The New Zealand War Service Medal was awarded for 28 days' full time service or six months' part time service in any of the New Zealand Armed Forces, the New Zealand National Military Reserve or the Home Guard between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945. Eligible part time Home Guard personnel must have completed their six months' part time service between 16 August 1940 and 1 January 1944 (the Home Guard was disbanded in December 1943).
This medal was the first distinctively ‘New Zealand' war service medal, which was emphasised by the use of the fern leaf motif on the suspender. The circular medal is made of cupro-nickel. It is 1.42 inches in diameter. The obverse shows the crowned coinage effigy of King George VI, facing left, and the legend GEORGIVS VI D : BR : OMN : REX ET INDIAE IMP . The reverse has the words 'FOR SERVICE TO NEW ZEALAND 1939-1945' with a silver fern beneath, a national symbol of New Zealand.
The centre of the ribbon is black, and the edges are white: colours associated with New Zealand.