A friend asked the Observation Post a question, what were Sailor Malan’s medals? So down the rabbit hole and here we are … Sailor’s medals. I’m no medal specialist but this is what I’ve managed to find so far. If I’m wrong please feel free to correct me and add to this.
Image: Sailor Malan’s medals on display at the Johannesburg War Museum in Saxonwald
Left to Right – from the highest value (the decoration/medal closest to the heart when the medal rack is worn on the left breast), to the lowest value decoration/medal (the one furtherest from the ‘heart’), and in the case of foreign decorations (other countries) in order of importance after the lowest ‘own’ country medal – Sailor has a few of foreign awards these too, and they are all ‘decorations’ so very important.
Distinguished Service Order & Bar (DSO)
OK, let’s start with Sailor’s DSO, the ‘& Bar’ bit means he was awarded this decoration not once, but twice. In Sailor’s case the DSO is awarded for bravery. Here are the citations for his Distinguished Service Orders:
Acting Squadron Leader Adolph Gysbert Malan, DFC (37604), Royal Air Force, No.74 Squadron. December 24th, 1940.
“This officer has commanded his squadron with outstanding success over an intensive period of air operations and, by his brilliant leadership, skill and determination has contributed to the success obtained. Since early in August 1940, the squadron has destroyed at least 84 enemy aircraft and damaged many more. Squadron Leader Malan has himself destroyed at least eighteen hostile aircraft and possibly another six.”
And on 22nd July, 1941:
Bar to the DSO
Acting Wing Commander Adolph Gysbert Malan, DSO, DFC (37604) Royal Air Force.
“This officer has displayed the greatest courage and disdain of the enemy whilst leading his Wing on numerous recent operations over Northern France. His cool judgement, exceptional determination and ability have enabled him to increase his confirmed victories over enemy aircraft from 19 to 28, in addition to a further 20 damaged and probably destroyed. His record and behaviour have earned for him the greatest admiration and devotion of his comrades in the Wing. During the past fortnight the Wing has scored heavily against the enemy with 42 hostile aircraft destroyed, a further 15 probably destroyed and 11 damaged.”
Distinguished Flying Cross & Bar
Again, the ‘& Bar’ bit means he was awarded this decoration twice, this is still a ‘decoration’ and not a ‘medal’ so it’s very high on the senior level, and in Sailor’s case both times it is awarded to exceptional flying and bravery. Here are the citations for his Distinguished Flying Crosses;
Flight Lieutenant Adolph Gysbert Malan. (37604), Royal Air Force. June 11th, 1940.
“During May 1940, this officer has led his flight, and on certain occasions his squadron, on ten offensive patrols in Northern France. He has personally shot down two enemy aircraft and, probably, three others. Flight Lieutenant Malan has displayed great skill, courage and relentless determination in his attacks upon the enemy.”
And on August 13th, 1940:
Bar to the DFC
Flight Lieutenant Adolph Gysbert Malan. (37604), Royal Air Force.
“Since the end of May, 1940, this officer has continued to lead his flight and, on many occasions the squadron, in numerous successful engagements against the enemy. During the Dunkirk operations he shot down three enemy aircraft and assisted in destroying a further three. In June, 1940, during a night attack by enemy aircraft, he shot down two Heinkel 111’s. His magnificent leadership, skill and courage have been largely responsible for the many successes obtained by his squadron.”
British and Commonwealth Medals
What follows after the decorations on Sailor’s medal rack are medals for World War 2 in order of seniority and these are:
1939-45 Star with Battle of Britain clasp
Campaign medal awarded to all British and Commonwealth personnel who fought in any theatre of operations during WW2. The ribbon shows arms of service – Navy (dark blue), Army (red) and Air Force (light blue).
The ‘Battle of Britain Clasp’ on Sailor’s 1939-45 Star was awarded to those who were engaged in action in the Battle̴ of Britain between 10th July 31st July 1940
The Air Crew Europe Star with France and Germany clasp
The ACE medal was awarded for operational flying from the UK over Europe, between the period 3rd September 1939 to 5th June 1944 (outbreak of war until the start of Operation Neptune on the 5th June 1944, followed by the D-Day Normandy landings on the 6th, so the cut off date is actually 4 June, 1944 for ACE medal), the ribbon is light blue with black edges and yellow stripes, representing continuous service in the air (blue) by day (yellow) and night (black).
The France and Germany clasp was awarded to those who qualified for the France and Germany Star by having participated in land, sea or air operations in, or over, France, Holland, Belgium or Germany between 6 June 1944 and 8 May 1945.
The Defence Medal
Campaign medal awarded for both Operational and non-Operational service during WW2 to British and Commonwealth service personnel (and civilians involved in Service to armed forces). The ribbon is symbolic of the fire bombing air attacks (Orange) on ‘this green and pleasant’ land (Green) of the UK during the ‘blackouts’ (the two thin black lines).
The War Medal (1939-1945) – with a mid Oak Leaf.
Campaign medal for British and Commonwealth personnel who had served full-time in the Armed Forces or the Merchant Navy for at least 28 days between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945. The medal ribbon is distinguished by the colours of the British Union Flag/Jack.
The Oak Leaf signifies that the individual wearing this medal was MiD (Mentioned in Dispatches). The Oak Leaf on Sailor’s ribbon of this medal indicates the award of the King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct.
There are decorations issued by ‘foreign’ countries to Sailor Malan and they are worn in the more junior position of the medal rack regardless of the seniority of the decoration. Here Sailor Malan received the following:
Legion of Honour (France) Officer Grade
The ‘Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur’ or LdH is France’s highest distinction and is awarded in recognition of both military and civilian merit. There are three ranks; Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer) and Commandeur (Commander). Sailor has the Officer rank.
Croix de Guerre (France)
The French ‘War Cross’ is awarded either as an individual award or a unit award to those combatants who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism involving combat with the enemy.
Croix de guerre (Belgium) with bronze palm
This is the World War 2 variant of the Belgium ‘War Cross’, awarded for bravery or other military virtue on the battlefield. It was reestablished on 20 July 1940 by the Belgian government in exile for recognition of bravery and military virtue during World War 2.
The Bronze Palm means Sailor Malan was ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’ by the War Office specifically for a performing heroic or significant deed.
Czecho-Slovakian Military Cross
Ceskoslovenský válecný kríž 1939 is a military decoration of the former state of Czechoslovakia which was issued for those who had provided great service to the Czechoslovak state (in exile) during World War 2.
Awarded to Group Captain Adolph Gysbert Malan on March 5th, 1946 “In recognition of valuable services rendered in connection with the war.”
Now, that’s a lot of ‘Bravery’ and Sailor Malan counts as one of South Africa’s bravest, he’s got the decorations and medals to show for it. I’m no pro when it comes to medals, its a very complex field, so here’s waiting for the medal pros for more information … and go!
Image is from a Johannesburg War Museum PDF. Researched and written by Peter Dickens