My father was showing me his father's WWII medals for service in the South African military. Having found images depicting the official order of wear I noticed that some had reversed ribbons. I presume that this was simply a mistake, but can someone please confirm this?

  • The 1939-1945 Star is almost always depicted with the darker blue on the left, but ours is on the right.
  • The Africa Star is again almost always depicted with the darker blue on the left with ours in reverse (the image has a bar, but this is the only depiction of the reversed ribbon that I could find).
  • The Defence Medal that we have has its ribbon sewn such that the King's head would lie on the reverse when worn (i.e. I presume that one wouldn't wear a medal with the stitching visible).

The Defence Medal in particular is what lends me to believe that they are in error, but I thought that it was odd that 3 of 5 had this trait.

  • I must be missing it. The UK describes wearing the 1939-1945 Star with "the dark blue on the side furthest from the left shoulder"... isn't that what the Order of Wear document describes?
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 23:36
  • I have clarified what I mean by including links to images. Until I had enough reputation points I wasn't allowed more than 2 links in the original post. Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 5:00
  • Here's what I see. The first link is correct. When you're wearing it, dark blue on the right. The Australian picture (2nd link) is backwards. 3rd link is correct, and name is Joost. 4th Picture is backwards. Is that from a SA wearer? If so, it's wrong. There is no documentation that I can find giving authorization for SA wearers to wear their ribbons reversed.As you're wearing the 1939-1945 Star, it's Air Forces left, Army middle, and Navy/Merchant Marine on the right. The Africa Star should be the same (Navy, or Dark Blue) on the right.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 10:46
  • Note: I'm not making the above an answer, as I'm not done researching this.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 10:51
  • Thanks for the response thus far. Just to clarify; are you referring to wearer's left / right? Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 0:00

1 Answer 1


Different ribbons have different meanings. For example, the Order of the Crown (Prussia) can be worn on various ribbons to denote different things, such as the statutory ribbon (standard), a Kriegsband or War Ribbon for an award with swords denoting merit in war, or even a life-saving ribbon to denote multiple acts of life saving (over and above the original award of the Life-Saving Medal). However, a simply reversed ribbon is nothing more than a mistake. For example, the War Medal for the Austro-Prussian campaign against Denmark in 1864 has the Prussian Cypher on the left and the Austrian on the right. The ribbon's colors correspond (white stripe on the left, yellow on the right). In practice this was often ignored and the ribbon was mounted for wear in either direction.

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