Medal bar

A medal bar or medal clasp is a thin metal bar attached to the ribbon of a military decoration
Military decoration
A military decoration is a decoration given to military personnel or units for heroism in battle or distinguished service. They are designed to be worn on military uniform....

, civil decoration
Civil decoration
A civil decoration is a decoration awarded to civilians for distinguished service. Military personnel might also be eligible for services of a non-military nature...

, or other medal
A medal, or medallion, is generally a circular object that has been sculpted, molded, cast, struck, stamped, or some way rendered with an insignia, portrait, or other artistic rendering. A medal may be awarded to a person or organization as a form of recognition for athletic, military, scientific,...

. It is most commonly used to indicate the campaign
Military campaign
In the military sciences, the term military campaign applies to large scale, long duration, significant military strategy plan incorporating a series of inter-related military operations or battles forming a distinct part of a larger conflict often called a war...

 or operation
Military operation
Military operation is the coordinated military actions of a state in response to a developing situation. These actions are designed as a military plan to resolve the situation in the state's favor. Operations may be of combat or non-combat types, and are referred to by a code name for the purpose...

 the recipient received the award for, and multiple bars on the same medal are used to indicate that the recipient has met the criteria for receiving the medal in multiple theatres
Theater (warfare)
In warfare, a theater, is defined as an area or place within which important military events occur or are progressing. The entirety of the air, land, and sea area that is or that may potentially become involved in war operations....


When used in conjunction with decorations for exceptional service, such as gallantry medals, the term "and bar" means that the award has been bestowed multiple times. In the example, "Group Captain Leonard Cheshire
Leonard Cheshire
Group Captain Geoffrey Leonard Cheshire, Baron Cheshire, VC, OM, DSO and Two Bars, DFC was a highly decorated British RAF pilot during the Second World War....

, VC
Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories....

, OM
Order of Merit
The Order of Merit is a British dynastic order recognising distinguished service in the armed forces, science, art, literature, or for the promotion of culture...

, DSO and Two Bars
Distinguished Service Order
The Distinguished Service Order is a military decoration of the United Kingdom, and formerly of other parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat.Instituted on 6 September...

, DFC", "DSO and two bars" means that the Distinguished Service Order was awarded on three separate occasions. A common British convention is to indicate bars by the use of asterisks; thus, DSO** would denote a DSO and two bars.

Bars are also used on long service medals to indicate the length of service rendered.

The two terms are used because terms "bar" and "clasp" both refer to two parts of the medal; the indicator discussed in this article, and the part of the medal connected to the ribbon.


Prior to the early 19th century, medals and decorations were only awarded to ranking officers; occasions existed where medals were presented to soldiers, but these were often private efforts. One exception was the Army Gold Medal
Army Gold Medal
The Army Gold Medal , also known as the Peninsular Gold Medal, with an accompanying Gold Cross, was a British campaign medal awarded in recognition of field and general officers' successful commands in recent campaigns, predominately the Peninsular War...

 issued to higher ranking participants in the Peninsular War
Peninsular War
The Peninsular War was a war between France and the allied powers of Spain, the United Kingdom, and Portugal for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war began when French and Spanish armies crossed Spain and invaded Portugal in 1807. Then, in 1808, France turned on its...

. A medal was given for service, with a clasp for each battle fought. After four clasps were earned the medal was turned in for a cross with the battle names on the arms, and additional clasps were then added. The maximum was achieved by the Duke of Wellington
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS , was an Irish-born British soldier and statesman, and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century...

, with a cross and nine clasps.

Over the next 40 years, it became customary for governments to present a medal to all soldiers and officers involved in a campaign. These medals were often engraved with the names of the major battles the recipient had fought in during the campaign. The main disadvantages of this system were that new medals had to be created for each campaign or war, and that it was impossible to tell at a glance if the recipient was only a participant in the campaign overall, or if he had been involved in one or several major actions. (The first gallantry medal to be awarded to ordinary British soldiers was the Victoria Cross
Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories....

 in 1856.)

The Sutlej Medal
Sutlej Medal
The Sutlej Medal was a campaign medal approved in 1846, for issue to officers and men of the British Army and Honourable East India Company who served in the Sutlej campaign of 1845-46...

 was the earliest medal to use such bars. It was awarded to British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 and Honourable East India Company
British East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

 soldiers who fought in the First Anglo-Sikh War
First Anglo-Sikh War
The First Anglo-Sikh War was fought between the Sikh Empire and the British East India Company between 1845 and 1846. It resulted in partial subjugation of the Sikh kingdom.-Background and causes of the war:...

 between 1845 and 1846. The first battle the recipient participated in would be engraved on the medal itself. If the recipient had participated in multiple engagements, silver bars bearing the name of each additional battle were attached to the medal's ribbon. This method of notation evolved again on the Punjab Campaign medal
Punjab Medal
The Punjab Medal was a campaign medal approved in 1849, for issue to officers and men of the British Army and Honourable East India Company who served in the Punjab campaign of 1848-49 - operations which ended in the British annexation of the Punjab....

, where the standard medal was awarded to all that had served during the campaign, with bars produced for the three major battles; the Battle of Chillianwala
Battle of Chillianwala
The Battle of Chillianwala was fought during the Second Anglo-Sikh War in the Chillianwala region of Punjab, now part of modern-day Pakistan. The battle was one of the bloodiest fought by the British East India Company. Both armies held their positions at the end of the battle and both sides...

, the Siege of Multan
Siege of Multan
The Siege of Multan was a prolonged contest between the city and state of Multan and the British East India Company. The siege lasted between 19 April 1848, when a rebellion in the city against a ruler imposed by the East India Company precipitated the Second Anglo-Sikh War, and 22 January 1849,...

, and the Battle of Gujarat
Battle of Gujarat
The Battle of Gujrat was a decisive battle in the Second Anglo-Sikh War, fought on 21 February 1849, between the forces of the British East India Company, and a Sikh army in rebellion against the Company's control of the Sikh Kingdom, represented by the child Maharaja Duleep Singh who was in...


The creation of bars led to the development of 'General Service' medals, which would be presented to any soldier serving in a general region or time frame. Bars would be awarded to denote the particular campaign or war the recipient fought in. The 1854 India General Service Medal
India General Service Medal (1854)
The India General Service Medal was a campaign medal approved in 1854, for issue to officers and men of the British and Indian armies....

 was awarded to soldiers over a 41-year period. Twenty-three clasps were created for this award, becoming one of the more extreme uses of this system. The British Naval General Service Medal, was authorized in 1847 with some 231 clasps (of which about 10 were never issued) for actions ranging from relatively minor skirmishes to certain campaigns and all full-fledged battles between 1793 and 1840.

The Crimea Medal
Crimea Medal
The Crimea Medal was a campaign medal approved in 1854, for issue to officers and men of British units which fought in the Crimean War of 1854-56 against Russia....

 was issued with ornate battle bars. Since then the general trend has been to have simple horizontal devices.

Types of Bar

  • Campaign Bars or Battle Bars are used to denote the particular campaign, battle, or region the recipient operated in to receive the award. This is the most common use of medal bars on military decorations. In the United Kingdom, campaign bars are usually known as clasps and when the ribbon alone is worn they are sometimes indicated by rosette
    Rosette (decoration)
    A rosette is a small, circular device that is presented with a medal. The rosettes are primarily for situations where wearing the medal is deemed inappropriate. Rosettes are issued in nations such as France, Italy and Japan...

    s, although this is not commonly authorised. Examples of ones that were issued are the "under enemy fire" clasp on the 1914 Star
    1914 Star
    The 1914 Star was a British Empire campaign medal for service in World War I.The 1914 Star was approved in 1917, for issue to officers and men of British forces who served in France or Belgium between 5 August and midnight 22/23 November 1914...

     and the Battle of Britain
    Battle of Britain
    The Battle of Britain is the name given to the World War II air campaign waged by the German Air Force against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940...

     clasp on the 1939-45 Star. In the United States Military, Service stars are used to indicate participation in multiple battles or campaigns, although the World War I Victory Medal had an extensive system of bars. In World War II
    World War II
    World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

    , a unique variation was the Wake Island Device
    Wake Island Device
    The Wake Island Device is an award of the United States military which is presented as a campaign clasp to both the Navy and Marine Corps Expeditionary Medals....

    , a "W" placed on the ribbons of the Navy and Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal
    Expeditionary Medal
    An Expeditionary Medal is a military decoration which is awarded by the United States of America to its military personnel for deployment to a foreign region to participate in a campaign or conflict. Expeditionary medals are unique to the United States Armed Forces, but similar medals are commonly...

    s. This was issued to represent the medal bar for fighting in the Battle of Wake Island
    Battle of Wake Island
    The Battle of Wake Island began simultaneously with the Attack on Pearl Harbor and ended on 23 December 1941, with the surrender of the American forces to the Empire of Japan...


  • Achievement Bars are used to indicate a particular or additional feat associated with the medal. As an example, the Wintered Over Device attached to the United States
    United States
    The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

     Antarctica Service Medal
    Antarctica Service Medal
    The Antarctica Service Medal was established by the United States Congress on July 7, 1960 under Public Law 600 of the 86th Congress. The medal was intended as a military award to replace several commemorative awards which had been issued for previous Antarctica expeditions from 1928 to 1941...

     indicates that the recipient performed a tour of duty
    Tour of duty
    In the Navy, a tour of duty is a period of time spent performing operational duties at sea, including combat, performing patrol or fleet duties, or assigned to service in a foreign country....

     during the Antarctic winter. An unusual device the United States once issued was a tiny airplane, the Airlift Device
    Airlift Device
    The Airlift Device is a decoration of the United States military which is presented as an attachment to both the Army of Occupation Medal and the Navy Occupation Service Medal...

     for long service in the Berlin Airlift. This was added to the Army of Occupation Medal
    Army of Occupation Medal
    The Army of Occupation Medal is a military award of the United States military which was established by the United States War Department on 5 April 1946. The medal was created in the aftermath of the Second World War to recognize those who had performed occupation service in either Germany or Japan...

     and the Navy Occupation Service Medal
    Navy Occupation Service Medal
    The Navy Occupation Service Medal is a decoration of the United States Navy which was issued to Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard personnel who participated in the European and Asian occupation forces following the close of the World War II. The decoration was also bestowed to personnel who...


  • Service Bars indicate the length of service a person has provided to the organisation presenting the award. This type of bar is most commonly found on long service medals for the military and emergency service
    Emergency service
    Emergency services are organizations which ensure public safety and health by addressing different emergencies. Some agencies exist solely for addressing certain types of emergencies whilst others deal with ad hoc emergencies as part of their normal responsibilities...


  • Multiple Award Bars display the number of times a decoration for merit or distinguished service has been awarded. In the United States, Oak Leaf Clusters (Army and Air Force) and Stars (Navy and Marine Corps), rather than bars, are issued for receiving the same award multiple times. In the United Kingdom, each bar is indicated by a rosette when the ribbon alone is worn (or, in the case of the Victoria Cross
    Victoria Cross
    The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories....

     or George Cross
    George Cross
    The George Cross is the highest civil decoration of the United Kingdom, and also holds, or has held, that status in many of the other countries of the Commonwealth of Nations...

    , by an additional miniature model of the cross itself, since one of these is always worn on the ribbon of these two awards).
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