Indian Order of Merit

Indian Order of Merit

Indian Order of Merit (2nd Class, Military Division) (top)
Ribbon (bottom)
Awarded by British Empire
Type Military decoration
Eligibility Indian citizens in the armed forces and civilians (civilian division)
Awarded for Gallantry
Status Discontinued in 1947
Post-nominals IOM
Established 1837
Next (higher) Victoria Cross
Indian Order of Merit, First Second and Third Classes

The Indian Order of Merit (IOM) was a military and civilian decoration of British India. It was established in 1837, (General Order of the Governor-General of India, No. 94 of 1 May 1837)[1] although following the Partition of India in 1947 it was decided to discontinue the award and in 1954 a separate Indian honours system was developed, to act retrospectively to 1947. For a long period of time the IOM was the highest decoration that a native member of the British Indian Army could receive and initially it had three divisions. This was changed in 1911 when Indian servicemen became eligible for the Victoria Cross. A civilian division of the IOM also existed between 1902 and 1939, however, it was only conferred very rarely.


The medal was first introduced by the East India Company in 1837, under the name "Order of Merit" and was taken over by the Crown in 1858, following the Indian Mutiny of 1857. The name of the medal was changed in 1902 to avoid confusion with a British Order of the same name.[2] The Indian Order of Merit was the only gallantry medal available to Native soldiers between 1837 and 1907 when the Indian Distinguished Service Medal was introduced, and when the Victoria Cross was opened to native soldiers in 1911. Both divisions of the order were removed when India became independent in 1947. Recipients receive the post nominal letters IOM.

The original object was to "afford personal reward for personal bravery without reference to any claims founded on mere length of service and general good conduct"[1]

The medal

Military Division

The medal was originally introduced with three classes (first, second and third classes), until others medals were made available to Indian soldiers, at which point it was reduced to two classes (the Victoria Cross replacing the first class), and reduced to one class in 1944. A recipient technically needed to be in possession of the lower class before being awarded a higher class, although recipients were sometimes awarded the higher class if they performed more than one act of gallantry, then they may have been awarded the higher class, without receiving the lower one. The recipients of the order received increased pay and pension allowances and were very highly regarded.[1]

Civil Division

A civil division was available in two classes between 1902 and 1939, when it was reduced to one class. The civil medal was rarely awarded.


Third Class

Eight pointed dull silver star with blue circle, surrounded by silver laurels, in the middle, with crossed swords and the words Awarded for Valour, this was changed to Awarded for Gallantry in 1944.

Conspicuous act of individual gallantry on the part of any Native Officers or Soldiers, in the Field or in the attack or defence of a Fortified place, without distinction of rank or grade.[1]

Second Class

Eight pointed shiny silver star with blue circle, surrounded by gold laurels in the middle, with crossed swords and the words Awarded for Valour, this was changed to Awarded for Gallantry in 1944.

To be obtained by those who already possess the third and for similar services.[1]

First Class

Eight pointed gold star with blue circle, surrounded by gold laurels in the middle, with crossed swords and the words Awarded for Valour, this was changed to Awarded for Gallantry in 1944.

To be obtained in like manner only by those who possess the third and second classes.[1]

Lieutenant Sardar Bahadur Ahmadullah Khan, Khan Bahadur, IOM, OBI (1st Class 1 January 1909), IMD Khillat Sword of Honour, Jagirdar and Honorary Magistrate.2nd Class Order of Merit for consipicous gallantry. In action at Ghazikot on the Black Mountain (Hazara) on 19 March 1891, on which occasional not with standing his being exposed to heavy fire he performed his duties of attending to the wounded in a most energetic manner & also defended a wounded man against a fanatic who rushed up and endeavoured to kill him. (4) Good and Meritorious Service rendered with Waziristan delimitation escort were recognized by the India in his Letter No.3106 Dated 03-10-1895.


Dark Blue ribbon flanked by two red stripes of about a sixth of the width.[1]

Some recipients

Many IOMs were awarded until 1947, and some of these included:


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Calcutta Monthly Journal and General Register 1837". p. 60.
  2. "Indian Order of Merit Badge of the 1st Class Military Division, 1837-1912.". National Army Museum.

Duckers, Peter (2009) [2004]. British Orders and Decorations. Oxford: Shire Publications. ISBN 978-0-7478-0580-9. OCLC 55587484. 

Further reading

C Parrett & Rana Chhina (2010). "Indian Order of Merit: Historical Records, 1837-1860" Vol I. Tom Donovan Editions, Brighton, UK. . Further volumes of this comprehensive work are in the process of compilation and will bring the records up to 1947, ultimately.

External links

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