Eligibility for UK Awards, Decorations and Honours including medals for WW2 Veterans and ARP

Submitted by Dr Anthony Ablong on Sun, 03/27/2016 - 11:57

Good afternoon (Canberra time) David,

In researching material for a publication on Australian citizens that fought on behalf of the Allies against the Japanese in WW2 in mainland China and SE Asia including HK, I had difficulty finding any reference to the eligibility criteria for awards, decorations, honours and medals particularly relating to the gallant men and women in their role as defenders in the defence HK during WW2.

I am aware that the French and American Governments did recognise those that fought with the Free French and American supported resistance units on mainland China but have difficulty finding any UK recognition for those in HK.

Perhaps one of the many readers on gwulo may have some information on eligibility and the recognition received for military veterans and civilian veterans in organisations such as the ARP, Ambulance Corp, etc?


Dr Anthony P. Ablong

Thank you David for the prompt response which is certainly helpful.

While I and my family were there at the time and made our contribution, I have been frustrated in my research whenever seeking the degree of recognition made by the UK Government for those that volunteered and those that made the supreme sacrifice for the Empire.  Surely there is one of gwulo's audience/readers with knowledge about UK awards for HKVDC, ARP, Ambulance Corp and other para-military and civilian volunteers that defended the colony?  

Henry Ching writes:

Dr. Anthony Ablong may find useful, if he has not already seen them, Occasional Papers No. 6 ("Campaign Medals")and 34 ("The Ablong Family and the ARP") of the Hong Kong Volunteer & ex-POW Association of NSW, accessible on the Association’s website.

He also may wish to consider joining the Association. He may also wish to see Appendix IV, Honours and Awards Received, in Evan Stewart’s Hong Kong Volunteers in Battle (Blacksmith Books, 2005).

Thank you Henry for the information which will certainly be followed up.

While I am aware that my sister Audrey is a member of the NSW Association, the tyranny of distance continues to be an obstacle that prevents me from contributing and attending meetings.

With respect and if I may be so bold to enquire as to whether your father or some other member of your family was/were associated with one of the HK newspapers such as the South China Morning Post or South China MailI?

Thank you again David (and of course Henry) for pointing me to information about the Ching family whom I do recall with some fondness.  My father spoke very highly of Harry's journalistic integrity, capabilities and their friendship.

I certainly will read Harry's war diary with great interest and with a heavy touch of sadness as it will bring back memories of a time past.  Given that, I have also have a large amount of loving memories of HK and the people there at the time.

Would there be a possibility to download Harry Ching's war diary in .pdf format?  On my first brush of the narrative, the page pointer suggests that the content is extensive and could take some time to read.

I am aware of the awards described in OP6 which was crafted by Henry.  Albeit, it may be of interest to know that Evan Stewart’s publication on Hong Kong Volunteers in Battle (Blacksmith Books, 2005) is no longer in print.  Would there be someone in the audience have a copy and would be willing to share or sell it?


There isn't a PDF version of Harry Ching's war diary available, but if you start reading from http://gwulo.com/node/14227/view-pages there are ten (long) pages in all.

For Evan Stewart's book, I wonder if The Volunteers Association still have any copies available? See http://www.rhkr.org/publications.htm

It has an appendix IV that lists "Awards received in recognition of gallant and distinguished services". These are specific awards (eg Military Cross, Military Medal, etc) for the named individuals, so won't add any information about general eligibility.

Going back to your original question about eligibility of "civilian veterans in organisations such as the ARP, Ambulance Corp, etc", the Defence Medal looks to be the award they'd be eligible for: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defence_Medal_(United_Kingdom)

We've got a couple of examples showing it was awarded to civilian veterans in Hong Kong:

  • Auxiliary Nursing Service: "After the war Florence Wong and her two daughters each received HK$486.00 as pay and allowances, presumably for the 18 days from mobilisation to the surrender. They were also informed that they were eligible for the Defence Medal."
    Source: http://gwulo.com/node/20926
  • Auxiliary Fire Service: "After the War, [Paul Tsui] was a bit embarassed to receive the Defence Medal for his fire service."
    Source: http://gwulo.com/node/10529

I wondered if the newspapers would mention these after the war. A search for "Defence Medal" turned up three results with answers to your question:

Page 2, The China Mail, 1947-12-01 announced the details of eligibility:


The following announcement is made with regard to eligibility for campaign stars and defence medals in Hong Kong. It. does not include: reference to the eligibility of the Volunteer Forces for the award of the campaign stars and British War Medal which has already been decided.

In Command Paper 6833 issued in June. 1946, it was announced that the Defence Medal would be granted for certain specified categories of civilian service, which were: —

(i) Civil Defence or other specified civilian services in military operational areas, provided the civil category was not eligible for Campaign Stars; and

(ii) Civil Defence Services in non-operational areas subjected to air attack, or closely threatened.

2. Discussions have been proceeding with the authorities in the United Kingdom as to the in Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore and Borneo which should be included in the definitions above. It has now been decided that, subject to the conditions in paragraph 3 below, service in the following organisations will qualify:


Air Raid Precautions Corps, Fire Brigade and Auxiliary Fife Service, Auxiliary Communications Service, Labour Control Section of the Auxiliary Labour Corps, Auxiliary Ordnance Corps, Auxiliary Supply Corps, Auxiliary Transport Service, Civil Pay and Accounts Service, Auxiliary Rescue & Demolition Corps, Auxiliary Quartering Corps, Staffs of Lighthouses, District Watch Force.

All who served in regular Government Medical Service or approved Civilian Auxiliary Service whether in a unit under military or civil control.

3. (a) Part time as well as whole time civilian service in any of the organisations enumerated above will qualify.

(b) The period of service for the award of the Defence Modal in Hong Kong is as follows:— 1 day during the operational period 8.12.41 to 25.12.41. or 12 months during the non-operational period 3.9.39 to 7.12.41.

(c) No person shall be eligible for the award of the Defence Medal unless he (or she)

(i)    shall have been properly enrolled as a member of' one of the above organisations;

(ii)    shall have been available for duty up to the standard required from time to time; and

(iii) shall have performed such duty as and when required.

The Defence Medal is now also to be awarded to members of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps and Hong Kong Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in respect of 12 months service between 3.9.39 and 7.12.41.


It is also announced that members of the Hong Kong Police Force, Hong Kong Police Reserve and Special Constabulary will be eligible for the Award of the 1939-45 Star and the Pacific Star in respect of operational service during the period of the fighting, subject to the same conditions as in paragraph 3(c) above; in addition if, by reason of death, wounds or other disability attributable to hostilities or capture by the enemy they were prevented from accomplishing 28 days operational service they will be eligible for the British War Medal.

The 1939-45 Star and the Burma Star will also be granted to members of the British Army Aid Group who were active in China between 16.2.42 and 2.9.45. The qualification for the 1939-45 Star is six months full time subversive activity in enemy occupied territory, and entry into such subversive activity in enemy occupied China will qualify for the Burma Star. Those eligible will include civilian agents of the B.A.A.G. in South China, whether or not they were previously mobilised in H.M. Forces, either of British nationality or of dual nationality (British and Allied). Those who by virtue of military service before joining B.A.A.G. are eligible for the Pacific Star will be granted the Pacific Star and a clasp in lieu of the Burma Star.

A further announcement will he made shortly regarding submission of claims for the Defence Medal and Campaign Stars.

Page 3 of The China Mail, 1948-07-22 described how to apply:

Defence Medals Award

Instructions regarding applications for Defence Medals by members of Hong Kong’s wartime civilian defence services were announced yesterday by the Accountant-General's office.

A period of service qualifying for the award of the Defence Medal in the, Colony is one day during the operational period from December 8, 1941 to December 25, 1941, or 12 months during the non-operational period from September 3, 1939 to December 7, 1941. Part-time as well as whole civilian service will qualify.

Claims forms may be obtained from any Post Office.

Forms when completed should be enclosed in an envelope marked "Defence Medal Application” and sent to the Accountant-General, Treasury, Prince’s Building, Hong Kong.

The result of the claim will be notified to the claimant. If the claim is approved, the ribbon of the Defence Medal will be despatched to the address given by the claimant on the claim form. The production of the Medal cannot be undertaken for some considerable time, owing to other demands on manufacturing capacity in the United Kingdom. Arrangements for the issue of the Medal will be announced when the time arrives.

The organisations concerned are the Air Raid Precautions Corps, Fire Brigade and Auxiliary Fire Service, Auxiliary Communications Service, Labour Control Section of the Auxiliary Labour Corps, Auxiliary Ordnance Corps, Auxiliary Supply Corps, Auxiliary Transport Service, Civil Pay and Accounts Service, Auxiliary Rescue and Demolition Corps, Auxiliary Quartering Corps, Staffs of Lighthouses, District Watch Force, and all who served in regular Governmental Medical Service or approved civilian Auxiliary Service whether in a unit under military or civil control.

Members of the H.K.V.D.C., H.K.R.N.V.R., B.A.A.G., Hong Kong Police, Hong Kong Police Reserve and Hong Kong Special Constabulary who qualify for the award of medals and decorations will be dealt with under separate procedure.

The third match is on page 3 of The China Mail, 1950-09-16. It adds two more units of the Civil Defence organisation who are eligible to receive the medal: the Decontamination Service, and the Emergency Burial Service.

For completeness, the Occasional Paper #6 mentioned above says that:

Members of the HKVDC who were mobilised in December, 1941 and who took part in the defence of Hong Kong against the Japanese attack were eligible to be awarded four medals – the War Medal, the Defence Medal, the 1939-1945 Star and the Pacific Star.

Anthony, by pure coincidence i have a copy of Evan Stewart's book sitting in a bag awaiting donation to my local book store. If you give your address details to David then i would be happy to post it to you or pass it onto David for you.




You are a champion.  David would have my contact details so that we can tick-tack by email.

Would be more than pleased to cover cost for post and return your consideration in kind.

Anthony - I've asked David to forward my email to you. When you get it please feel free to contact me directly with your postal address and I can pop it in the post. Don't worry, you can buy me a beer the next time visit HK.


Submitted by on
Tue, 04/05/2016 - 21:07

Has anyone come across any list of Defence Medal recipients in Hong Kong? I have been puzzled by the award of this medal to a deceased relative, and wondering which criterion he met. I am not aware of his membership in any of the organusations named in the comment above. Thank you.

My late-father Paul Tsui was awarded the Defence Medal for serving as an Assistant Fire Officer in the Auxiliary Fire Service in 1941.  He was posted to a garage at Caine Rd near the Catholic Cathedral (probably where Grand Court once stood) with a small team and a taxi pulling a pump. No bomb fell at this precinct. The taxi was commandeered by some British soldiers... I think he enlisted in the Auxiliary Fire Service as a HKU Undergrad because all Local British Subjects (being HK-born) have to enlist in one of the essential services during the mobilisation.  

One of his younger brothers, Mark Tsui, who was with him at HKU, did not seem to have served in the mobilisation because he was born in Mainland China, thus not a British Subject, and hence did not get a Defence Medal post-war.  He was awarded the King's Medal for his BAAG service, but I do not remember seeing him wear the Burma Star and the 1939-1945 Medal, for which he must be qualified, when he joined the HKVDF post-war. 

In my recollection, post-war, Paul Tsui was initially given the Pacific Star for his BAAG service during the War.  However, it was later exchanged for the Burma Star.  I knew because as a boy, it was my chore to shine his medals and gear for his HMOCS uniform.  I believe that was because the BAAG, though operating in China, came under the India-Burma Theatre of War, rather than the China or Pacific Theatres.


Hi Lawrence,
Thank you for sharing your family history about medals and decorations. Did one need to apply for the campaign stars? I had always thought that the military units would have taken care of such matters.

As I recall, there was considerable confusion on the details of those that were engaged in the defence of Hong Kong for some years after the War.  This was because records were not maintained, were destroyed or lost althogether.  The military personnel received their awards without having to claim because their details were more reliable and accurate.  The non-military people were the forgotten and in most cases had to lodge a claim which was subsequently verified by the UK War Office.  Many non-military personnel that engaged in the defence did not lodge a claim because they and their families were too occupied with matters of survival, repatriation, rebuilding their lives and/or forgetting their personal horrors that befell them. Late lodgements can always be made to the UK Department of Defence Medals Office.

Not sure if this is the right place for this observation ... my Grandma Martha, known as Joan Staple, and great-aunt Isa Warbrick, were nurses in Stanley and remembered by Barbara Anslow (a precious link).  I found in my late mum's things a letter from Buckingham Palace and signed by George R.I. bidding a warm welcome home and paying tribute to their courage (this may be a standard letter). I also have one signed by Governor, Mark Young, dated 1st January 1947, addressed to my grandmother, expressing 'personal gratitude' .... seeing that your  conduct is known to me to have merited commendation'.  As far as I know this is the only recognition they got as nurses in Stanley. After initial repatriation, my great aunt had to return for a time to be eligible for her pension!  I still don't really know what they went through before being taken into Stanley, or where they were - I think they worked at Queen Mary's but understand they were not together when rounded up ... I wish there had been better recognition of their war experience.       


Your Grandma and great-aunt were eligible to receive the Defence Medal, based on the "Qualifications" given above:

All who served in regular Government Medical Service or approved Civilian Auxiliary Service whether in a unit under military or civil control.

From the following exchange, the Auxiliary Nursing Service (ANS) was initially left off the list of groups eligible for the Defence Medal, but that was corrected in late 1947:


HC Deb 20 November 1947 vol 444 cc1328-9 1328
§46. Sir Jocelyn Lucas asked the Prime Minister when it is intended to authorise the issue of Defence Medals to members of the Hong Kong Auxiliary Nursing Service and the Malayan Nursing Service, who were captured by the Japanese whilst on duty, in view of the fact that V.A.Ds. doing identical duty were awarded two war medals.
§Mr. H. Morrison I have been asked to reply. The Governor-General, Malaya, who has been co-ordinating action on questions of this nature with the governors of certain territories in the Far East, including Hong Kong and Malaya, has been authorised to arrange for the award of the Defence Medal ribbon to members of the Auxiliary Nursing Service in Hong Kong and the corresponding service in Malaya who were properly enrolled and rendered at least one day's service in the periods from 8th December, 1941, to 25th December, 1941, and from 8th December, 1941, to 15th February, 1942, respectively.

From Hansard: http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1947/nov/20/nursing-services…

Many thanks for your replies, much appreciated. My Grandma and aunt were not I think Auxiliary nurses but Colonial Service  - my grandma was a nursing sister and my aunt a radiographer before the were in Stanley - does this make a difference? I can believe that had they received the Defence Medal that they would not have talked about it but we have never found one for either of them, or with any other members of the the family (they had four remaining siblings from seven after Stanley) - in a way it's not the medal per se that bothers me (though I will follow up), I'm trying to find out more about their lives in Hong Kong and made some progress (with great thanks to this site and genealogy sites) but I was so disappointed at the VJ commemorations last year that they seemed to get no mention - I later found out that Barbara Anslow did take part but I missed her - this was set me on following up their story ..    

I decided to pusue Grandma Martha Staple and great-aunt Isa Warbrick's eligibilty for any recognition through a missing medals site. The lady who replied said that they would not have been eligible as not in defence - so basically, it seems as suspected, that their bravery and selflessness in Stanley merited no official recognition - which is why I'm writing a book about them as it bugged me watching the TV coverage on VJ Day that so many groups have been retrospectively recognised - but not them.  

I think the lady who replied that your grandmother and great-aunt weren't eligible is wrong. If you look at the newspaper clipping above, it says:

In Command Paper 6833 issued in June. 1946, it was announced that the Defence Medal would be granted for certain specified categories of civilian service...

And further down it says that people qualified to receive the medal included:

All who served in regular Government Medical Service or approved Civilian Auxiliary Service whether in a unit under military or civil control.

So no medal for being in Stanley, but they should be eligible to receive the Defence Medal for their nursing in December 1941.

Was it the UK's MOD that you've been in contact with? They have the Defence Medal listed as one of the medals they deal with, see: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/medals-campaigns-descriptions-and-eligibili…

Regards, David

Thank you David for helping me through the maze again. I followed advice further above but then couldn't find where on the different MOD sites put up, I might find what I was looking for - everything seems to relate to military or volunteer defence work. The lady I mentioned was from a Missing Medals site. My ladies were both nursing in HK in 1941 but I don't know at which hospitals - possibly Queen Mary's but I understand from my only relative who can help that they were not together when rounding up was going on and so know nothing about them actually entering Camp - this is a very big blank in my story which I'd love to know more about. I still think it a shame that what they did in camp merits no particular recognition - Barbara told me they were always pristine despite the conditions, and I have an idea they went without their own rations at times to donate to others. Of course I realise they were working among many others of equal merit but again so little information from my reading so far. 

I asked Stephen Verralls of The Orders and Medals Research Society if he knew of any lists. He replied:

There is no complete list as claims were dealt with by individual departments. I have copies of most of the Police awards of the medal, but the records are disjointed and may not be complete. For the Volunteers the MOD may now have the records……. for other bodies such as ARP etc I have no idea.

If anyone wants to investigate further, a visit to the Public Records Office might turn up more information. A search for "Defence Medal" in their records returns 8 matches:

My late grandfather was a recipient of the Defence Medal in HK, although we don't know exactly what for. One relative made vague reference to him perfoming some act of bravery whilst in the fire brigade, but nobody is really sure.

Is it possible to find out on what basis an individual was awarded the Defence Medal?

As far as I can tell from the newspaper clippings above, the Defence Medal was given to members of certain groups, not for any individual acts of bravery. The list of eligible groups includes "Fire Brigade and Auxiliary Fire Service", so if your grandfather was a member of either of those, that would explain him receiving the Defence Medal.

My follow up question then would be whether the Fire Brigade keep personnel records such that I would be able to find out what unit my grandfather served in?

Does anyone know where I could find official records showing that my late mother, Mabel Hall, was a member of the Nursing Detachment, HKVDC?

I was informed by a friend earlier this year that she was entitled to a WW2 Defence Medal.

On 19 August 2020, in reply to my letter dated 11 June 2020 to the MOD Medal Office ('MODMO'), in which I enclosed a completed Medal Application Form, I was told:

" The MODMO does not hold or have access to records for the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Force. I regret that we can be of no further assistance."

In my follow up letter dated 23 August 2020, I suggested to Mrs L H Addison that she should go to the website Hong Kong War Diary maintained by Tony Banham, where she will find details of all the HKVDC units involved in the Battle for Hong Kong in 1941, including the Nursing Detachment with my mother's name thereon.

I wrote further letters on 2 and 22 October 2020, which were not acknowledged until this morning, when a gentleman from the MODMO phoned me to say nothing can be done without official HKVDC proof.

Maybe someone out there can help.

Kind regards


A past chairman of the Royal Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers) Association told me a few days ago that only nurses listed in the Nursing Detachment, HKVDC who MOBILISED FOR SERVICE ON 8TH DECEMBER 1941 would be entitled to the Defence Medal. My mother Mabel Hall, nurse ND55 did not mobilise, so I am now satisfied that she would not have been entitled. Relatives of the listed nurses should contact the above mentioned Association at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Happy Valley, Hong Kong.
Unfortunately, no one knows where the records of the disbanded Hong Kong Regiment are presently archived.

Peter Hall