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RN Medals Placement


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I've noted that medals are worn quite high up, almost at the shoulder, on the RN dress uniform.  Seems the RCN used to wear them in the same fashion as well however over the years they were lowered more to the chest.

Does anyone know the reason for the RN tradition of wearing medals so high on the shoulder? 


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4411. Medals (Including Badges of The 4th And 5th Classes of Orders and
Decorations Worn as Medals)

a. Medals, suspended from their ribands, are to be worn on the left breast in one
horizontal line, with the highest in seniority at the end furthest from the shoulder.
Medals awarded by a society for bravery in saving human life, if specially authorised
to be worn, are to be worn on the right breast, similarly to those on the left and on the
same horizontal line. All medals are worn observe outwards, i.e. with the head of the
Sovereign showing.
. . . . .
d. The medal bar is worn immediately above the top row of medal ribbons sewn to
the garment, or in the same position, and using the same beckets, as the top row of
detachable ribbons. See Para 4413 sub para e.

. . . . .
4413. Medal Ribbons

a. When ribbons are worn apart from the orders, decorations and medals
themselves a ribbon is worn for each medal, etc except the Garter, Thistle and St
Patrick. The ribbon is the same for all classes of an order. The ribbon is to be worn
from the date of the official notification of the award.

b. Length of ribbons to be worn: RN, and personnel - 13mm, but with more than five
rows ribbons 10mm long may be worn. Royal Marines - 10mm all cases.

c. The width of the ribbon is to be that of the riband attached to the order, decoration
or medal itself. For orders, the width is that of the riband of the lowest class. The
normal width in each case is 32mm.

d. The ribbons are to be sewn on the garments, except on whites, tropical khaki and
stone-coloured garments for which a detachable, brooch-type bar similar to the medal
bar is to be used, with the pin inserted through beckets sewn in the correct positions.
The ribbons are to be arranged in one or more rows as required, without either gaps
or overlapping, in order of seniority as for medals, starting at the inside end of the top
or only row. The rows should be 6mm apart for officers and Royal Marines and 3mm
for others, but officers and Royal Marines may reduce the distance apart if necessary
to accommodate a large number. The ribbons of orders, decorations and medals for
which only private permission to wear has been given are not to be sewn on the

e. The ribbons are to be worn on the breast, as for medals, positioned as follows:

(1) RN Officers. Top or only row 25mm below point of shoulder. When
additional rows are sewn to the garment the number of ribbons in each row should
be such that all visible, while preserving as symmetrical an arrangement as
possible. The detachable bar may also have more than one row if necessary, in
which case no row should be longer than the one above.

(2) Royal Marines. First row centrally over the breast pocket, 6mm above the
top seam of the pocket. Additional rows centrally over the first, with no row shorter
than the one above. Not more than five ribbons to a row, and no row to extend
nearer than 19mm from the shoulder seam, but each row to be completed to
maximum width before another is started.

(3) Ratings. Top or only row: on jackets: level with the point of lapel; on blue
jumpers: 114mm below point of shoulder; on white uniform: 51mm below point of
shoulder. In each case, when there is more than one row, no row is to be shorter
than the one above, and the whole display should be as symmetrical as possible
about the vertical.

f. Ribbons must not project outward beyond the point of the shoulder, or inward
beyond the centre of the garment or under the lapel, and they must all be visible.

When the DEUs were introduced, medals and ribbons were worn higher up on the naval uniform, and flying and specialty badges were worn on the lower left sleeve.  That may have been due initially to tradition, but I do recall some publicity about the breast pockets on the first navy uniforms being slightly slanted and thus if ribbons were aligned with the pocket (as they were on army and air force uniforms) they would not be horizontal to the ground.  I had a look at some photos from 93/94 (Baden and Lahr) and the navy types had their ribbons in the higher position. In a photo from 1995, the medals, ribbons and wings were positioned above the pocket like the army/air force.

Why do the Brits wear theirs higher?  One answer I've heard is that their breast pocket is open and the gongs would fall into it.  I think that they (and the RCN 1.0) wore them higher because their snot rags would otherwise cover them.