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Distinguished Service Order.  A gold cross, enamelled gold and edged in gold.

Distinguished Service Order (DSO)


Orders and Decorations

Distinguished Service Order (DSO)


Instituted on 6 September 1886 by Queen Victoria in a Royal Warrant published in the London Gazette on 09 November 1886. The order was established for rewarding individual instances of commendable or distinguished service in war.

Eligibility and criteria

This is a military order for officers only, and while normally given for service under fire or under conditions equivalent to service in actual combat with the enemy, it was awarded between 1914 and 1916 under circumstances which could not be regarded as under fire. After 01 January 1917, commanders in the field were instructed to recommend this award only for those serving under fire. Prior to 1943, the order could be given only to someone Mentioned-in-Dispatches. The order is generally given to officers in command, above the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and awards to ranks below this are usually for a high degree of gallantry just short of deserving the Victoria Cross.


A gold cross, enameled gold and edged in gold. For mounting, there is a ring at the top of the medal attaches to a ring at the bottom of a gold bar, ornamented with laurel. At the top of the ribbon is a second gold bar ornamented with laurel.

On the obverse, in the centre, within a wreath of laurel, enameled green, the Imperial Crown in gold upon a red enameled ground.

On the reverse, within a wreath of laurel, enameled green, the Royal Cypher in gold upon a red enameled ground.

The red ribbon is 1.125 inches wide with narrow blue edges. A rosette is worn on the ribbon in undress to signify the award of a bar.


A bar is awarded for an act which would have earned the order in the first place. The bar is plain gold with an Imperial Crown in the centre. The year of the award is engraved on the reverse.

Historical notes

  • Officially unnamed, some recipients have privately had their names engraved on the back of the suspension bar.
  • There have been 1,220 DSOs, 119 first bars and 20 second bars awarded to Canadians.
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