The Meritorious Service Medal was instituted on 19 December 1845 for the British Army, to recognise meritorious service by non-commissioned officers. Recipients were also granted an annuity, the amount of which was based on rank.
During 1916–1919, army NCOs could be awarded the medal immediately for meritorious service in the field. They could also be awarded the medal for acts of non-combat gallantry. Awards for gallantry ceased after 7 September 1928, as they were honoured by the Empire Gallantry Medal.