New Zealand wars
The New Zealand Medal was instituted in 1869 to recognise the service of British troops in New Zealand in 1845–47 and 1860–66. In 1871 eligibility was extended to New Zealanders who served in the 1860s. Though the New Zealand Medal was a British award, it is seen as the first New Zealand campaign medal.
South African War
New Zealand troops who served during the South African War of 1899–1902 received the Queen’s South Africa Medal. A small number also received the King’s South Africa Medal, which was issued after Queen Victoria died in 1901 and Edward VII ascended to the throne.
Of more than 6,000 members of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles and 31 New Zealand nurses who served in South Africa, most received the Queen’s South Africa Medal. 171 soldiers and six nurses received the King’s South Africa Medal.
The medal that never was
In 1917 Lieutenant General William Birdwood, the commander of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), suggested that there should be a special award for ANZAC troops who served at Gallipoli, Turkey, during the First World War. King George V approved the suggestion. The Gallipoli Star was designed, the conditions of award were finalised and the ribbon was sent to New Zealand – and then the medal was cancelled. Members of Parliament and the British media had been critical of an award being made to an exclusive group of people and the controversy resulted in the Gallipoli Star’s demise.
First World War
Five British medals were issued to recognise service during the First World War: the 1914 Star, the 1914–1915 Star, the British War Medal, the Mercantile Marine War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Only four New Zealand military personnel – two nurses and two officers attached to the British forces – were awarded the 1914 Star. This was because the New Zealand Expeditionary Force did not fight in France and Belgium between August and November 1914, which was the requirement for this medal.
Second World War
Ten British medals were issued to recognise service during the Second World War: the 1939–1945 Star, the Atlantic Star, the Air Crew Europe Star, the Africa Star, the Pacific Star, the Burma Star, the Italy Star, the France and Germany Star, the Defence Medal and the War Medal 1939–1945.
After the First World War medals were posted to servicemen and women. The situation was rather different after the Second World War. The navy, army and air departments decided that because of the large number of medals, they would only be issued if applied for in writing. Some former servicemen and women refused to do this, believing that it was the departments’ responsibility to send the medals out, so never received the medals to which they were entitled. Others did not apply because they wanted to forget their war experiences. The New Zealand Defence Force still had a large stock of some Second World War medals in the 2000s because demand after the war was less than anticipated.
The New Zealand War Service Medal was also instituted to recognise those who served in the New Zealand armed forces between 1939 and 1945. Many members of the Home Guard qualified for this medal.
Other British medals
British medals were awarded to New Zealanders who served in Malaya (1948–60), Korea (1950–53), Borneo (1962–66) and Rhodesia (1979–80).
New Zealand medals
The first war service medal issued by New Zealand for New Zealanders was the New Zealand War Service Medal. The first New Zealand campaign medal was the Vietnam Medal, which was instituted in 1968.
No more New Zealand campaign medals were instituted until the 1990s. The New Zealand General Service Medal 1992 was instituted that year in two forms, ‘warlike’ and ‘non-warlike’. These covered post-Second World War operations for which no medals had been issued by Britain or the United Nations. In 1995 the New Zealand Service Medal 1946–1949 was instituted. This covered service in Japan between 1946 (later 3 September 1945) and 1949.
The East Timor Medal was instituted in 2001 to recognise service in East Timor between 1999 and 2006.
New Zealand General Service Medals 2002, covering service since 2000 in Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, the Solomon Islands and East Timor, were instituted between 2002 and 2008.
In 2002 the New Zealand Operational Service Medal was introduced to provide recognition to those who had served in a war or campaign since the end of the Second World War. By 2012 more than 20,000 had been issued.
The New Zealand Defence Service Medal (instituted in 2011) recognises military service – regular, territorial or reserve, compulsory military training and national service – since the end of the Second World War, in New Zealand and overseas. It is estimated that over 160,000 people are eligible for this medal.
The New Zealand Special Service Medal was instituted in 2002. Medals issued under this warrant cover service during nuclear testing operations (1956–73), the 1979 Mt Erebus air crash in Antarctica and the 2004 Asian tsunami.
In 2007 a New Zealand royal honour, the New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration, was instituted solely for award to military personnel of the New Zealand Defence Force. It recognises distinguished military service, including command, leadership and service in an operational environment, or in support of operations.
Long-service and good-conduct medals
There are a large number of military medals for long service and good conduct, most of which are not current. In 2011 there were 12 current medals of this type.
New Zealand military personnel and police are eligible for United Nations and NATO service medals. New Zealanders have also received foreign decorations and medals, such as the French Croix de Guerre for service in France and Belgium during the First and Second world wars. The New Zealand Memorial Cross is awarded to the next-of-kin of military personnel who died in wars and campaigns from 3 September 1945 onwards.