Instituted in 1902 by King Edward VII to recognise distinguished public service by senior officers and at junior levels of the British and of the civil services of Commonwealth countries. Both awards have post-nominal entitlement: Imperial Service Order for senior officers who had served at least 25 years and the Imperial Service Medal to junior officers for 25 years service. The service requirement is reduced to 16 years for service in adverse conditions. The Imperial Service Order was abolished in 1993. People who render service that would have seen the award of the Imperial Service Order will now be accommodated within the Order of the British Empire at OBE level. The Imperial Service Medal will continue for service by junior officers.
The ribbon is of three equal stripes of red, blue in the centre and red. Many in Australia recieved awards of this type. The Imperial Service Order was awarded to 425 Australians and the Imperial Service Medal to 7356. The last award to an Australian was in 1989.