The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
BRITISH ORDER OF KNIGHTHOODWRITTEN BY:
See Article HistoryAlternative Titles: C.B.E., D.B.E., G.B.E., K.B.E., M.B.E., O.B.E.
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, British order of knighthood instituted in 1917 by King George V to reward both civilian and military wartime service, although currently the honour is bestowed for meritorious service to the government in peace as well as for gallantry in wartime. In 1918 a separate military division of the order was created.The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire QUICK FACTS DATE
- 1917 – present
The five classes of both civil and military divisions, listed in descending order and conferred on men and women equally, are Knight and Dame Grand Cross (GBE), Knight and Dame Commander (KBE and DBE, respectively), Commander (CBE), Officer (OBE), and Member (MBE). Conferment of the two highest classes entails admission into knighthood, if the candidate is not already a knight or dame, and the right to the title of “Sir” or “Dame” as appropriate. (Knights and Dames Grand Cross, together with Knights of the Garter and of the Thistle, may be granted the use of supporters with their arms.) Appointments are usually made on the recommendation of the British Secretary of State for Defence and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.
The officers of the order are Prelate (the Lord Bishop of London), King of Arms, Registrar, Secretary, Dean (Dean of St. Paul’s), and Gentleman Usher of the Purple Rod. The chapel of the order is in the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. The insignia bear likenesses of King George V and Queen Mary, together with the motto “For God and the Empire.”
Associated with this order is the British Empire Medal (BEM) instituted by George V. This award for meritorious service is given to both civilians and military personnel who are not eligible for admission into any of the five classes of the order.
THREE SERVICES AS ONE FORCE, BEING THE BEST IN EVERYTHING WE DO
BRITISH COMMONWEALTH STATE ORDERS – THE MOST EXCELLENT ORDER OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE
Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
Note: The Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire pictured (above left) is shown with the Military Division ribbon 2nd type (1936 onwards). The Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire pictured (above right) is shown with the Military Division ribbon 1st type (1918 to 1936).
About this Order
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire was established by King George V in June 1917 for services to the British Empire. The Order has five classes and a medal. The five classes are Knight and Dame Grand Cross (GBE), Knight and Dame Commander (KBE / DBE), Commander (CBE), Officer (OBE), and Member (MBE). The medal is the British Empire Medal.
In December 1918 the Order was split into two divisions: a Civil Division for civilian recipients; and a Military Division to the Order for awards to be conferred on commissioned officers and warrant officers for distinguished service in action. The Military Division of the Order has a different coloured ribbon to that of the Civil Division. The insignia of the Civil and Military Divisions is identical, distinguished only by the respective ribbons.
Prior to the creation of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1996, the Order of the British Empire was the most common honour for meritorious service awarded to New Zealand military personnel.
About the ribbon
1st type – 1917 to 1936. A purple 38mm ribbon was used for all awards from June 1917 to December 1918, and for Civil Division awards between December 1918 and 1936. Awards under the Military Division of the Order between December 1918 and 1936 were distinguished with a narrow central scarlet stripe on the purple ribbon.
2nd type – 1936 onwards. Awards under the Civil Division of the Order since 1936 have had a 38mm ribbon of rose-gray, edged with narrow stripes of pearl grey. Awards under the Military Division of the Order are distinguished with a narrow central stripe of pearl-grey.
British State Honours are instituted under Royal Warrants signed by the reigning Sovereign at the time the Order or Honour was created. More information on British State Honours can be viewed here.
Most State Honours do not have separate Regulations. Instructions for the administration of the Order or Honour are usually included in the Royal Warrant. The composite document containing the Royal Warrant and Instructions is usually referred to as the Statutes of the Order.
Clasps and Bars
Between 1957 and 1974, an emblem of silver crossed oak leaves was added to the ribbon of the Commander (CBE), Officer (OBE), and Member (MBE), when the award was made in recognition of an act or acts of gallantry.
Order of Wear
The position of these honours in the Wearing of Medals in New Zealand Table can be viewed through the following links: Knight and Dame Grand Cross (GBE), Knight and Dame Commander (KBE / DBE), Commander (CBE), Officer (OBE), and Member (MBE).
Knights and Dames Rolls
The New Zealand Honours Secretariat maintains Knights and Dames Rolls for New Zealanders appointed to these classes of various British and New Zealand Orders.
Lists of Appointments to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
The last two New Zealand lists of appointments to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire are published on the New Zealand Honours Unit website:
30 December 1995 – The New Year Honours List 1996
5 June 1995 – The Queen’s Birthday Honours List 1995
Earlier lists of Appointments to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire are available online on:
For example, the New Zealand New Year Honours List 1959 is viewable (in three separate pdf files) at:
For more information on awards and accreditations in The Gazette see: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/all-notices/content/103 – ‘A Personal and National Record of Achievement: awards and accreditations in The Gazette’ (includes the London Gazette, the Edinburgh Gazette and the Belfast Gazette)
2) Most of the New Zealand Honours Lists since 1952 are also available as text on Wikipedia.
For example, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1959_New_Year_Honours for the text of the New Zealand New Year Honours List 1959.
Each Wikipedia entry also provides a link to the first page of the relevant London Gazette announcement, from which the other pages can be accessed.
It is not known who added this large amount of information about New Zealand Honours Lists to Wikipedia.
Please note that the Wikipedia lists are not authoritative and any data should be checked against the original source: the New Zealand Gazette (available online for awards since 1993) or the London Gazette.
Notes on The London Gazette announcements:
1. For civilians these include a brief description of the meritorious service being recognised. For example, ‘for services to the community’, or ‘for services to drama’.
2. For military personnel the London Gazette announcement does not describe the service being recognised.
3. Service numbers for military personnel were normally included in the London Gazette announcement. The exception is for older honours lists, for example from the 1950s, where service numbers were not included for officers of the Royal New Zealand Navy and Royal New Zealand Air Force, but were included for other ranks (tri-Service) and for New Zealand Army officers.
4. The New Year and Sovereign’s Birthday Honours Lists published in the London Gazette also include some awards of the Air Force Cross, the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air, the Queen’s Fire Service Medal for Distinguished Service, and the Queen’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service.
NAVIGATION FOR BRITISH COMMONWEALTH STATE ORDERS
- The Most Honourable Order of the Bath
- The Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George
- The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
- The British Empire Medal
- Knight Bachelor’s Badge
- Ribbons of British Commonwealth State Orders
- Dynastic Honours
- NZ State Orders
- NZ Campaign Medals
- NZ Gallantry & Bravery Awards
- NZ Long Service & Good Conduct Awards
- NZ Special Service Medals
- Miscellaneous NZ Medals & Awards
- British Commonwealth State Orders
- British Commonwealth War and Campaign Medals Awarded to New Zealanders
- British Commonwealth Gallantry, Meritorious & Distinguished Service Awards
- British Commonwealth Jubilee and Coronation Medals
- United Nations Medals
- Other Foreign Campaign Medals Awarded to New Zealanders
- Unit Citations Awarded to New Zealand Military Units
- New Zealand Defence Service Medal