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Airline pilots wearing medal ribbons on tunic

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Airline pilots wearing medal ribbons on tunic

Old 24th Apr 2022, 19:16
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Airline pilots wearing medal ribbons on tunic

I have noticed on a number of vintage airline photographs pilots wearing war decoration and medal ribbons on their uniform tunics below (and oddly sometimes above) their pilot wings.
So far I have seen pre-1939 ribbons on Imperial Airways uniforms, WW2 and Korean War ribbons on those of BOAC, BEA, Qantas and SAA.
Were there any other airlines that followed this practice, was it unique to the British sphere of influence and did it fade away with the last of the veterans of these conflicts? I know pilots of SAA wore ribbons certainly until the late 1970s.
Any further info on the subject will be much appreciated.

Last edited by AlphaMikeTango; 24th Apr 2022 at 19:52.
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Old 24th Apr 2022, 20:54
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I remember one pilot in the late 1980s who wore his long service medal ribbon on his airline jacket.
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Old 24th Apr 2022, 21:01
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The wearing of medal ribbons in various occupations is currently quite common in Oz, and generally appreciated by the public. Many of our volunteer BloodBikes Australia riders have their ribbons on their BBA Vest, I see no issue with that either.
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Old 25th Apr 2022, 06:57
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More than one of my airline contemporaries (UK, 1980s onward) wore military ribbons from their service in the 1960s. Nobody seemed to comment.
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Old 25th Apr 2022, 07:05
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" More than one of my airline contemporaries (UK, 1980s onward) wore military ribbons from their service in the 1960s. Nobody seemed to comment."

What could you honestly say - as a gentleman?
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Old 25th Apr 2022, 07:12
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Originally Posted by kenparry View Post
More than one of my airline contemporaries (UK, 1980s onward) wore military ribbons from their service in the 1960s. Nobody seemed to comment.
Similar here, up until a couple of years back I worked at a large UK airline with for example one individual who wore ribbons due service in the Falklands conflict, another one ribbons due to their service with the Australian armed Forces.

Last edited by wiggy; 25th Apr 2022 at 08:17.
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Old 25th Apr 2022, 07:53
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Don’t see the problem wearing ribbons with any uniform. Have seen them recently on police, fire and ambulance workers - when they’re wearing “best”.

Used to be more widespread; in my youth (50s and 60s) you could see ‘bus conductors and tube drivers with ribbons. My old Scoutmaster (“Chiefy” Johnson) wore his ribbons on his scout shirt!
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Old 25th Apr 2022, 19:04
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MoD doesn't allow service personnel who were awarded the 'Liberation of Kuwait' medals by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to wear them on their service uniforms - but presumably once they've left the service they could wear them plus other medals on airline uniforms, scout leader uniforms etc. or when 'black tie with miniatures' is the dress code for non-active service personnel?
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Old 25th Apr 2022, 19:49
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After WW2 I was told many airlines mandated the wearing of service ribbons.
It was supposedly to convince passengers they were flying with professionals in charge.
It was also very difficult to even be considered for hiring if you were not a former service pilot.
Of course multi engine pilots had a better chance than single engine pilots as they had better IFR skills.
This PO’d many civil pilots who had flown for RAF Ferry Command and accumulated many hours of ocean flying.
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Old 26th Apr 2022, 13:32
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In my last airline (thousand+ of pilots) I never saw this once, nor in previous airlines.
I once worked for a charter company that employed a pompous prat part-time who wore a Falklands ribbon on his jacket which made everyone wince.
The ops manager pointed to it and asked, "Bloggs, why have you got a wine-gum stuck on your uniform?"
Brought the house down!

Last edited by meleagertoo; 27th Apr 2022 at 08:59.
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Old 26th Apr 2022, 19:18
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A pilot I worked with wore medal ribbons that included the DFC. Why not, he’d earned it? Campaign medals, the GSM, these days the LSGC medal and Jubilee medals. Well, I suppose it’s down to the individual and their decision might tell you something about them. I also know a few who opt not to wear medals on any occasion..

As an aside, I once asked a USN colleague about his ribbons. He went through them all but omitted one of them. “What about that one? I asked” “Well” he said, “1965 was declared National Defense Year and everyone in the forces got the ribbon. It’’s called Alive in ‘65! “

YS
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Old 26th Apr 2022, 20:34
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I flew on a transport squadron in the mid-sixties and one of the co-pilots, who'd been a Siggie on Vallettas for a very long time in the Far East, had an AFM and the Oak Leaf on his pre '62 GSM.
He went to BEA and I always thought he'd be perfectly entitled to wear the medals on his uniform.
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Old 26th Apr 2022, 21:39
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BOAC crews would have earned WW2 medals.
Atlantic Star for the Return Ferry Liberator crews.
Africa Star for those operating from Cairo to the Western Desert.
And presumably the Leuchars to Stockholm crews dodging FW190s.Ernest Gann said "This is airline flying?"
Flights from Prestwick to Moscow over enemy territory.
And flying supplies into Malta during the siege.
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Old 27th Apr 2022, 00:28
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Only time I've ever worn medals is for the ANZAC day march, Monday just gone. Never wore ribbons or medals (my choice) when in the military as our service refused to recognise our Vietnam service and wouldn't allow us to accept decorations made by the US even though we had served in a US unit, one chap finally received his Silver Star some 20 years after the event.
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Old 27th Apr 2022, 18:56
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Thank you for all the comments - very interesting and useful.
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Old 27th Apr 2022, 22:06
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An excolleague of mine chose to wear medals on his civvy pilot's uniform; I think the company encouraged it. I chose not to wear mine.
Personal choice.
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Old 28th Apr 2022, 15:35
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Originally Posted by albatross View Post
After WW2 I was told many airlines mandated the wearing of service ribbons.
It was supposedly to convince passengers they were flying with professionals in charge.
It was also very difficult to even be considered for hiring if you were not a former service pilot.
Of course multi engine pilots had a better chance than single engine pilots as they had better IFR skills.
This PO’d many civil pilots who had flown for RAF Ferry Command and accumulated many hours of ocean flying.
Yes, when I joined BOAC in the late 1960s the ex WW2 captains wore their ribbons and many were highly decorated.
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Old 28th Apr 2022, 15:53
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I can also remember several ex-RAF wartime pilots wearing their medals ribbons on their airline uniform and they looked absolutely fine. Mind you, we are talking real campaign ribbons and DFCs etc. One day I was going flying and I met one of my old flight commanders in the South Terminal at Gatwick. He had got a job as a Herald F/O and he was wearing his solitary GSM ribbon on his jacket. I thought it looked ridiculous.
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Old 28th Apr 2022, 18:27
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Originally Posted by JW411 View Post
I can also remember several ex-RAF wartime pilots wearing their medals ribbons on their airline uniform and they looked absolutely fine. Mind you, we are talking real campaign ribbons and DFCs etc. One day I was going flying and I met one of my old flight commanders in the South Terminal at Gatwick. He had got a job as a Herald F/O and he was wearing his solitary GSM ribbon on his jacket. I thought it looked ridiculous.
He must have been very proud of his ‘medal’ Jock.
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Old 29th Apr 2022, 07:39
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That´s the point .

Anyone with a significant medal normally isn´t the sort to boast and the people who wear their "insignificant" honours outside of suitable occasions look rather silly

Bit like putting MBE on your Business Card
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