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Who created the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and what does it recognize?

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Queen Victoria instituted the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) on 6 September 1886 originally to reward junior officers in the Army for distinguished service or acts of gallantry against the enemy for which a Victoria Cross (VC) was not considered appropriate. While the Order of the Bath had been available for senior officers and the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for the other ranks, no award below the level of the VC had existed for junior officers. The DSO was also made available to junior officers of the other services. Since 1993, its purpose has been changed and ceased to be awarded for gallantry replaced by the new all service, all ranks Conspicuous Gallantry Cross (CGC) at the level below the VC. Although theoretically available to all ranks, the DSO, now awarded for distinguished leadership during active operations against the enemy, is likely to be awarded only to the more senior officer ranks. The medal consists of a gold cross, with curved edges, overlaid in white enamel. At the centre of the cross is a raised laurel wreath surrounding the Imperial Crown. The ribbon is crimson flanked by narrow dark blue stripes at the edges. A gold bar may be issued to DSO holders performing a further act of leadership which would have merited award of the medal. Recipients of this military decoration are officially known as Companions of the Distinguished Service Order and they are entitled to use the post-nominal DSO after their name. Shown in the photograph is a portion of one of the two New Zealand Army Memorial Windows erected at the Wellington Cathedral of St. Paul in Wellington, New Zealand to commemorate those who have served in the New Zealand Army at home and abroad since the country's foundation. Located on the top row, second from right - is a representation of the DSO that was awarded to more than 300 New Zealanders during both World Wars as well as to more than 1,200 Canadians.

On this day, 6 September 2022, we mark the 136th anniversary of the creation of the Distinguished Service Order.

André M. Levesque

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