British Empire Medal (Military and Civil) (BEM)

British Empire Medal (Military and Civil).  A thin, circular, silver medal, 1.42 inches in diameter.

British Empire Medal (Military and Civil) (BEM)

Contributors

Context

The Medal of the Order of the British Empire for Meritorious Service. This medal replaced the Medal of the Order of the British Empire (1917-1922) and had a military and a civil division.

After the Empire Gallantry Medal (EGM) was superseded by the George Cross, the BEM continued to be awarded for gallantry, but of a degree less than that required to earn the George Medal. Those awarded the medal could continue to wear it even if promoted to a higher grade of the order. With the institution of the Queen’s Gallantry Medal, a medal not awarded to Canadians, the award of the BEM for gallantry was ceased in June 1974.

Eligibility and Criteria

The medal was awarded for commendable service which warranted such a mark of royal appreciation.

Description

A thin, circular, silver medal, 1.42 inches in diameter.

On the obverse Britannia is shown seated, the sun to her right and the legend around the edge:

FOR GOD AND THE EMPIRE and in exergue below: FOR MERITORIOUS SERVICE.

On reverse, The Royal Cypher surmounted by a crown with the words: INSTITUTED BY/KING GEORGE V at the bottom within a border of four heraldic lions.

For mounting the laurel leaves on the underside of a straight bar attached to the medal by a single-toed claw.

Originally: The civil ribbon was purple and 1.25 inches in width. The military ribbon had a narrow central red stripe added.

Current (after 1937): The civil ribbon is rose-pink with pear-grey edges and 1.25 inches wide. The military ribbon has a narrow, pearl-grey central stripe added.

Bars

Bars could be awarded for services or acts that would have earned the medal. No Canadian received a bar.

After 1957, when the medal was awarded for gallantry, a silver oak leaf emblem was worn on the ribbon to signify that the award was for gallantry and not for service.

Historical Notes

  • The medal was created by Royal Warrant on 29 December 1922. The first award of the BEM to a Canadian was on 26 January 1935.The EGM was superseded by the George Cross on 24 September 1940 and the BEM was thereafter awarded for gallantry as well as service. Since 06 December 1957, a silver oak leaf has been worn to signify an award for gallantry.
  • Military awards have the service number, full name and unit or service engraved and civil awards usually have the names in full engraved around the rim.
  • A total of 1,368 awards went to Canadians: 120 civil and 1,248 military.
  • This was awarded for the first time to a Canadian on 26 January 1935.
  • The EGM was replaced by the George Cross on 24 September 1940.
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