Medals to be open to all: Review fulfils Prime Minister's aim of 'rankless' awards

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GALLANTRY in war is no longer divided by rank or class. The Ministry of Defence yesterday announced a new system of gallantry awards for the armed services, following a Joint Services Review which began in March when the Prime Minister announced that all operational awards should become 'rankless'.

Yesterday, Malcolm Rifkind, Secretary of State for Defence, announced the new system. It preserves the four-tier structure of the old system, but abolishes different awards for officers and other ranks.

At the highest level, the Victoria Cross, for outstanding valour above the call of duty, has always been open to all ranks and all three services and that will remain unchanged.

At the second level, a new cross, as yet unnamed, is to be awarded to all ranks of all three services. This replaces the DSO, when awarded to officers for specific acts of gallantry, the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (for seamen), the Distinguished Conduct Medal (for soldiers) and the CGM (Flying) for airmen. The DSO will only be used to recognise highly successful command and leadership across all three services, although by its nature recommendations on behalf of junior or non-commissioned officers would be unusual.

At the third level, the separate wards for all three dimensions of war - sea, land and air - will be retained, and the existing Distinguished Service Cross, Military Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross, previously confined to officers, will be open to all ranks.

At the fourth level, 'Mentioned in Despatches', will be reserved for operational gallantry. Professional competence will be recognised by a new 'Queen's Commendation for Valuable Services'.

(Photograph omitted)