Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air

The Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air, formerly the King's Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air, was a merit award for flying service awarded by the United Kingdom between 1942 and 1994.

Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air
Obverse of the civilian badge
Awarded by the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth
TypeDecoration for meritorious service
EligibilityBoth service personnel and civilians
Awarded forService while flying
StatusDiscontinued in 1994
DescriptionPin back badge / Ribbon device
Total awardedCirca 3,000

Bronze oak leaf device of military recipients


The King's Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air was first awarded in 1942 to reward both meritorious and gallant service while flying, not in the face of an enemy, that did not reach the standard required for the Air Force Cross or the Air Force Medal.[1] It could be awarded to both members of the British and Commonwealth Armed Forces and to civilians. It was renamed the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air in 1952, following the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne.[2] It was awarded until 1994 when replaced by the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery in the Air and the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service.[3]


Service personnel wear a bronze oak leaf device on the ribbon of the appropriate campaign medal, in the same way as those mentioned in dispatches. A smaller version of the oak leaf is attached to the ribbon when worn alone. Where no campaign medal is awarded, the oak leaf is worn directly on the coat after any medal ribbons. A recipient of both a King’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air and a mention in dispatches can wear two oak leaves on one ribbon.[1]

In 1945 a special badge was introduced for civilian recipients. Designed by Percy Metcalfe, and approved by King George VI in September 1945,[4] it is silver and consists of two raised wings creating an oval, surmounted by a crown and the words FOR VALUABLE SERVICE. It measures 1.1 inches (28 mm) in height and 0.7 inches (18 mm) wide.[5] It is worn on the coat immediately below any medals or medal ribbons or, in civil airline uniform, on the panel of the left breast pocket. If a recipient has no medals, the badge is worn in the position in which a single ribbon would be worn.[6] The reverse is plain, except for the attachment pin and, in some cases, a registration number.

Although renamed the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air in 1952,[7] this did not lead to a change of design.

All recipients also received a certificate, signed by the appropriate government minister.[4]


Approximately 3,000 Commendations for Valuable Service in the Air were awarded, including to service personnel and civilians.[8] Among the recipients were a number of civilian, RAF and RN test pilots who received the award in recognition of extraordinary flying during extreme conditions.

  • Anne Burns: aeronautical engineer, who took part in many test flights as a scientific observer, became the only woman to receive two Commendations for Valuable Service in the Air, in 1954[12] and 1962.[13]
  • Captain Eric Moody who on 24 June 1982 inadvertently flew a British Airways Flight into a cloud of volcanic ash resulting in the failure of all four engines. After gliding the aircraft out of the ash cloud, Moody was able to restart the engines and land the aircraft safely at Jakarta Airport.[16]
  • First Officer Alastair Stuart Atchison and cabin crew members Susan Gibbins and Nigel Ogden who averted the crash of British Airways flight 5390 on 10 June 1990.[17]

King's and Queen's Commendation awards

This table summarises the various King's and Queen's Commendations awarded by the United Kingdom:

PeriodFor BraveryFor Bravery (Air)For valuable serviceFor valuable service (Air)
1939 - 1952[6]King's Commendation for
Brave Conduct
King’s Commendation for
Valuable Service in the Air
1952 - 1994[7]Queen's Commendation for
Brave Conduct
Queen’s Commendation for
Valuable Service in the Air
From 1994[18]Queen's Commendation for
Queen's Commendation for
Bravery in the Air
Queen's Commendation for
Valuable Service


  1. Peter Duckers. British Gallantry Awards 1855 – 2000. pp. 56. Published by Shire Publications, Oxford, 2010.ISBN 978-0-7478-0516-8.
  2. Change to "Queen's Commendation" not announced in London Gazette, but used from "London Gazette: 30 May 1952 Supplement: 39554 Page:2950".
  3. "London Gazette: 12 August 1994 Issue:53760 Page:11527".
  4. P E Abbott & J M A Tamplin. British Gallantry Awards. 1981. pp. 303-304. Published by Nimrod Dix & Co, London, 1981.ISBN 0-902633-74-0
  5. King’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air, Imperial War Museum collections.
  6. "London Gazette: 24 July 1951 Supplement: 39294 Page:4035".
  7. "London Gazette: 14 January 1958 Supplement: 41285 Page:365".
  8. No complete figures have been published. British Gallantry Awards by Abbott & Tamplin, page 304, show numbers awarded for selected years, indicating an average of circa 60 a year over the 52 years of the award.
  9. "London Gazette: 31 December 1948 Supplement: 38493 Page:32".
  10. Guinness World Records. "First landing on an aircraft carrier". Guinnessworldrecords.com. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
  11. Luke Jones (14 November 2014). "Eric 'Winkle' Brown: The man who seemed not to notice danger". BBC. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  12. "London Gazette: 31 December 1954 Issue:40366 Page:34".
  13. "London Gazette: 28 December 1962 Issue:42870 Page:31".
  14. Laker crew honoured, Flight International, 26 February 1970, p. 291
  15. "No. 45042". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 February 1970. p. 1958..
  16. "No. 49375". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 June 1983. p. 28.
  17. "No. 52767". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1991. p. 27.Ogden's name was erroneously missed from published supplement.
  18. "Medals: campaigns, descriptions and eligibility". Ministry of Defence Medal Office. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
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