One of the oldest Imperial forms of recognition for bravery or distinguished service is when a serviceman or servicewoman was Mentioned in Despatches.
A despatch is an official report, written by a senior commander in the field to pass on information about the progress of military operations. Commanders would include in their despatches the names of those deserving attention to their services. Mentions may be for a specific act of bravery or for a period of outstanding service. During the Boer War it became common practice to list the names at the end of a despatch.
If your name appeared in these lists you were said to have been “Mentioned in Despatches”. The despatches were usually published in The London Gazette, so a mention equated to a public commendation.
This and the Victoria Cross were the only forms of recognition for gallantry or distinguished service in action that could be made posthumously.
Recognition of mentions
Prior to 1919 those Mentioned in Despatches did not receive any form of recognition other than having their names published in The London Gazette. In 1919 a certificate was introduced to acknowledge those who received mention.
The following year an emblem of bronze oak leaves was issued to individuals who had been Mentioned in Despatches between 4 August 1914 and 10 August 1920. The device was to be worn at a low angle in the centre of the ribbon of the Victory Medal. Only one device was awarded per person, even if an individual was mentioned more than once.