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How is a medal instituted?
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National Service Medal
For some years there have been calls for the Government to institute a new medal for those who were conscripted into National Service during the period 1945 to 1963.
Former National Servicemen have asked the Government for tangible recognition of their contribution to the Armed Forces, on the grounds that conscription was mandatory, that it disrupted lives, education and employment and led to the untimely deaths of many young men while in the service of their country. They feel that as they were compelled to undertake military service, in comparison to Regular Servicemen who had volunteered, they are worthy of medallic recognition from the nation, which they perceive has largely taken them for granted and forgotten their valuable contribution to the defence of this country.
National Servicemen have not been forgotten and the Government recognises the valuable contribution that they provided to the defence of the country, both at home and abroad.
With regard to the availability of medals, those who served on National Service between 1939 and 1945 were eligible for the range of medals instituted after the Second World War including the 1939/45 War Medal, the Defence Medal, the 1939/45 Star and the other campaign Stars which recognised the global conflict. Those called up for National Service between 1946 and 1960 were eligible for the various clasps to the General Service Medal for the operations in which they may have served in Palestine, Malaya, Cyprus, Kenya etc. and, similarly, those who served in Korea were eligible for the war medal.
There is no official British medal specifically for those who performed a period of National Service and there are no plans to institute one. Campaign medals are instituted to recognise particular periods of service where the perceived risk and rigour of deployments and operations are considered to be more difficult and/or dangerous than the usual expectations of Service life. Unlike some countries, in the United Kingdom medals are not issued as a record of an individual’s military service. As a result it has never been the Government's policy to consider service in the Armed Forces as the sole justification for the institution of a medal.
In the case of the estimated two million people who were conscripted into the Armed Forces in the post-war years, those who did take part in campaigns or operations for which medals were subsequently awarded, had an equal right to receive them as did their Regular colleagues. Conversely, those who spent their National Service in the UK or with the British Army of the Rhine did so alongside Regular personnel who, likewise, did not receive a medal.
It would be divisive to offer National Servicemen a medal for being conscripted, when those who volunteered for service would be excluded from receiving any award. Even today, many people leave the Armed Forces without having received a campaign medal during their service. This does not imply that their contribution to the defence of the country has not been appreciated.
The introduction of the Armed Forces Veterans Badge a few years ago was considered an appropriate way for veterans, including former National Servicemen, to demonstrate that they had served their country as members of the Armed Forces. The lapel badge was considered to be more discreet and adaptable for daily wear than a medal. Such has been the success of the project that over 700,000 have been issued to date.
A national memorial to all those who undertook National Service is located at the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA), near Lichfield, Staffordshire, details of which can be accessed via their website at www.nationalmemorialarboretum.org.
In addition, the veterans’ community has acknowledged the last Sunday in June each year as National Service Day. The National Service Veterans Association also organises an annual service of commemoration at the NMA each year. Details of the event can be obtained from the Association via their website: http://www.seniorsnetwork.co.uk/nsva/index.htm.
The country has recognised all Service personnel, including National Servicemen, who have died since the end of the Second World War, while on duty or as a result of terrorist attack, by the creation of the Armed Forces Memorial, which is also located at the NMA. Details can be found at http://www.thenma.org.uk/