals awarded to Australians by allied countries. Countries which awarded medals to Australians include France, Belgium, Serbia and Russia. It can be difficult to know which section of the gazette to find relevant notices. One way to search is to do a keyword search in the main search box on the Government Gazettes page on Trove. Examples of search terms are:
Belgian government medal
French government medal
Serbian government medal
Russian government medal
If the name of the medal is known:
If you have the name of a non-British medal awarded to Australians by an allied country, you can search the gazettes on Trove using keywords of the name of the medal followed by the name of the country issuing the medal.
For example, to find awards of the Order of the White Eagle, a Serbian decoration, search the gazettes using the keywords
white eagle Serbia
For the Order of St. Anne, a Russian decoration, search using the keywords
order st. Anne Russia
This gives you lists of the names of those awarded the decoration. The awards may be listed in different issues. These awards were not necessarily awarded to Australians enlisted in the Australian armed forces. They may have enlisted in the forces of the country which awarded the medal.
You can also search the London Gazette, which listed both British and non-British awards before they were published in the Commonweatlh Gazette. See the London Gazette section on this page.
See Trove http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/232517000/25020951 (copy and paste this url) for examples. These examples are from the Commonwealth Gazette of 8 July, 1920, issue no. 59, page 945. Proclamations and legislation.
Note that the awards may appear under different headings in different issues of the gazette. The Gazette also has an index.