Louw Wepener Decoration

Louw Wepener Decoration
Awarded by the Monarch of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realms and, from 1961, the State President
Country  South Africa
Type Military decoration for bravery
Eligibility All Ranks
Awarded for Acts of the most conspicuous courage or greatest heroism
Status Discontinued in 1975
Clasps Bar for subsequent award
Post-nominals LWD
Established 1952
First awarded 1961
Last awarded 1974
Total awarded 7
SADF pre-1994 & SANDF post-2002 orders of wear
Next (higher)
SADF precedence:
SANDF precedence:
Next (lower)
SADF succession:

Ribbon bar

The Louw Wepener Decoration, post-nominal letters LWD, is a military decoration for bravery which was instituted by the Union of South Africa in 1952. It was awarded to members of the South African Defence Force for acts of the most conspicuous courage or greatest heroism. The decoration was discontinued on 1 July 1975, when a new set of decorations and medals was instituted.[1]

The South African military

The Union Defence Forces (UDF) were established in 1912 and renamed the South African Defence Force (SADF) in 1958. On 27 April 1994, it was integrated with six other independent forces into the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).[2][3][4]


The Louw Wepener Decoration, post-nominal letters LWD, was instituted by Queen Elizabeth II on 6 April 1952, during the Tercentenary Van Riebeeck Festival. From 1967, it was the senior of a set of two decorations for bravery, along with the Louw Wepener Medal which was instituted in that year.[1][5]

Award criteria

The Louw Wepener Decoration could be awarded to all ranks for acts of most conspicuous courage or the greatest heroism in circumstances of great danger, and was primarily a non-combat decoration. A Bar could be awarded for a further similar deed of bravery. The decoration was instituted in honour of Louw Wepener who, in 1865, lost his life whilst leading his burghers in an attack on a Basotho stronghold on Thaba Bosigo, during the Basuto Wars of 1858 to 1865.[2]

Only seven awards were made, the first in 1961 and the last in 1974. No bar to the decoration was ever awarded.[2]

Order of wear

With effect from 6 April 1952, when the Louw Wepener Decoration and several other new decorations and medals were instituted, these new awards took precedence before all earlier British decorations and medals awarded to South Africans, with the exception of the Victoria Cross, which still took precedence before all other awards. The other older British awards continued to be worn in the order prescribed by the British Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood.[6][7][8]

The position of the Louw Wepener Decoration in the official order of precedence was revised to accommodate the inclusion of the decorations and medals of Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei, upon their integration into the South African National Defence Force in 1994.

South African Defence Force until 26 April 1994

South African National Defence Force from 27 April 1994

The position of the Louw Wepener Decoration in the order of wear remained unchanged, as it was on 27 April 1994, when decorations and medals were instituted for Umkhonto we Sizwe and the Azanian People's Liberation Army in April 1996, and when a new series of military orders, decorations and medals was instituted on 27 April 2003.[8]



The Louw Wepener Decoration is a silver medallion, 38 millimetres in diameter, which depicts the mountain peak of Thaba Bosigo, with two men on horseback at its foot. Below the horsemen are the words "THABA BOSIGO, 1865" and around the circumference are the words "LOUW WEPENER" at the top and "DECORATION • DEKORASIE" at the bottom.


The reverse has the pre-1994 South African Coat of Arms, with the decoration number impressed at the bottom on the rim. Specimens which were minted and awarded before South Africa became a republic on 31 May 1961, had Queen Elizabeth's royal cipher (E II R) above the Coat of Arms.


The ribbon is 1 38 inches (35 millimetres) wide and orange, with five white bands, all 18 inch (3.2 millimetres) wide and spaced 18 inch (3.2 millimetres) apart.


The bar, to denote a subsequent award of the decoration, is 1 38 inches (35 millimetres) wide and in silver, with the encircled letters "LWD" in the centre. When only ribbon bars are worn, a recipient of a subsequent award would have worn a silver button with the encircled letters "LWD", 8 millimetres (0.31 inches) in diameter, on the ribbon bar.


Conferment of the decoration was discontinued in respect of services performed on or after 1 July 1975, when a new set of decorations and medals was instituted.[3]


Name Rank Service
Unit Date
Nel, D.vZ. [lower-alpha 1] 2 Lt SA Army SSB 19 May 1961
van Aswegen, W.A.G. (Willem) [lower-alpha 1] Sgt SA Army SSB 19 May 1961
Stephens, F.P. [lower-alpha 2] Sgt SA Army SACMP 1 Nov 1963
van Wyk, H.H. [lower-alpha 3] Rfn SA Army 1 SAI 1 Nov 1963
van Heerden, J.H. [lower-alpha 4] Cmdt SA Army Middle Karoo Commando 15 Aug 1969
Britz, J.P.  [lower-alpha 5] Maj SAAF 1 Sqn 19 Mar 1970
Zeelie, F.J.  [lower-alpha 6] Lt SA Army 1 RR 6 Dec 1974

Note 1:  denotes a posthumous award.

Actions cited for

  1. 1 2 Nel & Van Aswegen Lieutenant Nel and Sergeant van Aswegen climbed aboard a burning armoured car at a public event, to rescue the crew and extinguish the fire to prevent an explosion.[2]
  2. Stephens, F.P. Sergeant Stephens defused an explosive device which had been placed on a railway line.
  3. Van Wyk Rifleman van Wyk jumped onto the wing of an incoming light aircraft with a damaged wheel to help the pilot land safely.
  4. Van Heerden Commandant van Heerden picked up and tossed a live grenade clear of a training group, at risk of his own life.[10]
  5. Britz Major Britz prevented his stricken Sabre fighter aircraft from crashing into a built-up area in Pietersburg, by staying at the controls instead of ejecting by parachute.[10]
  6. Zeelie Lieutenant Zeelie single-handedly stormed an enemy position. He was the first SADF casualty in combat in the 1966-1989 Border War.[10]


  1. 1 2 South African Medal Website - Post-nominal Letters (Accessed 28 April 2015)
  2. 1 2 3 4 South African Medal Website - SA Defence Force : 1952-1975 (Accessed 30 April 2015)
  3. 1 2 South African Medal Website - SA Defence Force : 1975-2003 (Accessed 30 April 2015)
  4. Republic of South Africa Government Gazette Vol. 457, no. 25213, Pretoria, 25 July 2003
  5. CometoCapeTown.com Blast from the past – Van Riebeeck festival in 1952
  6. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 56878. p. 3352. 17 March 2003. (Access date 14 April 2015)
  7. Government Notice no. 1982 of 1 October 1954 - Order of Precedence of Orders, Decorations and Medals, published in the Government Gazette of 1 October 1954.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Republic of South Africa Government Gazette Vol. 477, no. 27376, Pretoria, 11 March 2005, OCLC 72827981
  9. 1 2 Republic of South Africa Government Gazette no. 15093, Pretoria, 3 September 1993
  10. 1 2 3 Uys, Ian (1992). Cross of Honour. Germiston: Uys. pp. 3, 8, 1. ISBN 0958317321.
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