Air Force Medal

The Air Force Medal (AFM) was a military decoration, awarded to personnel of the Royal Air Force and other British Armed Forces, and formerly to personnel of other Commonwealth countries, below commissioned rank, for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying, though not in active operations against the enemy". The award was discontinued in 1993 when all ranks became eligible for the Air Force Cross (AFC) as part of the reform of the British honours system.[4]

Air Force Medal
Reverse of medal
TypeMilitary decoration.
Awarded for...acts of courage or devotion to duty whilst flying, though not in active operations against the enemy.[1]
Presented byUK and Commonwealth
EligibilityBritish, Commonwealth, and allied forces non-commissioned officers and men
StatusDiscontinued in 1993.
Established3 June 1918
Ribbon bar
Order of Wear
Next (higher)Distinguished Flying Medal[2]
Next (lower)Constabulary Medal (de jure)[2]
Queen's Gallantry Medal (de facto)[3]


The medal was established on 3 June 1918. It was the other ranks' equivalent to the Air Force Cross (AFC), which was awarded to commissioned officers and Warrant Officers, although the latter could also be awarded the AFM. It ranked below the AFC in order of precedence, between the Distinguished Flying Medal and the Queen's Gallantry Medal.[2]

Although the new award was announced in the London Gazette on 3 June 1918,[5] the actual Royal Warrants were not published in the London Gazette until 5 December 1919.[6]

A bar, worn on the ribbon, could be awarded to recognise a second award of the Air Force Medal.[4]

Recipients are entitled to use the post-nominal letters "AFM".[7]

The first two awards appeared in the London Gazette on 3 June 1918, to:[8]

  • 11680 Serjeant Samuel James Mitchell (of Handsworth, Birmingham).
  • 106100 Serjeant Frederick Charles Tucker (of Birtley, Durham).

Twenty-nine awards appeared in a supplement to the London Gazette of 8 February 1919.[9][10]

The first awards of a bar to the Air Force Medal were announced on 26 December 1919, to two sergeants in the Australian Flying Corps, for providing support to a pioneering flight from London to Australia:[11]

  • 275 Sergeant James Mallett Bennett, A.F.M.[12]
  • 8974 Sergeant Walter Henry Shiers, A.F.M.[13]

In 1979 eligibility for a number of British awards, including the AFM, was extended to permit posthumous awards.[14] Until that time, only the Victoria Cross and a mention in dispatches could be awarded posthumously.

In 1993, the AFM was discontinued, as part of the review of the British honours system, which recommended removing distinctions of rank in respect of awards for bravery. Since then, the Air Force Cross, previously only open to Commissioned and Warrant Officers, has been awarded to personnel of all ranks.[4]

The AFM had also been awarded by Commonwealth countries but by the 1990s most, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, had established their own honours systems and no longer recommended British honours.[15]

Numbers of awards

Between 1918 and 1993 approximately 942 medals and ten second award bar were awarded.[7]

1930–193720 [16]
1953–1993300 [17]5 [18]

Awards include several to the Royal Navy and the Army Air Corps. Fifteen honorary awards were made to aircrew from foreign countries, one in 1919 and 14 for service during the Second World War. Civilians were eligible for the AFM from 1919 to 1932, three awards being made.[7]


Ribbon bar for a 2nd award
  • The AFM is an oval silver medal, 1+38 inches (35 millimetres) wide with a height of 1+58 inches (41 millimetres), with the following design:[7]
  • The obverse shows the effigy and titles of the reigning sovereign:
  • King George V bare headed (1918-29)
  • King George V in crown and robes (1930–1937)
  • King George VI with 'IND: IMP:' (Indian Emperor) in the inscription (1938–1949)
  • King George VI without 'IND: IMP:' in the inscription (1949–1953)
  • Queen Elizabeth II (1953–1993)
The three most common obverse designs were:
  • The reverse shows Hermes (facing right), mounted on a hawk in flight and bestowing a wreath, all contained within a narrow laurel wreath band. The date "1918" appears behind Hermes on the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II versions of the medal.
  • The suspension consists of two outstretched wings.
  • Further awards are signified by a straight slip-on silver bar with an eagle in the centre.
  • All awards have the name and service details of the recipient engraved or impressed on the rim.
  • The ribbon is 1+14 inches (32 millimetres) wide, and consists of alternate red and white stripes, 116 inch (2 millimetres) wide, leaning 45 degrees to the left. A red stripe is to appear in the bottom left and upper right corners when viewed on the wearer's chest. Until 1919, the stripes were horizontal.
Air Force Medal ribbon bars
AFM AFM and Bar

See also


  • Abbott and Tamplin (1981). British Gallantry Awards. Nimrod Dix & Co. ISBN 0902633740.
  • Duckers, Peter (2001). British Gallantry Awards, 1855–2000. London: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7478-0516-8.
  • Mussell, John (ed). (2015). Medal Yearbook 2015. Honiton, Devon: Token Publishing. ISBN 978-1-908-828-16-3.


  1. "Military Honours and Awards". UK Ministry of Defence. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 12 September 2007.
  2. "No. 56878". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 March 2003. p. 3352.
  3. "JSP 761 Honours and Awards in the Armed Forces" (PDF). p. 12A-1. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  4. Duckers (2001), pp 49.
  5. "No. 30723". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 May 1918. pp. 6533–6534.
  6. "No. 31674". The London Gazette. 5 December 1919. pp. 15049–15050.
  7. Abbott & Tamplin (1981), AFM chapter, pp. 11–15
  8. "No. 30722". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 May 1918. pp. 6520–6521.
  9. "No. 31170". The London Gazette. 7 February 1919. p. 2049.
  10. Also listed in Flight Magazine, 20 February 1919 at page 243.
  11. Edinburgh Gazette, 30 December 1919 page 4145.
  12. Australian Dictionary of Biography - J M Bennett AFM*
  13. Australian Dictionary of Biography - W H Shiers AFM*
  14. Abbott & Tamplin (1981), page xx.
  15. Mussell (2015), pp 390, 429, 459.
  16. Including Flight Lieutenant Dominic Bruce, the only recipient of both the Military Cross and AFM.
  17. Abbott page 14 indicates 209 AFM awards 1953-79. Approx 90 further awarded 1980-93.
  18. Abbott page 14 lists nine bar recipients, including 4 since 1953. One more is listed in London Gazette: 31 Dec 79. F/Sgt J D Robertson, RAF
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