Distinguished Service Cross
Distinguished Service Cross, Obverse, 1937-47.jpg
Obverse of the Cross
Distinguished Service Cross, second award bar.png
Ribbon bar for further award
TypeMilitary decoration
Awarded forGallantry during active operations against the enemy at sea
DescriptionPlain silver cross with rounded ends, 43 mm max height and width
Presented byUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
EligibilityBritish, (formerly) Commonwealth, and allied forces
StatusCurrently awarded
Established15 June 1901 (as Conspicuous Service Cross), renamed October 1914
TotalAt least 6,658 Crosses and 603 bars
UK Distinguished Service Cross BAR.svg

UK DSC w bar BAR.svg

UK DSC w 2bars BAR.svg
Distinguished Service Cross ribbon:
without bar, and with one and two bars
Order of Wear
Next (higher)Royal Red Cross, First Class[1]
Next (lower)Military Cross[1]
RelatedDistinguished Service Medal

The Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) is a third-level military decoration awarded to officers; and, since 1993, ratings and other ranks of the British Armed Forces, Royal Fleet Auxiliary and the British Merchant Navy have been included. Additionally, the award was formerly awarded to members of other Commonwealth countries.

The DSC is "awarded in recognition of an act or acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy at sea."[2][3] Since 1979, it can be awarded posthumously.[2]


The award was originally created in 1901 as the Conspicuous Service Cross, for award to warrant and subordinate officers, including midshipmen, ineligible for the Distinguished Service Order. It was renamed the Distinguished Service Cross in October 1914, eligibility being extended to all naval officers (commissioned and warrant) below the rank of lieutenant commander.[4]

From March 1915, foreign officers of equivalent rank in allied navies could receive honorary awards; in August 1916, bars were introduced to reward further acts of gallantry meriting the Cross, with a silver rosette worn on the ribbon when worn alone, to denote the award of each bar.[4] During World War I, officers of the Merchant and Fishing Fleets had been awarded the DSC, and their eligibility was legally clarified by an order in council in 1931.[5]

World War II saw a number of changes. In December 1939, eligibility was extended to Naval Officers of the rank of Commander and Lieutenant-Commander.[5] In April 1940, equivalent ranks in the Royal Air Force serving with the Fleet could receive the DSC, and, from November 1942, so could those in the Army aboard defensively equipped merchant ships.[4]

Since the 1993 review of the honours system, as part of the drive to remove distinctions of rank in awards for bravery, the Distinguished Service Medal, formerly the third-level decoration for ratings, has been discontinued. The DSC now serves as the third-level award for gallantry at sea for all ranks, not to the standard required to receive the Victoria Cross or the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross.[6]

The DSC had also been awarded by Commonwealth countries; however, by the 1990s, most of these—including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—were establishing their own honours systems and no longer recommended British honours.[7]

Recipients are entitled to the post-nominal "DSC".[5]


The DSC is a plain silver cross with rounded ends, with a width of 43 millimetres (1.7 in) and with the following design:[8]


Numbers awarded

Since 1901 at least 6,658 Crosses and 603 bars have been awarded. The dates below reflect the relevant London Gazette entries:[10]

Period Crosses 1st bar 2nd bar 3rd bar
Pre-1914 1901–1913 8
World War I 1914–1920 1,983[11] 91 10
Interwar 1921–1938 7
World War II 1939–1946 4,524 434 44 1
Postwar 1947–2016 136[12] 18 5
Total 1901–2016 6,658 543 59 1

A number of honorary awards were made to members of allied foreign forces, including 151 for World War I, and 228 (with 12 first bars and 2 second bars) for World War II. Eight honorary awards were made in 1955 to members of the US Navy for service in Korea.[10]

The above table includes awards to the Dominions:
In all, 199 DSCs have gone to those serving with Canadian forces, with 34 first bars and five second bars.[13] It was replaced in 1993 by the Medal of Military Valour.
182 were awarded to Australians, in addition to 13 first bars and three second bars. Last awarded to an Australian in 1972, it was replaced in 1991 by the Medal for Gallantry.[14]

Four-time recipient

Only one person has ever been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross four times. Norman Eyre Morley served in the Royal Naval Reserve during World War I and World War II. He was awarded the DSC for the first time in 1919. He was awarded his second DSC in 1944. He was awarded the DSC a further two times in 1945. He gained an entry into the Guinness Book of Records as the most decorated reserve naval officer.[15][16]

List of three-time recipients

Collective award

In 1919, the Distinguished Service Cross was awarded to the City of Dunkirk for the gallant behaviour of its citizens during World War I, and the Cross appears in the coat of arms of the city.[19][20]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b "JSP 761 Honours and Awards in the Armed Forces" (PDF). p. 12A-1. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  2. ^ a b "No. 56693". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 October 2002. p. 11145.
  3. ^ Defence FactSheet Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 28 June 2007.
  4. ^ a b c Abbott & Tamplin, pages 107-109.
  5. ^ a b c Dorling, page 40.
  6. ^ "Distinguished Service Cross". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  7. ^ Mussell, pages 390, 429, 459.
  8. ^ a b Mussell, page 86.
  9. ^ a b Duckers, pages 24-25.
  10. ^ a b Abbott & Tamplin, pages 110-111.
  11. ^ Abbott & Tamplin, page 110 gives varying figures from several sources, this being the highest figure.
  12. ^ Abbott & Tamplin, page 111 confirms 95 DSCs for 1947-79. A further 41 awarded 1980-2016: 30 for South Atlantic (London Gazette Supplements, 3 June 1982 & 8 October 1982); 7 for Gulf War (London Gazette Supplement, 29 June 1991); 1 for Iraq War (London Gazette Supplement 31 October 2003); and 3 for smaller conflicts:(London Gazette Supplements 6 April 2001, 23 March 2012 & 18 March 2016).
  13. ^ Veterans Affairs Canada – Distinguished Service Cross (Retrieved 7 November 2018)
  14. ^ "Imperial Awards". It's an Honour. Australian Government. Archived from the original on 23 June 2006. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  15. ^ "No. 37127". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 June 1945. p. 3088.
  16. ^ "An important collection of Royal Navy items relating to Commander Norman Morley DSC". Bonhams. 2007. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
  17. ^ "No. 40011". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 November 1953. p. 6002.
  18. ^ "No. 39854". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 May 1953. p. 2765.
  19. ^ "Traces of War". TracesOfWar. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  20. ^ "La Grande Guerre (fr)". Dunkerque & vous. Retrieved 11 November 2018.