Police decorations and medals
June 2009

SA Police

THE South African Police (SAP) was established in April 1913. It was superseded by the new South African Police Service (SAPS) in January 1995. The SAP had two series of decorations and medals : the first used from 1923 to 1963, and the second used from 1963 to 1995, and then continued by the SAPS until 2004.

1923-1963

South African Police medal ribbons 1923-63

The first series, initiated in June 1923, was very small, consisting of only two medals, each dual-purpose. During World Wars I and II, SAP members who volunteered for military service qualified for military decorations and medals.

Queen's Police Medal for Bravery (1937-61) — A South African variant of a British medal which had been available to the SAP until 1933. Initially (1937-52) called the "King's Police Medal", it was awarded for conspicuous bravery in fighting crime, or saving life or property, or in the line of duty. A total of 29 awards were made to SAP members. The first recipient (1938) was Lt Col R.A. Meston.

Insignia: A circular silver medal, displaying the head of King George VI or Queen Elizabeth II (obverse), and a cloaked and helmeted watchman with a sword and shield, and the words "For Bravery - Vir Dapperheid" (reverse).

Queen's Police Medal for Distinguished Service (1937-61) — A South African variant of a British medal which had been available to the SAP until 1933. Initially (1937-52) called the "King's Police Medal", it was awarded for specially distinguished service. Altogether, 15 awards were made.

Insignia: Same design as the medal for bravery, but with the words "Voortreflike Diens - Distinguished Service" on the reverse.

Police Good Service Medal (1923-63) — An original South African medal, awarded to "other ranks" only, for (i) distinctly gallant conduct, or (ii) 18 years exemplary service. Most of the 11 636 awards of this medal were for long service, and it takes precedence as a long service medal.

Insignia: Almost identical to the Prisons Good Service Medal: a circular silver medal, displaying the SA coat of arms and "Police Service - Politie Dienst" (obverse) and the words "For Faithful Service - Voor Trouwe Dienst" (reverse). The Dutch was later changed to the Afrikaans "Poliesie Diens" and "Vir Getroue Diens", and finally to "Polisiediens" and "Vir Troue Diens".

1963-2004

South African Police medal ribbons 1963-1004

The second series of SAP decorations and medals, introduced in May 1963, initially consisted of only four decorations and medals. It was enlarged in 1974, 1979, 1985, 1988, and 1989. An innovative feature, later copied by other services, was the use of Latin post-nominal letters, to avoid having different sets of initials in English and Afrikaans. The SA Police Service took over the SAP awards in January 1995, and used them until a new series of decorations and medals was instituted in May 2004.

SAP Star for Distinguished Leadership (SED) (1979-1986) — Awarded to general officers (in practice, only Commissioners of the SAP), for distinguished leadership, meritorious service to national security, or outstanding service to dynasties, heads of state or government. The first recipient was Gen Mike Geldenhuys.

Insignia: A gold Maltese cross with points between the arms, displaying an aloe plant (obverse). It can be worn on a neck ribbon or on a gold ceremonial chain. There is also a gold 4-pointed multi-rayed breast star, displaying the aloe emblem.

SAP Star for Distinguished Service (SOO) - 2nd Type (1979-1986) — Awarded to general officers, for meritorious service which promoted SAP efficiency or contributed actively to national security. About a dozen SOOs were awarded, the first recipient being Lt Gen F.L.C. Engels.

Insignia: A gold 6-pointed multi-rayed star, displaying a green 6-pointed star depicting a flaming winged torch and a pair of scales (obverse). It can be worn on a neck ribbon or on a silver-gilt ceremonial chain.

SAP Cross for Bravery (PCF) - 1st Type (1963-1989) — Awarded for conspicuous and exceptional gallantry in the line of duty, or in protecting or saving life or property. Only 13 decorations were awarded - the first recipient (1964) was Sgt J.R. Nienaber, who drowned while trying to rescue a man from the sea. Superseded by a new decoration of the same name.

Insignia: A gold layered cross, depicting a smaller cross on a gyronny background inside a blue circle inscribed "Vivit Post Funera Virtus" (obverse), and the national coat of arms (reverse). Worn on a neck ribbon. The decoration was designed by Lt J.M. de Wet.

SAP Cross for Bravery: Gold (PCFG) (1989-2004) — Awarded for outstanding bravery in extreme danger. First awarded (1991) to Maj André du Toit, for twice single-handedly disposing of bombs, and for bravery while leading a raid on an armed fugitive's hideout.

Insignia: Same design as the 1963 PCF, but smaller and with a narrower ribbon, and worn on the chest.

SAP Silver Cross for Gallantry (SCG) (1985-1989) — For conspicuous and exceptional gallantry while combating terrorism. Twenty-two awards were made, the first (1987) to WO C.J. Botha, for single-handedly pursuing and firing on three armed uMkhonto weSizwe fighters.

Insignia: A silver cross pattee displaying the SAP badge in gold (obverse) and the SAP Memorial (reverse). The cross was designed by Col Buks van Staden.

SAP Cross for Bravery: Silver (PCFS) (1989-2004) — Awarded for acts of exceptional bravery performed in great danger.

Insignia: Same design as the PCFG, but in silver.

SAP Cross for Bravery (PCF) - 2nd Type (1989-2004) — Awarded for acts of bravery performed while in danger.

Insignia: Same design as the PCFS, but in lower-grade silver.

SAP Star for Distinguished Service (SOO) - 1st Type (1963-1979) — Awarded for (i) particular gallantry in the line of duty or in protecting or saving life or property, or (ii) distinguished service. Superseded by the Star for Outstanding Service. Approximately 29 awards were made for gallantry, and 31 (to senior officers), for distinguished service.

Insignia: Same design as the 1979 SOO, but smaller and worn on the chest.

SAP Star for Outstanding Service (SOE) (1979-2004) — Awarded for (i) outstanding service, or (ii) (until 1989) for particular gallantry in the line of duty or in protecting or saving life or property. The first award for gallantry (1980) was to Const A.J. Hanekom, for trying to rescue children from a burning shack.

Insignia: A silver-gilt multi-rayed convex cross, displaying an aloe plant (obverse).

SAP Medal for Combating Terrorism (1974) — A campaign medal for service in preventing and combating terrorism after 26 August 1966, by (i) being in combat with terrorists, or (ii) being injured through terrorist activities, or (iii) completing 60 days (originally 6 months) counter-insurgency duty in a designated area. Awarded for operational service against the People's Liberation Army of Namibia in South West Africa (1966-89), for operations in Rhodesia (1967-75), and for internal security in South Africa.

Insignia: A 6-pointed silver star on a voided circlet decorated with aloe leaves (obverse), displaying the SAP badge (reverse). Clasps were added for additional periods of service.

SAP Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Commemoration Medal (1988) — Awarded to the + 90 000 members serving in the SAP on the occasion of the 75th anniversary on 1 April 1988.

Insignia: A circular bronze medal displaying the 75th anniversary logo (obverse) and the SAP badge (reverse).

SAPS Amalgamation Medal (1995) — Awarded to members of the eleven police forces which amalgamated to form the SAPS on 27 January 1995.

Insignia: A circular bronze medal displaying an aloe plant inside a wreath (obverse).

SAP Star for Merit (1963-2004) — For (i) particularly meritorious or exemplary service, or personal heroism, in the line of duty, or (ii) 30 years irreproachable service and exemplary conduct. As the majority of awards were made in the latter category, the medal ranks as a long service award.

Insignia: A 6-pointed multi-rayed silver star displaying two hands shielding a flame, and the letters VM, on a blue triangle on a white circlet (obverse).

SAP Star for Faithful Service (1979-2004) — For 20 years irreproachable service and exemplary conduct. A clasp could be added after 40 years.

Insignia: A circular silver medal displaying a cross of four aloes in the centre of an 8-pointed multi-rayed star (obverse) and the SAP badge (reverse).

SAP Medal for Faithful Service (1963-2004) — For 18 years (until 1979) or 10 years (from 1979) irreproachable service and exemplary conduct. Until 1979, a clasp could be added after 35 years service.

Insignia: A circular bronze medal displaying the shield and crest of the national arms (obverse) and the SAP badge (reverse).

References :
  • South Africa Government Gazette 1324 (08.06.1923); 2478 (1911.1937); 5013 (27.02.1953); 547 (05.07.1963); 4171 (22.02.1974); 6451 (18.05.1979); 9597 (22.02.1985); 10552 (19.12.1986); 11251 (15.04.1988); 11969 (21.06.1989); and 26573 (16.07.2004).
  • Abbott, P.E. & Tamplin, J.M.A.; British Gallantry Awards (1971).
  • Alexander, E.G.M., Barron, G.K.B.; Bateman, A.J.; South African Orders, Decorations and Medals (1985).
  • King, T.; Gallantry Awards of the SA Police 1913-1994 (2000).
  • Machanik, F.; 'The King's Police Medal' in SA Numismatic Journal (Oct 1969).
  • Mitchell, F.K.; 'South African Police Good Service Medal' in SA Numismatic Journal (Sep 1965).
  • Monick, S.; Awards of the South African Uniformed Public Services 1922-1987 (1988); and South African Civil Awards 1910-1990 (1990).
 
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