Background: Instituted on 6 September 1886, the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) was awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat. It was also awarded to officers, for gallantry at the second level. Following the Government led review of military honours in 1993, the DSO was no longer awarded for gallantry and may now only be awarded for outstanding leadership in the field. Despite the DSO being eligible for award to all ranks, it has remained an officer only award and has yet to be awarded to anyone of non-commissioned rank.

Design: The award is a gold, silver gilt cross with white enamel arms edged in gold. The obverse displays a central green enamel wreath circling the imperial crown mounted upon a red enamelled background. The reverse is similar with the exception that it bears the royal cypher within the enamelled wreath. A ring at the top of the cross attaches to a ring at the bottom of a gold suspension bar, ornamented with laurel. At the top of the ribbon is a second gold bar ornamented with laurel. The ribbon is red with blue edges. The Order is issued unnamed.

Bars: Further awards of the Order are denoted by the wearing of an additional bar on the ribbon for each award. Bars are plain gold with the imperial crown in the centre and the back of the bar is engraved with the year of the award. A rosette is worn centrally on the ribbon in undress uniform to signify the award of a bar.