Distinguished Service Order (DSO)

DSO

Awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat, serving under fire, and usually awarded to those above the rank of captain. Until 1943, the recipient must have been mentioned in despatches by the commander-in-chief of the Army, or admiral of the Navy.

Between 1914 and 1916, the DSO could also be awarded to staff officers when they were not under fire or in contact with the enemy, but by 1917, it was once more restricted to those who had served in the presence of the enemy. On 23 August 1916, a warrant allowed a bar to be awarded as a way of formally recognising further acts of merit.

First established

By Queen Victoria, 6 September 1886 (Gazette issue 25641): ‘We have instituted and created and by these presents, for Us, Our Heirs and Successors, do institute and create a new Naval and Military Order of Distinction.’

The first DSOs were awarded on 25 November 1886 (Gazette issue 25650).

WW1 recipient  

Lt Cdr Archibald Walter Buckle, RNVR (DSO and 3 bars), gazetted 4 March 1918

Buckle’s DSO was gazetted on 4 March 1918 (Gazette supplement 30555), awarded for actions during the Battle of Cambrai, northern France. The statement of service appeared in The Gazette on 16 August 1918 (Gazette supplement 30845):

‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When in command of a battalion detailed to counter-attack, he carried out a daring reconnaissance, under extremely heavy artillery fire, enabling him to form sound dispositions, which resulted in the recapture of an important position. Throughout the day his coolness and example inspired all ranks.’

Buckle’s first bar was detailed on 26 July 1918 (Gazette supplement 30813):

‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in command of a battalion. He repelled the enemy’s attack, organised a counter-attack, and drove the enemy completely out of the menaced area. It was largely due to his courage, initiative and leadership that this important success was obtained.’

On 11 January 1919, Buckle’s second bar was gazetted:

‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When the progress of the brigade at a critical moment was checked by machine gun fire, he went forward himself with his battalion staff, reorganised his battalion and led it forward on to commanding ground, seriously threatening the enemy's retreat. The success of the operation was largely due to his courage and fine leadership.’

His third bar appeared on 7 March 1919 (Gazette supplement 31219) and 4 October 1919 (Gazette supplement 31583):

‘During the fighting round Niergnies on 8th October, 1918, he showed great courage and powers of leadership. After the enemy had counter-attacked and succeeded in entering our lines, he seized an enemy antitank rifle and engaged three hostile tanks with it and drove them off. He then rallied men of various units in his neighbourhood and led them forward to the positions whence they had been forced. Throughout he did excellent work.’

London-born, and a school teacher by profession, Buckle was mentioned in despatches 5 times, and had risen to command the Anson Battalion in the Royal Naval Division which consisted of sailors who fought as soldiers on land. He was said to have cut short his honeymoon when war was declared to the call up of Royal Naval reservists. Winston Churchill described Buckle as one of the ‘salamanders born in the furnace,’ who survived ‘to lead, to command, and to preserve the sacred continuity.’