Britain issues medals for a variety of reasons. These include military service, acts of bravery and long-standing service to the queen. Most medals are formally awarded by or on behalf of the queen, though the decision to award them is usually the responsibility of the government or military. Not all honours awarded in Britain have an accompanying medal.
The British military issues medals for participation in particular military campaigns. These are for service rather than for specific acts of bravery. The earliest recorded medal awarded to all participants was the Waterloo Medal, issued for those who took part in any of three battles in 1815, most notably the Battle of Waterloo.
Multiple campaign medals were issued for both World War I and II, covering varying stages of the conflict and varying geographic regions. For World War II, a special war medal went to any solider who served at least 28 consecutive days in action. As of 2010, medals were still being issued to those who took part in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Military Award Medals
There are a variety of military awards for service in the British military. These recognise individual acts rather than merely serving in a campaign.
The highest award is the Victoria Cross, which is awarded for valour in the face of the enemy. Since World War II, the Victoria Cross has been awarded very rarely, with only 13 awards between 1945 and 2010.
The second highest award is the George Cross. This is awarded for bravery either by civilians or by military personnel who were not in the face of the enemy. Because the criteria of bravery is the same, the two awards are usually considered equal in importance, though, in the event that the same person held both (which has never happened), the Victoria Cross would be worn more prominently.
Several honours in the British system have accompanying medals. These include the Royal Victorian Order, given for services to the crown; the Imperial Service Order, given to those who have worked for the Civil Service (the administrative arm of the British government) for 25 years, and the British Empire Medal, a now defunct honour given for bravery by lower ranking members of the military, police, and fire service, or junior staff in businesses and government departments.