National Honours

Honours exist to recognise and celebrate outstanding achievements. They are open to people from all walks of life and sections of society who have made a difference to their community or field of work. Nominations can be made by anyone at anytime.

The honours available are:

  • British Empire Medal (BEM) is awarded for very “hands-on” service to the community in a local geographical area.
  • Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) recognises an achievement or service to the community which has delivered a sustained impact and which stands out as an example to others.
  • Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) recognises those who have performed a distinguished regional or county-wide role in any field.
  • Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) rewards a prominent national or regional role.
  • Dame or Knight is available for those who have made a pre-eminent contribution in any field, usually at a national level.

There are always fewer honours available than people who deserve them so strong candidates need to have shown one or more of the following characteristics. They are people who have:

  • made a real impact in their community or workplace
  • exemplified the very best sustained and selfless voluntary service
  • gained the respect of their peers
  • changed things for the better
  • improved the lot of those less able to help themselves
  • displayed moral courage in making and delivering tough choices
  • demonstrated innovation or entrepreneurship
  • brought distinction to British life and enhanced its reputation.

Nominations are particularly welcomed for ‘local heroes’ who are well respected by local people and who have made a difference in their neighbourhood. Over half of all awards go to people who are putting something extra into the community on a voluntary basis.

All nominations for honours are treated in the strictest confidence. The person to be nominated should not be informed as it would not be fair to raise expectations in case they are not met. Only 1,350 honours are awarded on each occasion, twice a year, and there are many thousands of nominations received.

How is a nomination made?

By completing a nomination form obtained from the Cabinet Office website. This gives full details of the honours system and is comprehensive and user friendly. You can also write for information and a form to:

Honours and Appointments Secretariat, Cabinet Office, Ground Floor, 1 Horse Guards Road, London, SW1A 2HQ.

Tel: (020) 7276 2777

Are letters of support required?

Yes. At least two letters of support are expected and should be from others who have personal knowledge of the person nominated and who can endorse their contribution.

Is any advice available to help in completing the form?

The Guidance Notes that accompany the application forms are comprehensive and helpful.

When do nominations have to be sent in?

There are no deadlines for the receipt of nomination forms but their consideration is likely to take at least 12 to 18 months. Nominations should be made while the person nominated is still active and, if possible, at least 12 months before he or she is expected to retire or stand down, if that is applicable.

What happens then?

Nominations are assessed by one of nine specialist committees, all independently chaired. Local experts are sometimes asked to help as well. These evaluations are then passed to the main honours committee, which is chaired by the Secretary of the Cabinet. Names, with the recommended level of honour, are then put forward to The Queen.

When do we hear whether the nomination has been successful?

Honours Lists are published in the New Year and on the occasion of The Sovereign’s Birthday. You can check published Lists (in the national newsletters, the London Gazette or on the honours website) to see if the candidate has been successful.

What if the nomination is unsuccessful?

If, after two years, you have heard nothing, you can assume that the nomination has been unsuccessful and has lapsed. It is open for you to re-nominate, but this is not likely to be successful unless the person you have nominated has had additional achievements.

Other national awards

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

This annual award recognises and rewards outstanding achievement by voluntary groups in the community.

Further information and a nomination form can be obtained from the Cabinet Office website or by calling 020 7271 6206.  

The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise

These are awarded annually for outstanding achievement by UK businesses in the categories of:

  • innovation
  • international trade
  • sustainable development.

The awards are valid for five years.

The Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion is a separate award for individuals. It is open to people who have played an outstanding role in promoting enterprise skills and attitudes.

The award is valid for life.

Information about these awards can be found at or by calling 020 7215 6880

General: For local help and guidance, please call the Devon Lieutenancy Office on 01392 383042.

Devon Honours

Find out more about who has received an honour in Devon