Over the past decade we have noticed a rampant increase in the number of people who are wearing their orders, decorations and medals incorrectly. The cadre of people who flagrantly violate the official rules on how you are supposed to wear your medals ranges from the average veteran right up to current and former Governors General. Indeed, there is much evidence to suggest that the higher the rank of the individual the more likely they are to just wear whatever they want, however they want. We like to think of this as “Instant Dictator Syndrome” or self-aggrandizement at its most obvious.

Why do people wear their medals incorrectly? Often it is because they simply do not know any better. If you are one of these people you should consult WEARING ORDERS, DECORATIONS AND MEDALS which is available from the Chancellery of Honours at Rideau Hall. This guide will help you figure out how you are supposed to wear your officially granted orders, decorations and medals.

When it comes to wearing your medals incorrectly the worst offenders tend to be former Governors General, Lieutenant Governors and retired Generals. When these people – all in authority and all surrounded by staff who know better – wear their medals wrong they are obviously suffering from the dreaded Instant Dictator Syndrome. The attitude accompanied with this most severe condition is “the more medals I wear the more important I will look.”

This simple blog is aimed at revealing the myriad of fellow Canadians who cannot seem to wear their medals correctly.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Poor Alberta

The Hon. Don Ethell

Earlier today I received this photo from a reader, it is perhaps the worst one yet of His Honour the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. Quite aside from the ridiculous looking beret bedecked with the sort of souvenir patch you get at those touristy shops in Banff to sew on your backpack, here is another photo of Colonel (ret) Ethell wearing two neck insignia simultaneously (which is against the rules in civilian attire) and his trademark medal bar -- twice the regulation length. As a former CF member and a Colonel he certainly knows how to wear his medals correctly, so there is no excuse. If public discussion is the only way to get people to follow the rules then I think we have found our new project.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Do's and Don'ts of Remembrance Day

That time of year when we gratefully acknowledge the contribution made to Canada by those who have served in the military is upon us. It is always helpful to review the do's and don'ts of Remembrance Day -- these rules are useful throughout the year.

First off, you CANNOT wear the medals of a deceased relative -- EVER! If you do you are breaking the Law and you can be fined or go to jail under Section 419-10 of the Criminal Code of Canada. 

Next, only wear official national honours on the left, and if you have association medals or other unofficial or unrecognized awards they can only be worn on the right side. The Royal Canadian Legion seems to have done a solid job of ensuring that most of its members wear their Legion Medals on the right side, and their official national honours on the left. 
Mr. Chadderton, a good example,
real medals on left,
 unofficial ones of the right.
Sadly, over the years some veterans have "enhanced" their groups of medals by adding a variety of unofficial (dare I say totally fake) medals. Such "fake medals" have been struck by various companies in the UK for all sorts of military operatsions that were never individually recognized by a separate medal. For instance there is a "Battle of Britain Medal" issued by some private mint in Britain. Just mail in your 35 pounds and say that you are entitled to this gem and it arrives in the mail. Never mind the fact that if you had really served in the Battle of Britain you would have almost certainly received the 1939-1945 Star with Battle of Britain Bar. If you want to see the myriad of "awards" click here

Mounting these fake medals in with official national honours is a violation of Order-in-Council 1998-591, which prohibits this sort of self-agrandizement. More evidence of the dreaded Instant Dictator Syndrome. Now some readers may be of the mindset that  "this person served Canada in the Second World War, Korea or in the Cold War, who are we to go after them for adding something." Well, the fact is that their contemporaries didn't dress up their medal groups with "fake medals," if they were serving members of the CF they would be charged for wearing "fake medals" and it is just patently wrong to engage in this sort of behaviour. 

How not to wear your medals
For those of you interested, the bad example is a UK veteran. On the left side, in addition to his 39-45 Star, Atlantic Star and 39-45 War Medal he has added the Dunkirk Medal (unofficial), and the Atlantic Convoy Medal (unofficial). His right breast is decorated with two Russian awards (one of which is almost certainly approved for wear in the UK for members of the Royal Navy who were involved in the northern convoys) the other two are indistinguishable

An Inauspicious Beginning

Where is H.E.'s CC?
A number of readers sent me photos of His Excellency the Governor General receiving the first poppy of the year in advance of Remembrance Day. While His Excellency was wearing his medal bar, he was not wearing any neck insignia, when in fact he should have been wearing his CC or CMM. It could be that he simply forgot to put it on when dressing, but this is a thin excuse. 

This is the sort of thing any half competent Aide de Camp or member of the Rideau Hall staff should have noticed. Let us hope this is not repeated -- it would be a real shame if Mr. Johnston was to adopt the attitude of one of his predecessors who patently refused to wear medals other than an infrequent display of his CC (see photo below for a clue of who it was). These sorts of things are not terribly complex and require only minor attention to detail. At the installation ceremony a month ago he was properly dressed with CC at the neck and medal bar on his breast. 

Even the CC was rarely worn.
Surely when you are appointed Governor General someone takes the time to explain that you are going to have to wear dress clothes much of the time and you will also have to wear medals on many occasions. As President of the University of Waterloo His Excellency regularly wore his academic gown on the appropriate occasions, so the transition from "academic garb" to "state garb" should be a natural one. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Vice-Regal Report Card

Duchesne, a good example
As a number of the Queen's representatives seem to have difficulty wearing their orders, decorations and medals correctly I thought it a good idea to put together a little report card. These various officials have all been graded on the basis of how they wear their medals -- for some it is an easy test. For the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec we give an automatic pass. Poor M. Duchesne has no medals to wear, so he could hardly wear them incorrectly. The Lieutenant Governors of Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Newfoundland and New Brunswick get an "A" for they all seem to be wearing their insignia correctly. Governor General David Johnston also gets an "A" for wearing his CC and two commemorative medals correctly. Saskatchewan gets an "A+" as Lieutenant Governor Barnhardt has done a stellar job of wearing his various insignia.
Lee, another good example
Lieutenant Governor Francis of Nova Scotia gets a "B-" for wearing her Order of Nova Scotia like an olympic athlete. A harsher grade has not been assigned as she does not seem to make this error often, at least not in photos on the web.
The Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, Mr. Point gets a "D-" for wearing the wrong insignia and incorrect insignia on mess dress, not to mention wearing insignia in the wrong order. Let us hope that the Crown's representative in BC will cease breaking CF dress regulations!
Former Governor General Michaelle Jean gets an "F" for the many and bizarre ways which she wore her orders, decorations and medals -- going so far as to wear the wrong insignia on at least one occasion!
Lieutenant Governor Ethell of Alberta receives very special "F-" for wearing two neck insignia simultaneously and for wearing a medal bar that is more than twice the length authorized by the CF dress instructions.

To the bottom of the class; NS, BC, AB and former GG Jean, when will you people learn you cannot just wear your medals any old way? !!! Some of you are setting a terrible example. No one really cares that you hold a high position if you look like a trumped up dictator -- Instant Dictator Syndrome seems most serious with the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta who is verging on a terminal case of Instant Dictator Syndrome, the likes we have not seen since Richard Rohmer wore three neck orders with his mess kit!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Major General Richard Rohmer, A Man of Many Modes of Dress... Most of them Wrong

Honorary Deputy Commissioner of the OPP
It appears as though our dear friend Richard Rohmer -- soon to the poster-child of this blog -- has invented all sorts of amazing ways to wear his many orders, decorations and medals incorrectly. This has to be one of the most hilarious photos ever taken of someone wearing their insignia incorrectly. It is as though Rohmer is attempting to compete with the likes of Idi Amin and Jean Bedel Bokassa in his mode of dress. This is truly embarrassing. Under no circumstances are you supposed to wear three neck insignia while in mess dress. It is impractical and it looks absolutely bizarre.  This is the dreaded Instant Dictator Syndrome gone wild. I can't say I understand why a hero of the RCAF with a DFC and all would go to such great lengths to look the head of a certain Axis air force c. 1944. Let us hope that Lieutenant Governor Ethell of Alberta doesn't see this photo or he might start wearing 3 neck badges!

Sadly it gets worse. Here we have Rohmer wearing the uniform of a Major General. Can you spot the problems? Some are more obvious than others. You can't really see it but here Rohmer is again wearing three neck insignia, all in violation of the CF Dress Instructions(CFP-265), but it gets worse. See that little badge above Rohmer's wings? That is the Aide de Camp cypher for an ADC to the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. It is supposed to be worn on the shoulder, under the second maple leaf of his Major General's rank, it is not supposed to be worn on the upper part of the breast, this too is in violation of the CF Dress Instructions.

I have saved the most glaring offence for last. Beside his Distinguished Flying Cross Rohmer is wearing the insignia of a Officer of the Order of St. John. He is not an Officer of the Order of St. John, he is a Knight of Justice of the Order, so he is wearing a medal that he is not entitled to. This is in violation of Order-in-Council 1998-591 and the Statutes of the Order of St. John which clearly explain you can only wear the grade of the Order that you are entitled to.

As with Mrs. Haverstock, Rohmer has substituted a lower grade of an Order all so that he can wear an extra medal on his medal bar, having run out of room around his neck. This is truly embarrassing. Given that Rohmer has not been an Officer of the Order of St. John since 1983 when he was promoted to Commander of the Order, he can hardly claim that he just hasn’t had time to get his medals remounted!   

As an esteemed lawyer and one of Her Majesty's Council Learned in the Law (he is a QC) you would think that Rohmer would be adverse to breaking a federal Order-in-Council and the statues of the Order of St. John.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Discourage by my expose of Vice-Regal office holders wearing their medals incorrectly a reader emailed me this photo. It is of the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan wearing his insignia correctly! Saskatchewan Order of Merit around the neck with his medal bar on the left breast and his Vice Regal badge above. Bravo Lieutenant Governor Barnhardt! If you look closely you will see that His Honour's SOM is worn on a miniature ribbon, and it should be worn on a full length one, however this is a very minor infraction.

Michaelle Jean, CC, CMM, COM, CD

Excellent work, everything is correct!
While Adrienne Clarkson pioneered new and improper ways to wear orders, decorations and medals her successor Mme. Jean took this creativity to new heights. It is worth noting at the outset that orders and medals are NOT fashion accessories, yet Mme. Jean regularly viewed them as such. There is evidence that she knew how to wear her various insignia correctly, but these instances became quite rare as her tenure as Governor General drew to a close. Here we have a nice picture of Mme. Jean and her husband wearing their insignia correctly.

As the mandate dragged on Lafond almost completely ceased wearing his Order of Canada, perhaps he felt embarrassed that he collected one of Canada's highest honours for civil achievement through the accident of marriage (why the spouse of the Governor General gets a free CC makes little sense to me, but that is another issue altogether). 

Where is Mme. Jean's Order of Canada?
Here we have Mme. Jean on a state visit to Norway. Everyone in this photo is wearing their insignia, Jean can be seen wearing her CC around the neck... like an Olympic athlete, but no miniatures. I guess they just didn't go with the attire she chose to wear. All of Mme. Jean's female predecessors managed to wear their CC insignia with regularity, and especially when abroad. Despite this it is nice to see Lafond in white tie and tales. 

Make up your own caption for this photo!
This next photo illustrates the most common mode of dress for Mme. Jean when she attended events with veterans. Order of Canada around the neck, Commander of the Order of Military Merit on a bow, medal bar below. She doesn't seem to have been able to decide between a bow or neck ribbon so she is wearing both -- which is against the rules for wearing Canadian orders, decorations and medals. So much for setting an example! One can only speculate on what the PM is saying to Jean "Who the Hell dresses you? You look like a Christmas tree with all that stuff on, and why are you wearing an Imperial German Hussars overcoat on Remembrance Day!"

Where is her CMM and DStJ Star?
 Thankfully for Remembrance Day 2009 Mme. Jean abandoned her ersatz German overcoat and dawned a CF uniform. She still managed to break the CF dress regulations as she is not wearing her Commander of the Order of Military Merit (this should be poking out of the top button of her tunic) and she is not wearing the breast star of a Dame of Justice of the Order of St. John (this should be on her left pocket). Also note that Her former Excellency is not wearing her collar badges either! Even a mediocre Aide de Camp should have spotted the missing insignia. 

Lastly we have a photo of Mme. Jean wearing miniatures. This is great, aside from the fact that this photo was taken in the middle of the day -- and you don't wear miniatures during the day. Photos taken following a recent Order of Canada investiture reveal Jean wearing her miniatures on a 45 degree angle to follow the collar of her dress, more treatment of honours as fashion accessories. Jeanne Sauve would not be impressed!

Lastly we have this gem. Mme. Jean in naval attire wearing her various orders and medals, but what is that breast star? The star of a Dame of Grace of the Order of St. John. The problem is that Jean is a Dame of Justice of the Order of St. John (star is gold with no lions and unicorns between the arms), so here we have a Governor General wearing a insignia that she is not entitled to. All in violation of the Statutes of the Order of St. John. Sadly, as we have already seen Governors General and Lieutenant Governors regularly ignore the rules for wearing Canadian orders, decorations and medals.

For keen readers here is a photo of the star that Mme. Jean should be wearing. Things are in a pretty sad state when a Governor General is going around incorrectly dressed while in CF uniform -- even the Commander-in-Chief of Canada needs to follow the dress regulations.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Olympic style neck badges! How many more can he add?
Although this is a new blog, I thought it only fitting to select each month a prime offender of the rules for wearing orders, decorations and medals in Canada. Colonel Ethell is the first winner of this prize. There is no medal associated with this award. We wouldn't want to be responsible for Lieutenant Governor Ethell being forced to commit additional medal wearing errors. 

While he may be the most decorated peacekeeper in Canadian history he doesn't know how to wear his medals at all. First off his medal bar is twice the length allowed by CF regulations. If the Duke of Edinburgh can overlap his medals, surely Colonel Ethell can do the same. Next there is the issue of two neck orders. In civilian attire you are only allowed to wear one at a time, yet this Lieutenant Governor is doubling up, as though he is a recently returned athlete from the Beijing Olympics, wearing all his gold medals. It just looks utterly ridiculous. We all know that Colonels are difficult to control but surely someone can offer this otherwise distinguished Canadian some direction on the proper wearing of his many orders, decorations and medals. You would think that a retired Colonel would be at least peripherally aware of the rules and regulations for wearing his various honours -- especially as they are so plenteous in this case. 

The Hon. Linda Haverstock, CM, SOM

 Just so I do not get accused of picking on representatives of the Crown here is a photo of the former Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan. I was quite pleased when I found this photo, however upon closer examination there is a very serious problem.  Yes this is an exception to the rule that you can only wear one order on a bow at a time. In this photo Haverstock was just invested with as a Member of the Order of Canada, no doubt she will have her CM remounted in with her medal bar. Given that she was just presented with the second Order on a bow as part of the investiture this is quite acceptable. But there is a glaring issue with what Haverstock is wearing. As a Lieutenant Governor Haverstock was made a Dame of Grace of the Order of St. John (the insignia consist of a neck badge on a bow and a breast star), but in this photo she is wearing the insignia of an Officer of the Order of St. John on her medal bar. So she is wearing an insignia that she is not entitled to wear at all! This is in violation of the statues of the Order of St. John and also Order-in-Council 1998-591. A subtle case of Instant Dictator Syndrome, but given that the Officer of the Order of St. John insignia is mounted in with her full size medal bar it is quite obviously intentional. 

The Hon. Myra Freeman, CM, ONS

The Hon. Myra Freeman in centre front.
Here is another Lieutenant Governor offender, well she is a former Lieutenant Governor, but she still manages to break all the rules. Here we have a photo of Mrs. Freeman with more Order of Nova Scotia recipients. But what is that beside her Golden Jubilee Medal... it looks a lot like the Australia Defence Force Champion Shot Medal... but I dont' believe that Freeman ever served in the ADF. 
ADF Champion Shot Medal

But no, it is the Corps of Commissionaires Distinguished Service Medal... an award that is not sanctioned or approved by the Government of Canada for wear, which means that in this photo Freeman is violating Order-in-Council 1998-591 which clearly states that "7. The insignia or orders, decorations and medals not listed in this Directive, as well as foreign awards the award of which has not been approved by the Government of Canada shall not be mounted or worn in conjunction with the orders, decorations and medals listed in this Directive." While the Corps of Commissionaires Long Service Medal is included in the directive, the Corps of Commissionaires Distinguished Service Medal is not included in the Directive. She is breaking a federal regulation. 

    That's not all. There's more! Here is Honorary Captain Navy Freeman dressed up in her CF uniform. She is not only wearing her Vice-Regal Badge (against CF Regs) but what is that ribbon she is wearing after her Golden Jubilee Medal ribbon...she is sporting the ribbon of the Corps of Commissionaires Distinguished Service Medal which not only violates Order-in-Council 1998-591, but also the CF dress regs. She is wearing an unauthorized ribbon on a CF uniform. All this aside from her upside down shoulder boards! Where is a Chief when you need one? The buttons, ribbons and bows brigade needs to get after this Captain(N)!

The Hon. Mayanne Francis, ONS

Lieutenant Governors seem to get bad advice when it comes to wearing their medals. This photo depicts Mayann Francis and some recipients of Nova Scotia's provincial Order. She is wearing her Order of Nova Scotia on a ribbon that is too long and I have no idea what she is wearing on the right hand side. Thankfully a survey of more recent photos reveals that the medal on the right is no longer worn, however Francis continues to often wear her Order of Nova Scotia as an olympic medal. How very unfortunate that so many Lieutenant Governors have no clue how to wear the orders, decorations and medals they pick up as a consequence of serving in a vice-regal position.  

Senator Pamela Wallin, OC, SOM

This pair of photos are certainly the most entertaining I have ever come across of an individual wearing their medals incorrectly. Unlike many others posted on this blog, I do not think that Senator Wallin is wearing her insignia incorrectly on purpose or to look "important."   

Wearing one bow on each side is never appropriate. In this photo we have Senator Wallin wearing her Saskatchewan Order of Merit on the right and her Officer of the Order of Canada on the left. You can just see the red and white ribbon of her OC in this photo. Bravo to the Senator for wearing her Orders on bows, but please in future wear only one at a time, and wear it on the left! 

Here we have yet another example of the highly problematic nature of putting civilians into a military uniform. Wallin is wearing only 3 insignia, yet she is wearing all of them incorrectly. Let us start with the easy part. The Golden Jubilee Medal should be court mounted and worn higher and be centred. The Officer of the Order of Canada bow should not be pinned to a neck ribbon, the OC insignia should be unclipped from the bow and put on a neck ribbon that should be worn at the neck (ribbon under the collar of the shirt), the badge should rest just below the knot of the tie. The Saskatchewan Order of Merit should similarly be unclipped from the bow and worn on a short ribbon that protrudes from the top button of the tunic.

The Hon. Steven Point, OBC

Unlike his distinguished predecessor, the present Lieutenant Governor of BC seems to have a variety of persistent issues when it comes to wearing orders, decorations and medals. 

The problem in this photo is minor, in that the senior Order (the Order of St. John) should be worn at the neck, not the Order of British Columbia, which ranks after the Order of St. John. He also needs to do up his collar. Despite this I do applaud His Honour for wearing the Lieutenant Governor's Uniform. 

As an Honorary Captain in the Canadian Navy, His Honour occasionally wears Mess Dress and CF Uniforms. A survey of his website shows him regularly wearing the Vice-Regal Badge (the little silver star) on his uniforms. This is in violation of CF dress regulations. Here we have His Honour in Mess Dress, wearing his Vice-Regal Badge, strangely he is not wearing his Order of British Columbia or the breast star of a Knight of Justice which he is entitled to. 

In case you are wondering what the Vice-Regal badge is here is what it looks. It is not approved for wear on any CF uniform. 


There is nothing wrong in this photo, all is as it should be!
Here is a wonderful picture of Major General The Honourable George R. Pearkes, taken while he was still Lieutenant Governor of BC. Despite being a Companion of the Order of Canada, Companion of the Order of the Bath, Knight of Grace of the Order of St. John and Commander of the Legion of Merit (US) -- thats a total of four neck orders he held -- Pearkes always followed the rules and only wore what was appropriate. In this case it was one neck order and his medal bar. Here is an example that others could well emulate. Notice that Pearkes had just been awarded the CD in this photo.

Richard Rohmer, OC, CMM, DFC, OOnt, CD, QC

Our self professed "most decorated citizen" Major General (ret) Richard Rohmer still insists on wearing a CF uniform. I have always felt that once you retire from the CF that you should cease wearing the uniform. Unfortunately you just have to apply to DND and you can get permission to continue wearing it, no matter how much you start to look like the Michelin Man. 

I understand that Rohmer has been told repeatedly that he is only allowed to wear two neck orders at a time, yet he insists on wearing three, which just looks silly. Here we see him with his OC, CMM and OOnt. Thankfully he did not add his fourth neck order to the mix here (his KStJ). Even illustrious heroes of the Second World War have to follow the rules. When in CF uniform the rules are all the more important because you are setting an example for your subordinates and peers. 

The Clarkson Years and beyond

Five years have passed since Adrienne Clarkson and her self-professed co-GG husband departed Rideau Hall. As Governor General Clarkson did much to invent new and incorrect ways of wearing her various orders, decorations and medals. She invented what I like to call "the olympic medal" method of wearing the Order of Canada. Clarkson and her husband habitually wore their Order of Canada insignia on long investiture length ribbons. Ralston Saul's CC should be hanging just below the knot of his tie, not mid-chest.

Clarkson's offences went beyond just the wearing of investiture length ribbons, she found literally dozens of ways to wear her insignia incorrectly -- worst of all she continues to commit these intentional errors -- all on account of an acute case of Instant Dictator Syndrome. 

Here we have Clarkson wearing her CC around the neck and her CMM on a bow, along with her medal bar. She would have been fine to wear just her CC around the neck (for those ladies who insist on such things) and her medal bar, or her CMM on a bow above her medal bar, but not her CC and CMM at the same time. During the recent installation of the Governor General in Ottawa Clarkson could be seen on TV sporting both her CC and CMM on bows -- totally incorrect and against the rules for wearing Canadian orders, decorations and medals. Those in civilian attire can only wear a Companion or Commander level Order around the neck or on a bow -- not both! The Queen is allowed to wear both the Order of Canada and Order of Military Merit on bows because these are special Sovereign's badges.

Clarkson's offences have continued long after leaving office. As Colonel-in-Chief of the PPCLI you would think the RSM or maybe even a brass hat would tell her to stop wearing her medals wrong!  Here we have Clarkson doubling up on Orders again. Clarkson's behaviour is an embarrassment to the PPCLI and some brave member should correct the erstwhile former GG. Leaving this acute case of Instant Dictator Syndrome untreated could tragically lead to Clarkson wearing her Order of Canada, Order of Military Merit, Order of Merit of the Police Forces, Order of St. John insignia and medal bar simultaneously. This would undoubtedly result in a serious back injury for the 71 year old Clarkson. 

Shimon Peres, GCMG
Let us start with a few examples of people wearing their medals incorrectly. Amusing examples that have been publicly documented in photographs. Here we have Shimon Peres, President of Israel. Peres is wearing the insignia of a Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (GCMG). It is unfortunate that Mr. Peres failed to read the little card contained in the case that the GCMG was contained in, otherwise he would have probably learned that the sash of the Order is worn over the right shoulder with the badge resting on the left hip. At least he has the breast star in approximately the right place. Sashes are not to be worn as neck ribbons!

Given that a number of Canadian Governors General and Prime Ministers were GCMGs I thought this an amusing example to begin with.
Her Excellency Marie Bashir, AC, CVO, Governor of New South Wales
Next we have Her Excellency Maire Barhir, the present Governor of New South Wales and a highly accomplished Australian. Like many of her Canadian vice-regal counterparts Her Excellency holds an honorary commission -- Bashir is an Honorary Commodore in the Royal Australian Navy. It is always risky to put civilians in military uniforms, they rarely seem wear them correctly. Her Excellency is incorrectly wearing the ribbon of her insignia of a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) outside of the collar on her High Collar Whites, and her Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) is being worn as a breast star on a bow. Now the RAN dress regs are pretty clear that all this is totally incorrect. Her Excellency should be wearing her AC at the neck (with the ribbon hidden under the collar) and her CVO should be on a straight neck ribbon protruding from the second button on her tunic. Does Her Excellency lack an RAN Aide de Camp to help her with such things?