Robert E. Wyllie.

Orders, decorations and insignia, military and civil; with the history and romance of their origin and a full description of each online

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whether in the theatre of operations or elsewhere. This
is a brief summary of the principle upon which the system
of Great Britain is based.

Victoria Cross

It can be said without fear of contradiction that no

decoration in the world is held in higher esteem than is

the Victoria Cross, instituted in 1856 at the close of the

Crimean War, at the suggestion it is said of the Prince

(7 97

Consort. For over sixty years it has been confined abso-
lutely as a reward for the most extraordinary heroism
against an armed enemy, except for a very brief period
when the presence of an enemy was not considered essen-
tial; however only one award of that character was made,
and the previous rules were quickly re-established. The
Victoria Cross formed the model for our own Medal of
Honor which was established seven years later, and is
given for precisely the same class of performance, although
when first instituted the Medal of Honor was for heroism
under any circumstances. These two decorations are cer-
tainly the most highly prized of their kind now in exist-
ence, and it should also be noted that neither of them is
ever conferred upon foreigners. Still another similarity
is that both are the premier decorations in their respec-
tive countries, contrary to the custom of all others which
places the high orders and decorations for statesmen and
generals above the valour awards.

Not only did the idea of this decoration originate with
the Prince Consort, but it is also said that he was partly
responsible for the design, which, if true, speaks volumes
for his artistic sense, as the Cross is one of the finest
examples of the medallic art ever produced. It is a cross
of bronze, having in the centre a lion standing on a crown,
and the inscription "For Valour" on a scroll. It is sus-
pended from the ribbon by a link in the form of the letter
"V," attached to a bar ornamented with laurel leaves
(Fig. 2, Plate 12). On the back of the bar is engraved
the name, rank, and ship or regiment of the recipient.
Formerly a blue ribbon was worn with a Cross bestowed


(great JSritain

on the personnel of the Navy, but that is now changed and
the ribbon for both services is a deep crimson, almost a
claret colour. All the crosses are made from the bronze
of cannon captured from the Russians in the Crimean
War, and those to whom they are awarded are entitled
to place the letters '''V. C." in old English characters
after their names. For a second award a clasp is placed
on the ribbon of the medal. On the service ribbon is a
miniature of the Cross in order to clearly distinguish it
from the ribbon of the Bath, Legion of Honour, and other
medals having red ribbons. When a clasp is awarded a
second miniature is worn on the service ribbon.

During the World War 576 Victoria Crosses were
awarded, which is a little more than the entire number
bestowed from the institution of the decoration to the
beginning of that war. Comparing this number, 576,
with the 78 of our Medals of Honour which were given
during the war, it seems at first that the Crosses were
more plentifully bestowed, but when it is remembered
that the British were fighting in France for nearly four
and a half years, while our active service in any numbers
was about six months only, this impression vanishes, and
in fact the ratio is almost the same, a further confirmation
of the similarity between the requirements of the two

Prior to the World War only two clasps had been
awarded, one on a naval officer, the other on an enlisted
man of the army who was subsequently commissioned;
during the World War two clasps were given.

A pension of $50 a year is always given to enlisted


holders of the Cross, and it can be increased to ^250 when
the circumstances warrant.


The three premier orders are the Garter, Thistle, and
St. Patrick, for England, Scotland, and Ireland, respect-
ively, their relative order of precedence being based on
antiquity. These orders are not military in character at
the present day; military men are admitted, but it is by
virtue of their general standing and position in the country
rather than on account of military services. Each order
has but one class.

The exact date of the institution of the Most Noble Order
of the Garter is a matter of dispute as the original statutes
creating it have been lost. The weight of evidence, how-
ever, places it somewhere between 1344 and 1350, it was
certainly in existence in the latter year. Popular tradition
ascribes its origin to a court ball at which King Edward
III picked up a lady's garter and observing evidences of
mirth among the bystanders, checked it by the remark
*'Honi soit qui mal y pense" (Evil to him who evil
thinks) , and shortly afterwards he established an order of
knights having that saying as the rriotto. The Garter
has thus come down in an unbroken line from one of the
old orders of chivalry established in feudal times, and in
this it differs from the vast majority of modern orders
which are of comparatively recent origin, having the old
chivalric orders merely as prototypes. The Garter is the
most ancient order now in existence in its present form


(great JBritam

and consequently one of the most illustrious. There are
others which can trace their origin to still more remote
periods but they have in the meantime either been abol-
ished, fallen into disuse and been reinstated or materially
changed in character at least once since estabhshment,
whereas the Garter has remained throughout its history
as a flourishing institution and without change, either in
size or organization.

By the original statutes the order consisted of the King,,
the Prince of Wales and twenty-four companion knights,
and this has continued to the present day, except that
British and foreign royalty can be added as extra numbers.
The first Prince of Wales to be in this order, the son of
King Edward III, is better known in history as the Black
Prince. There are now eight foreign sovereigns, . four
British princes, and two foreign princes members of the
order in addition to the twenty-four companion knights,
all of whom are English peers.

The original statutes required that each companion
should be a "gentleman of blood and a knight without
reproach," and the records show that in the early days
of the order 30% of the members had no title other than
Knight, but since the i6th century membership has been
almost exclusively confined to royal families and English
peers; being a purely English order no British subject is
admitted who is not of EngHsh blood. During the first
five hundred years of its existence 685 persons were ad-
mitted to the order. Of these 40 were of the English royal
family, 100 were foreign sovereigns and princes, 21 for-
eign nobles, 401 English peers and the remaining 123 were


^vhttsi, Becoratiottief, anb Snj^ignia

English knights, all but thirteen of whom were admitted
during the first two hundred years.

Membership in all British orders is shown officially by
the suffix of letters to the name. The letters '*K. G."
denote Knight of the Garter.

The badge of the order, called the "George," shows St.
George (the patron saint of England and of this order)
and the dragon, and is worn on the right side near the
hip, suspended from a broad dark blue ribbon passed
over the left shoulder and under the right arm. On collar
days, of which there are 36 during the year, the George
is worn as a pendant to a gold collar composed of twenty-
six pieces (an allusion to the number of knights in the
order) in the form of a blue enamelled garter and gold
knots. The star is of silver with the cross of St. George
in red enamel on a white background, encircled with a
blue enamelled garter, and is worn on the left breast. In
commemoration of the incident said to have been respon-
sible for the founding of this order, the members when in
the full uniform of the order, which includes knee breeches,
wear a garter of dark blue velvet edged with gold below
the left knee. Needless to say, this is peculiar to this
one Order. Service ribbons are never worn for the Garter,
Thistle, and St. Patrick.

The British still preserve the religious feature of the
mediaeval orders to the extent that the senior orders have
their own chapels where investitures are supposed to take
place, and where the Knights theoretically assemble, for
wprship on certain Saints' days. In practice both cus-
toms have fallen into complete disuse. The Chapel of


(great JJritam

St. George at Windsor fills this place for the Order of the
Garter. Each member has his own stall therein and his
helmet, arms, and banner are placed above it, while on
the wall behind is a plate giving his name, date, and ar-
morial bearings. The plate remains after the Knight's
death, forming an enduring record of the members of the
Order since 1420 when the custom was established. These
are known as the "Garter Plates" and are of great value
to the student of heraldry. The helmet, arms, and banner
are changed with the occupant of the stall.

The origin of the Most Noble and Most Ancient Order of
the Thistle (K. T.) is unknown. The most extravagant
claims of antiquity have been made for it, but in its present
form it dates from 1687 when King James II of England
(who was also James VII of Scotland) issued a warrant
for the purpose of "reviving and restoring this order to
its full glory, lustre, and magnificence." It is the most
exclusive of the British orders in that the personnel is
the smallest, consisting of only sixteen knights and the
sovereign. No foreigner has ever been admitted to it and
its bestowal on anyone not a peer is almost unheard of.
Sir Douglas Haig is one of the few exceptions to this ; he
was made a Knight of the Thistle before being elevated
to the peerage. Being a purely Scotch order, only Brit-
ishers of Scotch origin are eligible.

The badge is a star of gold having an enamelled figure
of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, bearing a
silver cross. The collar is gold and consists of sixteen
thistles (the number of knights in the order), alternating
with sprigs of rue interlaced, all enamelled in the proper


C^rbersf, ©ecoratimtfi^, ant Sn^^ignia

colours. The star is silver with an enamelled thistle in
the centre, surrounded by a dark green band bearing the
motto of the order "Nemo me impune lacessit" (No one
provokes me with impunity). The ribbon is dark green.
These insignia are worn in precisely the same manner as
in the Order of the Garter. The chapel of the order is in

The Most Illustrious Order of St. Patrick {K. P.) was
established by George III in 1783, to give Ireland an
order equivalent to the Garter and the Thistle. It con-
sists of the sovereign, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland,
and twenty-two knights who are invariably chosen from
Irish peers. No foreigners are admitted.

The badge has the cross of St. Patrick in red with a
shamrock in the centre having a crown on each leaf, sur-
rounded by a blue enamelled circle bearing the motto
"Quis separabit?" (Who shall separate us?), surmounted
by the Irish harp. The collar is gold and consists of six
harps and five red and white roses enamelled, tied together
with knots of gold. The star is similar in design to the
badge. The ribbon is sky blue. These insignia are worn
as in the Order of the Garter, except that the broad rib-
bon passes over the right shoulder instead of the left,
the badge hanging on the left side. The chapel of the
order is in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.

The three orders which are most frequently bestowed
for military services and which have consequently been
awarded to Americans in the greatest nimibers are the
Bath, St. Michael and St. George, and the Distinguished
Service Order.


<©reat JSritain

The senior military order is The Most Honourable Order
of the Bath which was first instituted in 1399 by King
Henry IV. In the days of chivalry admission to any
order of knighthood was a serious and important matter.
It was carried out with much ceremony and was preceded
by vigils, fasts, and ablutions. These differed for each
order, and although not historically established, it is gen-
erally believed that the name of this particular order was
derived from some ceremony of bathing pertaining to it.
Needless to say nothing of this kind is now required and
the name of the order is the only remaining trace of the
original ceremony. The Order of the Bath fell into disuse
during the reigns of the Stuart kings but was revived by
George I in 1725 on an entirely new basis. The old king-
doms of England, Scotland, and Ireland each has its own
order as already described, while the Order of the Bath
as now instituted typifies the union of the three. The
motto is "Tria juncta in Uno," (Three joined in one), and
the collar consists of eight groups of rose, thistle, and
shamrock enamelled in the proper colours, separated by
crowns and Hnked together with white enamelled knots.
The miHtary badge is a gold maltese cross, enamelled
white, with lions between the arms of the cross and having
in the centre a rose, shamrock, and thistle between three
crowns (an allusion to the crowns of England, Scotland,
and Ireland), and surrounded by a red enamelled circle
bearing the motto of the order, which in turn is sur-
rounded by a laurel wreath of green issuing from a scroll
bearing the motto of the Prince of Wales "Ich dien" (I
serve.) (Fig. i, Plate 12.) The star is silver, having the


motto on a red enamelled circle around the three crowns
(Fig. I, Plate 5).

Originally this order was purely military, and contained
but one class, known as Knights of the Bath. This was
extended in 1815 to three classes, known as Knights
Grand Cross (G. C. B.), Knights Commander (K. C. B.),
and Companions (C. B.), and in 1847 a civil division was
established with the same classes. Admission to the mili-
tary division is only for officers of the Army or Navy for
services rendered during war; civilians and officers during
peace may be admitted to the civil division. Foreigners
can be made honorary members, for example General
Pershing is an honorary Knight Grand Cross. The badge
and star of the civil division are slightly different from
those of the military division described above.

Comparing the Bath with the Legion of Honour, the
three classes of the British order are equal in rank to the
first three of the Legion; the officers and chevaliers of
the French order have no counterpart in the Bath, nor
in any of the British orders except the Royal Victorian
Order and the Order of the British Empire. Knights
Grand Cross are limited by statute to officers not below
the rank of Major General or Rear Admiral; in practice
few are below full General and full Admiral. Similarly
while Knights Commander can be of the rank of Colonel,
only Lieutenant Generals and Major Generals of the Army
and corresponding grades in the Navy are ever given this
class. No one below the grade of field officer is eligible to
be made a Companion, but very few are admitted below
the rank of Colonel in the Army or Captain in the Navy.


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During the World War the Grand Cross was conferred
on 14 officers; Knight Commander on 158 and Companion
on 1030. This does not include the foreign members.
About 75 Americans have been admitted to this order.

The ribbon of the order is red. Knights Grand Cross
wear the badge either from the collar on collar days, or
from a broad ribbon over the right shoulder on other
occasions. The star is worn on the left breast. Knights
Commander wear the badge suspended from a ribbon
around the neck and the star on the left breast. The
Companions' badge is worn at the neck; they have no

Henry VII's Chapel in Westminster Abbey has be-
longed to this order since 1725. Between that date and
181 5 each member had his own stall, which was orna-
mented in the same manner as the Knights of the Garter
at Windsor. Prior to 181 5 there was but one class, but
in that year the Order was enlarged as already related
and the number of stalls then became insufficient, so the
custom was abandoned and the arms and banners of the
then existing Knights have remained over their stalls to
the present day.

The Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael ^and St.
George was founded by George IV in 1818, when he was
Prince Regent. Originally intended for diplomatic serv-
ice, it was enlarged to provide for work done in the British
colonies and later for any class of services, including
military. There are three classes as in the Order of the
Bath; Knights Grand Cross (G. C. M. G.), Knights Com-
mander (K. C. M. G.), and Companions (C. M. G.).


©rbetfiJ, JBecotationsf, anb 3Jnsfignia

Royalty and distinguished foreigners, as in the case of
the Order of the Bath, are given honorary membership.
General Peyton C. March is an honorary Knight Grand

The collar is of gold and consists alternately of the
lions of England and white enamelled maltese crosses
with the monograms S. M. and S. G. The badge is a
seven-pointed star enamelled white, having in the centre
of the obverse a figure of the Archangel St. Michael
defeating Satan, and on the reverse, St. George and the
dragon. Surrounding them is a blue enamelled circle
with the motto ''Auspicium meliores aevi" (A pledge of
better times), the whole being surmounted by an Imperial
crown (Fig. 3, Plate 12).

The ribbon is Saxon blue with a scarlet stripe down
the centre, the ribbon of the miniature badge of the Com-
panions passes through a buckle as in the Order of the
Bath. The star is of silver with a St. George's cross in
red enamel and a figure of St. Michael and Satan, sur-
rounded by the motto of the order (Fig. 2, Plate 5).
These insignia are worn by the different classes in the
same manner as in the corresponding classes of the Order
of the Bath.

During the World War the Grand Cross was conferred
on 22 officers, Knight Commander on 199, and Companion
on 2601. About 100 Americans have been made members
of the order.

This Order has its own chapel, that of St. Michael and
St. George, in St. Paul's Cathedral, dedicated in 1906.

The Distinguished Service Order {D. S, 0.) was instituted


iflreat iBtttatn

as a reward for officers of field rank in the Army (Colonels,
Lieutenant Colonels, and Majors) and the corresponding
grades in the Navy, who have been specially mentioned
in dispatches for meritorious or distinguished service in
the field. It is bestowed on such officers for heroism not
warranting the award of a Victoria Cross, and also for
any other noteworthy services, providing they are per-
formed in the theatre of active operations against the
enemy, that is an essential requisite. There is only one
class to this order, and the members are termed Com-
panions. A clasp, to be worn on the ribbon of the medal,
is awarded for any additional act of service, and this is
shown on the service ribbon by a silver rose, which device is
also used for the same purpose on the service ribbons of
all British decorations, except the Victoria Cross. (See
Military Cross ribbon, Plate 13.) The badge, which is
worn on the left breast, is a white enamelled gold cross,
having in the centre of the obverse the Imperial Crown
in gold surrounded by a laurel wreath in green; on the
reverse the Royal cypher (G. R.) takes the place of the
crown (Fig. 4, Plate 12).

This order has been bestowed on 8883 officers for serv-
ices rendered during the World War, not including foreign
awards, and in addition 695 have been given one clasp,
71 two clasps and six have received . three clasps. The
Order has also been conferred on about 75 Americans.

The Royal Victorian Order was instituted in 1896 and
is conferred for important or personal services rendered
to the Sovereign or Royal Family. There are five classes:
Knights Grand Cross (G. C. V. O.), Knights Commander


^t'btx^, TBttotatiotiii, anb Sn^tgnta

(K. C. V. O.), Commanders (C. V. O.), and the members
of the fourth and fifth classes who are simply designated
as members (M. V. O.). The badge of the Knights Grand
Cross is worn at the left from a broad ribbon over the
right shoulder or from a collar on collar days. Members
of the second and third classes wear the badge at the neck,
and those of the fourth and fifth classes on the left breast.
A star on the left breast is worn by the first two classes.
The ribbon is dark blue with narrow stripes, red, white,
red, at each edge.

The Order of Merit (0. M.) is one of the highest orders
of the Empire, coming immediately after the Bath. It
was instituted in 1902 as a special distinction for men
eminent in any department, civil or military. Member-
ship is limited to twenty-four. The badge, which is in
the form of a cross, is worn at the neck from a very wide
ribbon, one half blue the other half crimson, and military
and naval members are required to wear it on all occasions,
consequently no service ribbon is worn for it. The mili-
tary and naval badge has crossed swords between the arms
of the cross.

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a crea-
tion of the World War, having been instituted in 191 7 as
a reward for services rendered to the Empire, either at
home or abroad, and like the Order of the Bath it is divided
into military and civil divisions. It is open to both sexes
and has five classes. Knights Grand Cross and Dames
Grand Cross (G. B. E.), Knights Commander (K. B. E.),
and Dames Commander (D. B. E.), Companions (C. B.
E.), Officers (O. B. E.), and Members (M. B. E.).


(great JSritain

The badge is a gold cross enamelled in pearl grey; in
the centre is a representation of Britannia within a crimson
circle on which is the motto of the Order "For God and
the Empire." The badge of the fifth class is silver.
Except that there is no collar the badge and star are worn
by men in all five classes as in the corresponding classes
of the Royal Victorian Order. Dames Grand Cross wear
the broad ribbon and star very much as prescribed for
men, ladies in the other classes wear the badge attached
to a bow of the ribbon on the left side, Dames Commander
also having a star just below the badge. The ribbon of
the order is purple with a narrow red stripe down the

During the war the order was conferred as follows:

Military Division Civil Division

G. B. E 4 i8

K. B. E. and D. B. E 73 29

C. B. E 916 116

O. B. E 4846 254

M. B. E 2335 485

Also on about fifty Americans.

A silver medal pertains to this order. It has Britannia
on the obverse, surrounded by the legend "For God and
the Empire"; on the reverse is the imperial crown and
cypher. It is suspended from a purple ribbon.

The Order of the Companions of Honor {C. H.) was in-
stituted at the same time as the Order of the British
Empire. It contains but one class, limited to fifty persons
of either sex who have performed conspicuous service of
national importance.

©ttretflf, ©ecorationsf, antr SnfiJignia

r/te Imperial Service Order {I. S. 0.) was established
in 1902, and enlarged in 191 2. It consists of but one class
and is limited to members of the administrative or clerical
branches of the civil service, at home, in India, or the
colonies. It is open to Europeans and natives alike.
Members are styled Companions, and the badge is worn
by men in the usual way on the left breast, by women
on the left shoulder, the ribbon being tied in a bow. The
ribbon is scarlet with a grey band down the centre.

The Order of St. John of Jerusalem in England. This
was instituted in 1888 and was an attempt to revive in a
measure the ancient order of the Knights Hospitallers of
St. John, whose history was briefly recounted in Chapter
11. One of the provinces into which the old order was
divided was England, and the re-establishment of that
province was not to create another order of knighthood,
but more as a charitable society. The order is concerned
with hospital and ambulance work, just as were the old
Hospitallers at their origin. It controls an ambulance
brigade and a hospital in Jerusalem, it disseminates in-
struction in first aid, home nursing, and hygiene, and in
time of war supplements the work of the Red Cross. It
also awards medals for life saving in silver and bronze,
which are worn on the left breast, suspended from a black
ribbon. The members of the order are divided into
Knights and Ladies of Justice, and Knights and Ladies
of Grace. The badge is a white enamelled maltese cross
with a lion and a unicorn alternately between the arms

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Online LibraryRobert E. WyllieOrders, decorations and insignia, military and civil; with the history and romance of their origin and a full description of each → online text (page 8 of 19)