Most decorated?

I know that Audie Murphy was the most decorated US serviceman of WW2 - winning every type of medal available right up to and including the Congressional Medal of Honour and I know that Capt Upham received the VC & Bar in North Africa and Crete.

Who has been awarded the 'most' awards to a British or Commonwealth serviceman from any 20th or 21st Century period.

There are two leading contenders in my eyes: (for the non cogniscenti the * represents a 'bar' or additional award)

WO2 (CSM) Williams VC, DCM*, MM* (between 1916 and 1918)

Maj Paddy Mayne DSO**** (WW2)

Any others and their stories?
OK, I get the double VCs for exactly what they are... but the question is 'most', not 'greatest'/'highest'/'senior'.

Of the three double VCs, then obviously Noel Chavasse's VC*, MC is up there. Another serious non-combatant is Padre Hardy VC, DSO, MC.


War Hero
barbs said:
I know that Audie Murphy was the most decorated US serviceman of WW2 - winning every type of medal available right up to and including the Congressional Medal of Honour and I know that Capt Upham received the MC & Bar in North Africa and Crete.
Do you not mean VC and bar??
Wg Cdr JB 'Willie' Tait, sometime CO of 617 Squadron, picked up four DSOs and two DFCs. By all accounts, a terribly modest individual to the point that he was embarassed at attending dining in nights as a guest, since people made too much of a fuss of him...


Book Reviewer
Can I suggest

Goup Captain Leonard Cheshire VC,OM,DSO+2 BARS,DFC

Details as follows

After the outbreak of the World War II, Cheshire applied for a commission in the Royal Air Force and was initially posted in June 1940 to 102 Squadron , flying Whitley medium bombers. In November 1940 he was awarded the DSO for flying his badly damaged bomber back to base.

In January 1941 he completed his tour of operations but then volunteered straight away for a second tour. He was posted to No. 35 squadron with the brand new Handley Page Halifax, and completed his second tour early in 1942, by now a Squadron Leader. August 1942 saw a return to operations as CO of 76 Squadron. The Squadron had recently suffered high losses operating the Halifax, and Cheshire immediately tackled the low morale of the unit by ordering an improvement in the performance of the squadron aircraft by removing the mid-upper and nose turrets, exhaust covers and other weighty non-essential equipment. This allowed the bombers to fly higher and faster. Losses soon fell and morale rose accordingly. Cheshire became Station OC RAF Marston Moor in March as the youngest Group Captain in the RAF, though the job was never to his liking and he pushed for a return to an operational command. These efforts paid off with a posting to succeed Wing Commander Guy Gibson as commander of the legendary 617 Dambusters Squadron in the September of 1943.

While with 617 Cheshire helped pioneer a new method of marking enemy targets for Bomber Command's 5 Group, flying in at a very low level in the face of strong defences, using first the versatile Mosquito, then a 'loaned' P-51 fighter. This development work was the subject of some severe inter-service politics, as Cheshire was encouraged by his Group's Commander Air Vice-Marshal Ralph Cochrane, although the Pathfinder AOC Air Vice-Marshal Don Bennett saw this work as impinging on the work of his own squadrons.

Cheshire was nearing the end of his fourth tour of duty in July 1944, having completed a total of 102 missions, when he was awarded the VC. He was the only one of the 32 VC airmen to win the medal for an extended period of sustained courage and outstanding effort, rather than a single act of valour. His citation noted:

'In four years of fighting against the bitterest opposition he maintained a standard of outstanding personal achievement, his successful operations being the result of careful planning, brilliant execution and supreme contempt for danger - for example, on one occasion he flew his P-51 Mustang in slow figures of 8 above a target obscured by low cloud, to act as a bomb-aiming mark for his squadron. Cheshire displayed the courage and determination of an exceptional leader.' It also spoke of "his careful planning, brilliant execution, and contempt for danger", noting also a raid in which he had marked a target, flying a Mosquito at low level against "withering fire".

Cheshire was, in his day, both the youngest Group Captain in the service and, following his VC, the most decorated. His notable wartime record makes his subsequent career all the more remarkable.
LCpl Bill Coltman VC, DCM and bar, MM and bar.

Stretcher bearer.

Most decorated "other rank" of WW1.

Admiral Sir Walter Henry "Tich" Cowan, Bt, K.C.B., D.S.O.*, M.V.O. and 2 Commando Brigade

”The outbreak of War in 1939 saw Cowan, now aged 68, petitioning the Admiralty for a post” [pulled strings with his old mate Roger Keyes, chief of Combined Ops]. ”In 1941 he was posted as liaison officer with the Commando forces in North Africa. In 1942 he saw action at Mechili and Bir Hacheim but was unfortunately captured after the latter of these two battles.” [Was found firing his pistol at an Italian tank. They let him finish then captured him, but sent him home as they felt he was too old to be a POW.] ”In 1943, following his repatriation, he was awarded a Bar to the DSO he had won more than 40 years before.

His war was not yet finished however, as in 1944 he returned to Italy to serve with 2 Commando Brigade”
[Adj. to Brigadier Tom Churchill in Italy, insisted on wearing his green beret in place of his tin hat when Bdo went forward on recces. Returned to the UK after the death of ‘Pop’ Manners of No.40 Cdo RM and capture of ‘Mad’ Jack Churchill of No.2 Cdo, blagged his way out to Germany toward the end of the war so he could relieve himself in the Rhine – which he did.]

Vice-Admiral Gordon Campbell VC, DSO & 2 Bars, Croix de guerre avec Palmes, Legion d'Honneur (January 6, 1886 - July 3, 1953)
Colonel James Forbes-Robertson Gordon Highlanders who won the VC, DSO (and bar), MC and was MID while serving with the Border Regiment in WW1. He died in 1955. An incredibly brave man.
k613 said:
Do you not mean VC and bar??
Acknowledged and edited.

Good additions - this gentleman died recently:

Maj Gen Michael Forrester CB, CBE, DSO*, MC*
Most decorated Pte soldier of WW1 (and also famous for not having shot Hitler!).

Pte Henry Tandey VC DCM MM

The Dukes and Green Howards both claim him as he was a Green Howard originally but serving with the Dukes when he won the VC. Medals currently in the GH museum in Richmond.
Jaisus! What can you say to that? The utterly remarkable courage shown by all of these men should make us all feel sufficiently humble!

I served in the "Cold War", essentially, and I feel really embarrassed and ignoble (and actually useless) when I read of what these true heroes did as a matter of course!

Will we ever see their like again?


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