Faithful Service / Gallantry – SA Police Good Service Medal
(Article produced with kind permission and in cooperation with Terence King PCF)
This article will mainly cover the SA Police Goods Service medal (PGSM) with reference to the SA Railways Police and Prison Services. It is a pleasure to submit the first of what I trust will be many contributions in collaboration by fellow enthusiasts where together we are able to share knowledge and illustrate the actual awards.
It was intended that we would cover the SA Railways and Harbours, SA Prisons and the SA Police, however, the task was far too large and thus we detail the SA Police Good Service medal with limited comments and illustrations of Railway and Prison awards in this article.
Police medals have always fascinated both Terence and myself because a policeman joins the service to “Protect and Serve”. A policeman, when he takes this oath, must in the course of his duties protect his fellow citizen and uphold the law on a daily basis. This is completely different to the Military where preparation for war is the primary objective. For a Policeman, bravery is “expected” in the normal discharge of his duties. Many policemen have gone well above the call of duty and not received any honour or ward other than this single long service award. I salute Terence and his fellow policeman for what they do for all of us on a daily basis.
The Police Good Service medal (PGSM) was instituted in 1923 and was an award to members of the South African Police at the time when South Africa was part of the British Commonwealth.
This medal was awarded to a member of the police who had served for not less than 18 years with irreproachable character. It is important to understand that Policemen who had attained commissioned rank (Officers) were not eligible for this award.
Illustration. 1953 Coronation and Africa Service Medal to commissioner – 40 year of service and no long service medals. Please note that is wearing the medals in the wrong order. The 1953 should precede the ASM. (see comments below)
The PGSM medal had the unique distinction of doubling as an award for services performed that were of a particularly gallant or distinguished nature. In such instances the medal was awarded with a bar bearing the words MERIT-VERDIENSTE or VERDINSTE-MERIT (1)
For many decorations and medals, an emblem is available to be worn on the ribbon of that award to indicate a second award or a bar to that medal. Oddly enough no emblem existed for the PGSM to indicate that the medal had been awarded a bar or that a bar had been awarded at a later stage.
Any offence of a serious or fraudulent nature, or any offence of disgraceful conduct rendered the member ineligible for this award. Similarly, any recipient subsequently found guilty of such offences, or who was dismissed from the force as a result of such offences, forfeited his medal. (2)
All service in police forces existing prior to the establishment of the South African Police in 1913 i.e. the Cape Police, the Natal Police, the Orange Free State Police, the Transvaal Police, and further back to include the South African Constabulary, counted toward the awarding of the medal.
Non-continuous service counted towards this award although no specific mention of such service was included in the original warrant for this award.
Service in the South African Mounted Rifles (SAMR) counted towards this award after men of this force were absorbed into the South African Police (SAP) in 1920 and again in 1926.
The medal was also awarded to members of the South West African Police when this Police Force existed separately to the SAP from 1923 until 1939. In such instances the initial S.W.A.P. appear on the rim after the recipient’s name. These medals are extremely rare. It is estimated that less than 400 of these awards exist.
All medals were issued stamped or engraved around the rim. The stamping and engraving of medals were carried out by the Royal Mint (SA Mint) in Pretoria. Engraving was carried out by various engravers and thus the style varies. The stamped medals, were named on various machines but follow the same style as found on South African WW1 and WW2 medals. The medal is sterling silver and a few examples have been seen with the marking .925 RMP (Royal Mint Pretoria). This is considered a numismatic rarity and we have only encountered a handful of medals with hallmarks.
Herewith examples of naming styles. Engraved and Stamped.
Three striking of this medal were issued.
TYPE 1. (1923)
The first issued in 1923 bear the words POLICE SERVICE and POLITIE DIENST on the obverse of the medal and the words FOR FAITHFUL SERVICE and VOOR TROUWE DIENST on the reverse.
These medals are usually found with an engraved style naming and not stamped. Strangely this medal is always found with a thick type suspender similar to that found on the WW2 Africa Service Medal. They are always swiveling suspenders
TYPE 2. (1932)
The second striking of this medal was instituted in 1932. While the English inscriptions remained unchanged the words POLIESIE DIENS and VIR GETROUE DIENS replaced the corresponding inscriptions of the first issue. The use of “Getroue” was incorrect and once the mint discovered this error this was immediately discontinued. This issue is the rarest of the three types.
These medals are found both stamped and engraved. The suspenders on this medal vary from the thick WW2 style to a thinner style similar the WW1 British War Medal.
TYPE 3. (1951)
In 1951 regulations pertaining to the 1932 striking were republished. While the medal and ribbon remained basically unchanged from the original issues of 1923 and 1932 the Afrikaans wording was once again altered to read POLISIEDIENS and VIR TROUE DIENS.
These medals are found both stamped and engraved and some are dated after the name.
Awards to Animals (K-9)
From 1960 this medal was also awarded to police dogs as the “Medal of Honour for Courage and Faithfulness.” All these medals are awarded without bar, using various styles of naming. This award is extremely rare and will form the topic of a separate article in the future.
Styles of Naming
Types engraving and stamping formats vary. We will assume this is because they were sent to be named to the RMP/SAM from SAP and when required, hence different instructions would have been issued. We are unsure if the SAP kept the stock of blank medals or they were struck on demand. Unnamed examples of medals have been encountered but appear to be ex SAM stock or error in issue. It is more than likely that no stocks were held by the SAP/SARP/PS and the medals were struck on demand. This would explain all the slight variation in strike quality and different suspenders.
Naming is as follows:
Service number (Branch of Service M/B or F/V) rank, initials and surname or surname and Initials in that order, and in some instances the date of award.
‘M” signifies Mounted with “B” for the Afrikaans word Bereede
“F” signifies Foot with “V” for the Afrikaans word Voot
Detectives retain the M and F, but a D or the abbreviation DET appears on the rank to identify them. E.g D/Segt.
Black members of the force will have the letter N, word Native. Indian have the letters IND or word Indian used with the Rank. E.g N/C/Labourer or Ind/Det. The use of the rank “Labourer” is explained by Brig Hennie Hymans in his Nongqai Magazine. It suffices to say that this does not mean menial worker but rather the base entry rank into the police for a Native. Medals named to Natives and Indians are rare and one to a Chinese policeman has never been encountered.
A date can be found after the name. This use of the date is interesting and is not consistent on all medals. It does however appear more commonly after 1960’s and is of great help to identify the period of service. Date is always Day/Month/Year. And this leads us onto an interesting anomaly. Service numbers were issued per year, so it is also possible to identify the year of enlistment.
Bar for second award?
The recipient would receive the medal after 18 years of service. The date of award is always 18 years after the attestation. In 1963, a new series of SAP medals was introduced. The South African Police Medal for Faithful Service was introduced for 18 years’ service and replaced the Police Good Service Medal (PGSM) and a South African Police Star of Merit for 30 years was introduced. The regulations were later amended in 1979 amending this from 18 years to 10 years on the introduction of a new 20 years medal known as the SA Police Star for Faithful Service. Many of the early awards of the Medal for Faithful Service are for 18 years and not 12 years.
After 1963, if an individual completed 30 years having already received an 18-year Good Service medal, he would receive a Star of Merit. Stars of Merit are always dated when issued for long service. The Star of Merit will be dated exactly 12 years after the date of award of the PGSM other than issued for bravery or what we call “catch up awards”.
After 33 years if an individual was in possession of the PGSM they would receive a SA Police Faithful Service medal and not a bar. The Grouping would be made up as follows.
SA Police star of Merit (awarded for 30 years)
SA Police medal for Faithful Service (awarded for 33 years)
Police Good Service Medal (awarded for 18 years)
This explains where one encounters a bronze Medal for Faithful service dated after the PGSM and is illustrated below.
The SA Police medal for Faithful Service is now for 33 years, being for 15 years additional service and not 10or 18 years. The date stamped on the medal will clarify.
This system of the award what we all today consider a 10-year long service medal, although correct in terms of the warrants, was never fully understood by the policemen and the order of wear therefore varies as illustrated below.
Please be observant of the dates stamped on the medals as they explain the service of the individual. If a PGSM was awarded on 1 October 1950, the Star for Merit will be dated 1 October 1962 (12 additional years) and the Medal for Faithful Service 1 October 1965 (3 additional years). There were a few occasions where bulk catch up awards were made and 1st September 1963 was such a day and is illustrated below.
This dating format is carried over to the SA Railway Police (SARP) but not the Prison services.
All SARP medals are dated and the Prisons are not. The SARP followed the same system of awarding their bronze medal after 33 years but the dating reveals insight into their conduct during service. We consider these medals “long service and undetected crime medals”. Within the SA Police if an individual was disciplined for any offence that did not warrant his dismissal, he would be fined a monetary amount or have pay deducted for days suspended. This would be considered punishment enough and no time would be lost in counting towards the PLSM. However, in the SARP, if an individual was punished by temporary suspension he would lose the days of service. Therefore, following the dates on the medals, one would notice a few days extra in on the 30- and 33-year medals.
Order of Wearing
Now is important to briefly introduce the SA order of wearing. Before republic in 1961, South Africa followed the British order of Precedence. In essence the order is decorations and awards for bravery or distinguished service, campaign medals, Jubilee and Coronation medals, long service medals and finally foreign awards. After 1961, all British awards were considered foreign (non-South African) and SA award took precedence over all other than the Victoria Cross (VC). This resulted in what is considered strange wearing to British collectors and many groups have therefore been remounted incorrectly. The single 1953 Queen Elizabeth Coronation award was suddenly given precedence over CBE’s DSO’s MC’s etc. Major General Brink, Commissioner of Police 1951-1954 did not comply with regulation. But then of course he was the Commissioner of Police and no one would question him. The order of wear will be the subject of a future article.
Strictly correct, the PGSM, should always be at the end of a group and any post 1961 awards would be worn before everything pre 1961 except the VC.
Illustrated is the trio to Sergt P H Du Toit. The medals are named: Star of Merit 12246 Sers P H du Toit 1.9.63, the Medal for Faithful Service 12246 Sers PH du Toit 1.9.63 and the PLSM 12246 (F) Const P H du Toit (stamped naming). This is a pure long service group. After receiving a PLSM, he was awarded both his Star of Merit for 30 years and Medal for Faithful Service for 33 years both dated 1 September 1963.
Illustrated is the group of four to T E Beckwith. The medals are named, Star of Merit 11703 A.Off T E Beckwith 1.9.63, the Medal for Faithful Service 11703 A.Off T E Beckwith 1.9.63, Africa Service Medal 11703 (SAP) T E Beckwith and finally the PLSM 11703 (M) 1/Sergt Beckwith TE (engraved in that order).
The correct order of wear is Star of Merit, Medal for Faithful Service, Campaign medals and finally the PLSM but this was not always followed.
Numbers of Awards
The PGSM was only awarded between 5 June 1923 and 31 August 1963. During this period only 11 636 medals were issued. Forces orders exist for each and every award and they are notated in the service files. To bring this in context, approximately 11-12 000 Anglo Boer Oorlog Medals (ABO) are issued. Making this award on a par with the ABO as to scarcity.
As detectives were not required to wear a uniform, many of their groupings are found unmounted with each medal on its original pin or a safety pin. Many group photographs exist with detectives wearing their medals haphazardly on their day suits. Do not question loose medals when dealing with detectives.
During the above period, only 53 awards of the PGSM were made to members of the South African Police for acts of a gallant nature and 6 in recognition of services of a particularly distinguished nature resulting in these particular medals being a rarity.
The SARP followed suit. Below are illustrations of the medal with bar to the SAP and the SARP. Note the variations of the Merit – Verdienste bar.
From information gleaned from the SARP histories, less than 10 Gallantry awards have been awarded since 1946. Making this medal an extreme rarity.
No awards of the SA Prison service with a Merit bar has been encountered. Possibly one out there?
Further Illustration of interesting awards
Kings Police Medal, WW2 and PLSM (with photo)
Lastly, a comment on the SA Railways & Harbour and Prison Long Service medals
SA Railways & Harbour, SAR- SAS Awards
There are only two types of award.
The early award with S A R & H Police across the top, S A S en Hawepolisie (Dutch) on the bottom. These medals are always found engraved and dated. This is a very rare medal with only approximately 40-50 awarded.
The second type shows SAS Polisie (Dutch) on the top and SAR Police on the bottom. These medals are found both engraved and stamped but are always dated. Naming is the same as found on the PGSM and includes the date. Some examples also include the award number after the name. The use of award numbers continued into the new series of SARP medals. See Kemp pictured below.
All have For Faithful Service / Vir Troue Diens reverse. We have never encountered a “Getroue” version but this does not mean that they do not exist.
A bar for Gallantry or Distinguished Service was awarded and is illustrated above and as previously these are considered extremely rare and normally for saving of life.
Note that the ribbon colours are reversed.
SARP Star for Merit, SAS LSM, Africa service medal, War medal 1939-45, Efficiency Medal – Union of South Africa
SA Prisons Services – Gevangenis Diens
There are two only types of award.
The early award with Gevangenis Diens across the top, Prisons Services on the bottom. The second type with Departement van Gevangenis on the top and Prisons Department on the bottom. These medals are found both engraved and stamped but are not dated
Both types of Medals all have For Faithful Service / Vir Troue Diens on the reverse. I have never seen a “Getroue Reverse”
No bar for Gallantry or Distinguished service has been noted. The ribbon is the same as the Police PGSM
Illustrated below Interesting group with Prison Medal – Anglo Boer War, WW1 trio and Prisons GSM
Miniature or Dress Medals – all branches of service
As the PGSM medals was only awarded to non-commissioned officers there was no automatic award or right of wear for a miniature dress medal. There was no requirement for non-commissioned officers to wear dress medals. They would wear full size medals only. Permission to obtain and wear a dress miniature had to be officially obtained and valid reasons provided. It has not been confirmed if the RMP/SAM manufactured the miniature medals but they are of high quality and struck in silver. Casting copies have been observed we believe them to be of later manufacture for collectors and fillers. The RMP/SAM would not have ever cast a medal for issue. It is our belief that these miniatures were struck for use by officers who had previously received the PLSM and would be official issue. The issue of the right to obtain and wear miniature medals is the subject of a future article.
Miniature medals exist for all the variations of these medals and are scarce. Below is a group a long ervive policeman later commissioned as an officer and allowed to wear the mini medal.
Conclusion on Scarcity of the PGSM to all services
The 1st type SARP GSM is the rarest of all these medals with only about 50 medals awarded. The next level of scarcity is the Prisons Services GSM. The SAP PGSM is the most commonly encountered medal, however, the “Getrouwe” version is rare and early 1st type medals are always sought after.
The Gallantry or Distinguished awards are extremely rare, many being awarded to natives and these will not have survived the years. Simply stated its and extremely rare Gallantry awards.
Notes on the PGSM awards for Gallantry
(1) Eight of the PGSM awards for Gallantry were in the form of a bar where the recipient had already received the medal for 18 years long service. Where the recipient had received the medal with bar, none qualified a second time in respect of 18 years’ service.
(2) Only 12 Police Good Service Medals are recorded as being forfeited. (While forfeited medals were required to be returned the Office of the Commissioner one example of a forfeited medal is so far known to exist)
(2) Three of the medals awarded for gallantry were subsequently forfeited due to misconduct on the part of the recipient.
Article Produced in cooperation between Terence King and Munroe Swirsky.
Terence King (ex-Policeman and Citizen Force Soldier) was awarded the Police Cross for Bravery during his service for bravery during the execution of his duties. We all salute you.