Military > SA Defence Force 1975-2003
Updated: December 2009
South African Defence Force: 1975-2003
The South African Defence Force (SADF) was formed in July 1912 as the Union Defence Forces (UDF), and was renamed in 1958. In April 1994 it was incorporated into the new SA National Defence Force (SANDF). During the period 1975-94, the SADF was organised into the SA Army, SA Air Force, SA Navy and, from 1979, the SA Medical Service, each containing PF and CF units. The army and air force also had part-time Commando (home defence) forces.
The SADF used four successive series of decorations and medals during its 82-year existence: 1913 to 1939; 1939 to 1952; 1952 to 1975; and 1975 to 1994.
The fourth series, established in July 1975, consisted of seven decorations and medals carried over from the third (1952-75) series, and fourteen new awards. A further twelve decorations and medals were added between 1987 and 1991. The SANDF took over the series in April 1994, and used it until April 2003.
Unless otherwise stated below, the decorations and medals were conferred by the state president until 1986, and thereafter by the defence minister.
The 1975 decorations and medals were designed by the SADF heraldic artists, Lilla Beukes and Priscilla Broberg. With one exception, the decorations and medals displayed the national coat of arms on the reverse.
Castle of Good Hope Decoration (CGH) (1952-2003)
Carried over from the 1952-75 series of awards. For a signal act of valour, or some daring or pre-eminent act of self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of an enemy in wartime.
In 1986, the scope of operations was broadened to include military operations in defence of the Republic, or in the prevention or suppression of terrorism or internal disorder, or on service in the preservation of life, health or property or the maintenance of essential services. However, the decoration was never awarded.
Honoris Crux Diamond (HCD) (1975-93)
For death-defying heroic deeds of outstanding valour. Never awarded.
Insignia: A green-enamelled gold Maltese cross, with crossed swords and protea flowers between the arms, and displaying an orange/ white/ blue roundel surrounded by eight diamonds (obverse).
Honoris Crux Gold (HCG) (1975-93)
Awarded for outstanding bravery in extreme danger. Six awards (5 crosses and one bar) were made, five of them for operational gallantry.
The double recipient - who was the most highly decorated serviceman of the Border War - was helicopter pilot Maj Arthur Walker, who won the HCG (1982) for deliberately drawing enemy fire onto himself during a night operation over Angola, and the bar (1982) for landing in enemy territory to rescue the crew of a downed helicopter.
Insignia: Same design as the HCD, but without the diamonds.
Order of the Star of South Africa (Military) (1975-2002) Awarded to general- and flag-rank officers, for meritorious service. Divided into two classes:
- Gold (SSA) - for meritorious military service which promoted SADF efficiency and preparedness and made a valuable contribution to national security.
- Silver (SSAS) - for exceptionally meritorious service of major military significance.
Usually, the initial award was made in the silver class, and the recipient was promoted to SSA after a few years.
Insignia: A blue-enamelled gold or silver Maltese cross with protea flowers between the arms, and an 8-pointed star on the obverse. Worn on a neck ribbon; until 1988, the SSA also had a gold neck chain for ceremonial occasions. The gold or silver breast star has eight multi-rayed points and displays the badge in the centre.
Honoris Crux Silver (HCS) (1975-2003)
Awarded for exceptional bravery in great danger; from 1993 awards were restricted to military operations. About 26 crosses were awarded, the first recipient (1976) being Lt Hermanus van Niekerk, for distinguished leadership, and evacuating casualties, under fire, in Angola.
Insignia: Same design as the HCG, but in silver.
Honoris Crux (HC) - 2nd Type (1975-2003)
Awarded for bravery in danger; from 1993 awards were restricted to military operations. About 200 crosses were awarded, the first recipient (1976) being Maj Louis Holtzhausen, for distinguished leadership under fire in Angola.
Insignia: Same design as the HCS, but enamelled white.
Pro Virtute Decoration (PVD) (1987-2003)
Awarded to officers, for distinguished conduct and outstanding combat leadership in the field.
Insignia: A gold 5-armed Maltese cross, enamelled white, displaying the national arms on an orange roundel (obverse).
Southern Cross Decoration (SD) (1975-2003)
Awarded to officers - usually of senior rank - for outstanding service and utmost devotion to duty. The first recipient was Adm Hugo Biermann, who received the decoration on his retirement as Chief of the SADF in 1976.
Insignia: A gold double Maltese cross, enamelled white, displaying the stars of the Southern Cross on a dark blue roundel (obverse).
Pro Merito Decoration (PMD) (1975-2003)
Awarded to "other ranks" - usually warrant officers - for outstanding service and utmost devotion to duty. The first recipient was WO1 Hugo Engelbrecht of the SADF medals office.
Insignia: A gold Maltese cross, enamelled white, displaying a red disa flower on a dark blue roundel (obverse).
Pro Virtute Medal (PVM) (1987-2003)
Awarded to "other ranks", for distinguished conduct and outstanding combat leadership in the field.
Insignia: A circular silver medal, displaying a 5-armed Maltese cross (obverse).
Ad Astra Decoration (AAD) (1991-2003)
Awarded to SAAF aircrew personnel, for excellent flying skill or outstanding ingenuity or skill during emergencies or unusual situations on board aircraft. The first recipient (1995) was Maj L.R. Heenstra.
Insignia: A gold 5-pointed star displaying the SAAF emblem (obverse) and the national coat of arms (reverse).
Army Cross (CM) (1991-2003)
Initially (1991-93) awarded for exceptional ingenuity, resourcefulness, and ability, and extraordinary leadership, dedication, and sense of duty and personal example and courage in mortal danger (non-operational). Later (1993-2003) awarded for exceptional courage, leadership, skill, ingenuity or tenacity in dangerous or critical situations. The first recipients (1992) were Cpl D.H. Maritz and Tpr H.B. Smit, who recovered a disabled tank during a battle in Angola.
Insignia: A silver pointed cross displaying the Army emblem on a red roundel (obverse).
Air Force Cross (CA) (1991-2003)
The SA Air Force equivalent of the Army Cross. It was first awarded (1991) to 27 helicopter pilots and aircrew involved in the Oceanos sea rescue operation.
Insignia: Same design as the CM, but with the SAAF emblem on a steel-blue roundel in the centre.
Navy Cross (CN) (1991-2003)
The SA Navy equivalent of the Army Cross. The first recipient was Lt S. Minnaar, who rescued a man who had fallen overboard at sea.
Insignia: Same design as the CM, but with the SAN emblem on a navy blue roundel in the centre.
SA Medical Service Cross (CC) (1991-2003)
The SA Air Force equivalent of the Army Cross. It was first awarded in 1993.
Insignia: Same design as the CM, but with the SAMS emblem on a ruby red roundel in the centre.
Southern Cross Medal (SM) - 2nd Type (1975-2003)
For exceptionally meritorious service and particular devotion to duty, by officers (most of whom had already received the Military Merit Medal). Awarded annually.
Insignia: A circular silver medal, displaying the stars of the Southern Cross on a dark blue roundel in the centre of a 5-pointed multi-rayed star (obverse).
Pro Merito Medal (PMM) - 2nd Type (1975-2003)
For exceptionally meritorious service and particular devotion to duty, by "other ranks" (most of whom had already received the Military Merit Medal). Awarded annually.
Insignia: Same design as the SM, but with a red disa flower on the roundel.
Danie Theron Medal (1970-2003) Carried over from the 1952-75 series of awards. Awarded to all ranks, for exceptionally diligent and outstanding service in the Commandos.
Military Merit Medal (MMM) (1974-2003)
Originally (1974-93) called the 'C SADF Commendation Medal'. It was awarded to all ranks, for service of a high standard. This was the entry-level merit award, and hundreds were granted each year. Until 1993, the medal was conferred by the Chief of the SADF, thereafter by the state president.
Insignia: A circular bronze medal with an engrailed edge, displaying the SADF emblem encircled by twelve proteas (obverse).
Pro Patria Medal (1974)
For service in preventing or suppressing terrorism or, from 1977, in defence of South Africa, during the Border War between 26 August 1966 and 21 March 1990. Qualifying service was 55 (originally 60) days in an operational area, or being involved in combat or a skirmish, or being wounded or killed in action.
('Terrorism' meant the People's Liberation Army of Namibia's campaign to end South African rule in South West Africa, and 'defence of South Africa' meant operations in neighbouring states, e.g. Angola.)
Insignia: A gold-coloured octagonal bronze medal, displaying a golden aloe flower on a blue roundel (obverse). A clasp inscribed 'Cunene' was issued for the 1975-76 Angola campaign.
Southern Africa Medal (1989)
For participation in military operations outside South Africa and South West Africa, between 1 April 1976 and 21 March 1990, including the 1987-88 Angola campaign. Awarded in addition to the Pro Patria Medal.
Insignia: An octagonal nickel medal, made from metal from a Soviet tank captured in Angola, depicting a leopard crouching beneath a thorn tree (obverse).
General Service Medal (1989)
For operational service inside South Africa, in the prevention or suppression of terrorism or internal disorder, or the preservation of life, health or property, or the maintenance of essential services and law and order, or crime prevention, after 1 January 1983. In effect, it was the SADF medal for the 1985-90 State of Emergency operations against the liberation armies (uMkhonto weSizwe and the Azanian People's Liberation Army).
Insignia: A circular silver medal displaying the SADF emblem in a laurel wreath (obverse).
Unitas Medal (1994)
Issued to members on the active strength of the seven organisations which formed the SA National Defence Force in April 1994.
Insignia: A circular bronze medal displaying the Greek letter alpha on a 7-pointed star (obverse) and the SA coat of arms and the word "unity" in all eleven official languages (reverse).
Medal for Distinguished Conduct and Loyal Service (1987-2003)
Awarded to Permanent Force, Citizen Force and Commando members, after 40 years irreproachable service.
Insignia: A gold circular medal displaying the SA coat of arms (obverse) and the Roman numeral XL (reverse). Its ribbon is green with a centre panel in the colours of the national flag, which was changed in 1994.
Good Service Medal (1975-2003)
Originally (1975-93) called the 'SADF Good Service Medal'. Awarded for exemplary service, and granted cumulatively in three classes: Bronze after 10 years, Silver after 20 years, and Gold after 30 years. Until 1987, a clasp could be added to the gold medal after 40 years service. The medal was originally open to all members of the SADF, but was restricted to Permanent Force personnel from 1993 onwards.
Insignia: A circular medal with a scalloped edge, displaying the SA coat of arms (obverse) and 'Vir Troue Diens - For Good Service' (reverse). The original ribbons were dark green with coloured lines (white for PF recipients, blue for CF, or orange for Commandos). They were replaced in 1986 by new designs which were the same for all recipients.
John Chard Decoration (JCD) (1952-2003) Carried over from the 1952-75 series of awards. Awarded for 20 years efficient service in the CF. A clasp was added after 30 years service and, from 1977 to 1987, a second clasp could be awarded after 40 years service.
De Wet Decoration (DWD) (1965-2003) Carried over from the 1952-75 series of awards. Awarded for 20 years efficient service in the Commandos. Reserved for officers until 1986, when it was opened up to all ranks. A clasp was added after 30 years service and, from 1977 to 1987, a second clasp could be awarded after 40 years service.
John Chard Medal (1952-2003) Carried over from the 1952-75 series of awards. Awarded for 12 years (until 1986) or 10 years (from 1986) efficient service in the CF. After 20 years service, a recipient could qualify for the JCD, and from 1986 he/she no longer had to stop wearing this medal once he/she had received the decoration.
De Wet Medal (1987-2003)
For 10 years efficient service in the Commandos. After a further ten years service, a recipient qualified for the DWD.
Insignia: Same design as the DWD, but in bronze.
SADF Champion Shot Medal Medal (1965-2003) Carried over from the 1952-75 series of awards, and previously (1965-75) called the 'Commandant General's Medal'. Awarded from 1976 to the champions in the categories of fullbore, smallbore, pistol, and service shooting in the SADF annual championships.
National Cadet Bisley Grand Champion Medal (1987-2003)
Also known as the 'Cadet Corps Champion Shot Medal'. Awarded annually to the winner (grand champion) of the school cadets shooting competition.
Insignia: A circular bronze medal displaying a prancing springbok (obverse).
Mentioned in Despatches (1967-2003)
Carried over from the 1952-75 series of awards. Awarded for brave conduct, meritorious service, or devotion to duty, which did not justify the award of a decoration.
Insignia: A bronze miniature of the national coat of arms, worn on the ribbon of the relevant campaign medal.