In the British Armed Forces, the despatch is published in the London Gazette.
Soldiers of the British Empire or the Commonwealth of Nations who are mentioned in dispatches but do not receive a medal for their action, are nonetheless entitled to receive a certificate and wear a decoration. For 1914–1918 and up to 10 August 1920, the decoration consisted of a spray of oak leaves in bronze. This decoration was only established in 1919, but it had retroactive effect. From 1920 to 1993, the decoration consisted of a single bronze oak leaf, and in the Canadian Armed Forces still does. In a change introduced in 2014 to the British Armed Forces, multiple decorations may now be worn on a single campaign medal for those awarded since 1962. Prior to this change, even if the soldier was mentioned in dispatches more than once, only a single such decoration was worn. In Britain, since 1993, the decoration is a single silver oak leaf. In each case the decoration is pinned or sewn diagonally on to the appropriate campaign medal ribbon. If no campaign medal is awarded, the oak leaf is worn on the left breast of the dress uniform.
Prior to 1979, a mention in dispatches was one of the three awards that could be made posthumously, the others being the Victoria Cross and George Cross. If a man performed an act of an unusually high degree of heroism that led to his death, his commanders would know that any recognition of that act would be either the Victoria Cross, the Commonwealth's highest decoration—and therefore the subject of much scrutiny, both before and after it was awarded—or else the MiD, the Commonwealth's lowest decoration – a decoration that did not even confer its own discrete medal. The 1979 reform removed the 'all or nothing' lottery.
Soldiers can be mentioned multiple times. The British First World War Victoria Cross recipient John Vereker, later Field Marshal Viscount Gort, was mentioned in dispatches nine times, as was the Canadian general Sir Arthur Currie. The Australian general Gordon Bennett was mentioned in dispatches a total of eight times during the First World War, as was Field Marshal Sir John Dill.
Below are illustrations of the MiD being worn on a variety of ribbons, applying to the different armed services, the different nations of the Commonwealth and the different types of operation – campaigns recognised with a discrete medal, general war service, internal-security 'Emergencies' and UN peacekeeping operations – from across the 20th century:
Australian service personnel are no longer eligible to be mentioned in dispatches. Since 15 January 1991, when the Australian Honours System was established, the MiD has been replaced by the Australian decorations: the Commendation for Gallantry and the Commendation for Distinguished Service. Similarly, the equivalents of the MiD for acts of bravery by civilians and by soldiers not engaged with the enemy have also been reformed. The reformed and comprehensive system is now as follows:The Commendation for Gallantry is now the fourth level decoration for gallantry.
The Commendation for Brave Conduct recognises acts of bravery carried by soldiers not directly fighting the enemy and by civilians in war or peace.
The Commendation for Distinguished Service, a third level distinguished service decoration, recognises distinguished general service, for exemplary performance in fields such as training, maintenance and administration.
A mention in dispatches – in French, Citation à l'ordre du jour – gives recognition from a senior commander for acts of brave or meritorious service, normally in the field. The Mention in dispatches is among the list of awards presented by the Governor General of Canada.
Mention in dispatches has been used since 1947, in order to recognize distinguished and meritorious service in operational areas and acts of gallantry which are not of a sufficiently high order to warrant the grant of gallantry awards.
Eligible personnel include all Army, Navy and Air Force personnel including personnel of the Reserve Forces, Territorial Army, Militia and other lawfully constituted armed forces, members of the Nursing Service and civilians working under or with the armed forces.
Personnel can be mentioned in dispatches posthumously and multiple awards are also possible. A recipient of a mention in a dispatch is entitled to wear an emblem, in the form of a lotus leaf on the ribbon of the relevant campaign medal. They are also issued with an official certificate from the Ministry of Defence.
Under the current Pakistani military honours system, the Imtiazi Sanad is conferred upon any member of the Pakistani Armed Forces who is mentioned in dispatches for an act of gallantry that does not qualify for a formal gallantry award.
In 1920 the Minister of Defence of the Union of South Africa was empowered to award a multiple-leaved bronze oak leaf emblem to all servicemen and servicewomen mentioned in dispatches during the First World War for valuable services in action. The emblem, which was regarded as a decoration, was worn on the ribbon of the Victory Medal (Union of South Africa). Only one emblem was worn, irrespective of the number of times a recipient had been mentioned.
The Afrikaans rendition of mentioned in dispatches is Eervolle Vermelding in Berigte.
In 1943, the Union Defence Force confirmed the availability of the British award, the bronze oak leaf, for acts of bravery, in contact with the enemy, which fell just short of the standard required for the granting of a decoration, or for valuable services not necessarily in immediate contact with the enemy.
The mention in dispatches (MiD) was one of only four awards which could be made posthumously. The others were the Victoria Cross, the George Cross, and the King's Commendation (South Africa). The oak leaf emblem was worn on the ribbon of the War Medal 1939–1945.
The King's Commendation (South Africa) (1939–45) was denoted by a bronze King Protea flower emblem worn on the ribbon of the Africa Service Medal, for valuable services in connection with the Second World War. It could be awarded posthumously and was the equivalent of a mention in dispatches for services rendered away from the battlefield.
The MiD and the King's Commendation (SA) were the only decorations that could be approved by the South African Minister of Defence without reference to the King.
Since the French Revolution, France has had the custom of declaring deserving citizens or groups to have bien mérité de la Patrie. This sentiment is continued to this day in the formulation of the citations that accompany medals.
In the French military, mentions in dispatches – or more accurately, mention in orders (citation dans les ordres) – are made by senior commanders, from the level of a Regimental commanding officer to the Commander-in-Chief, in the orders they give to their unit, recognizing the gallantry of an action performed some time before. There are two kinds of mentions : mentions with cross, for bravery in presence of the enemy, and mentions without cross, for bravery not in presence of the enemy.
The citations are given for acts of gallantry by any member of the French military or its allies and are, depending on the degree, roughly the equivalent of the US Bronze Star Medal or Silver Star and the UK Mention in Dispatches or Military Cross and, formerly, the Military Medal.
Mentions made during the two World Wars or colonial conflicts were accompanied with awards of a Croix de guerre or a Croix de la Valeur Militaire, with attachments on the ribbon depending on the mention's degree : the lowest degree is represented by a bronze star while the highest degree is represented by a bronze palm.a bronze star for those who had been mentioned at the regiment or brigade level.
a silver star for those who had been mentioned at the division level.
a silver gilt star for those who had been mentioned at the corps level.
a bronze palm for those who had been mentioned at the army level.
a silver palm represents five bronze ones.
a silver gilt palm for those who had been mentioned at the Free French Forces level (World War II only).
A unit can also be mentioned in dispatches. The unit standard is then decorated with the corresponding Croix. After two mentions, the men of the unit are entitled to wear a fourragère.
Since 2004, mentions for bravery not involving actual combat with the enemy are awarded with a gold Médaille de la Défense nationale and the same attachments as the Croix de guerre. Before 2004, these mentions were recorded in the service member record, but not recognized with any decoration.
In the early United States Army no awards or medals were given with the exception of a the Badge of Military Merit, although this award fell into disuse shortly after the Revolution. In 1847, in the legislation to increase the size of the army for the Mexican–American War, it was established that Privates could be recognized with a Certificate of Merit for distinguished service while officers and non-commissioned officers could be breveted a higher rank.
On July 12, 1862, the Medal of Honor was created, thus instituting a system of awards in the U.S. Armed Forces. In the years leading up to World War I, citations for bravery, very similar to the Commonwealth practice of MiD, evolved into Citation Stars, and eventually the Bronze Star Medal and Silver Star Medals.
On October 3, 1863, the Adjutant and Inspector-General's Office at Richmond, Virginia, published General Orders No. 131 establishing the Roll of Honor. Names published were to be read at the head of every regiment at the first dress parade after its receipt and published in at least one newspaper in each state.