Obverse of the cross. Ribbon: 38 mm, dark blue.
|Awarded by Commonwealth realms|
|Awarded for||"…acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger."|
|Description||Height 48 mm, max. width 45 mm; (Obverse) plain silver cross with circular medallion in the centre depicting the effigy of St. George and the Dragon, surrounded by the words "FOR GALLANTRY". In the angle of each limb is the Royal Cypher GVI; (Reverse) plain, centre engraved with name of recipient and date of award. Cross attached by ring to bar ornamented with laurel leaves, through which the ribbon passes.|
|Established||24 September 1940|
|Last awarded||2 October 2014 (gazetted)|
|Total awarded||407 (including 2 collective awards)|
|90 (including 4 former EGM recipients)|
|407 (including 2 collective awards)|
|Order of Wear|
|Next (higher)||Victoria Cross|
|Next (lower)||Order of the Garter|
|Related||George Medal and Queen's Gallantry Medal|
GC ribbon bar
The George Cross (GC) is the second highest award of the United Kingdom honours system. It is awarded for gallantry "not in the face of the enemy" to members of the British armed forces and to British civilians. It has always been able to be awarded posthumously. It was previously awarded to Commonwealth countries, most of which have established their own honours systems and no longer recommend British honours. It may be awarded to a person of any military rank in any service and to civilians including police, emergency services and merchant seamen although no British civilian has received the award since 1976. Many of the awards have been personally presented by the British monarch to both recipients and in the case of posthumous awards to next of kin. These investitures are usually held at Buckingham Palace.
- 1 Creation
- 2 Award
- 3 Recipients
- 4 Annuity
- 5 George Cross Committee
- 6 Restriction of use
- 7 George Cross in literature and the arts
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 Bibliography
- 11 External links
The George Cross was instituted on 24 September 1940 by King George VI. At this time, during the height of the Blitz, there was a strong desire to reward the many acts of civilian courage. The existing awards open to civilians were not judged suitable to meet the new situation, therefore it was decided that the George Cross and the George Medal would be instituted to recognise both civilian gallantry in the face of enemy action and brave deeds more generally.
Announcing the new award, the King said:
In order that they should be worthily and promptly recognised, I have decided to create, at once, a new mark of honour for men and women in all walks of civilian life. I propose to give my name to this new distinction, which will consist of the George Cross, which will rank next to the Victoria Cross, and the George Medal for wider distribution.
The GC replaced the Empire Gallantry Medal (EGM); all holders of the EGM were instructed to exchange their medals for a GC, a substitution of awards unprecedented in the history of British decorations. This substitution policy ignored holders of the Albert Medal (AM) and the Edward Medal (EM), awards which both took precedence over the EGM. The anomaly was rectified in 1971, when the surviving recipients of the AM and the EM became George Cross recipients and were invited to exchange their medal for the George Cross. Of the 64 holders of the Albert Medal and 68 holders of the Edward Medal eligible to exchange, 49 and 59 respectively took up the option.
The GC, which may be awarded posthumously, is granted in recognition of:
acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger.
The award is for civilians but also for military personnel whose actions would not normally be eligible to receive military awards, such as gallantry not in the face of the enemy. The Warrant states:
The Cross is intended primarily for civilians and award in Our military services is to be confined to actions for which purely military Honours are not normally granted.
The Cross shall be worn by recipients on the left breast suspended from a ribbon one and a quarter inches in width, of dark blue, that it shall be worn immediately after the Victoria Cross and in front of the Insignia of all British Orders of Chivalry.
Bars are awarded to the GC in recognition of the performance of further acts of bravery meriting the award, although none has yet been awarded. Recipients are entitled to the postnominal letters GC. In common with the Victoria Cross, a distinction peculiar to these two premier awards for bravery, in undress uniform or on occasions when the medal ribbon alone is worn, a miniature replica of the cross is affixed to the centre of the ribbon.
All GC awards are published in the London Gazette with the exception of the two collective bestowals.
Since its inception in 1940, the GC has been awarded 407 times, 405 to individuals and two collective awards to Malta and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. There have been 161 original awards including both collective awards and 245 exchange awards, 112 to Empire Gallantry Medal recipients, 65 to Albert Medal recipients and 68 to Edward Medal recipients. Of the 159 individuals who received original awards, 86 have been posthumous. In addition there were four posthumous recipients of the Empire Gallantry Medal whose awards were gazetted after the start of the Second World War and whose awards were also exchanged for the GC. All the other exchange recipients were living as of the date of the decisions for the exchanges.
The Ministry of Defence announced on 18 March 2010 that Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid was posthumously awarded the George Cross for making safe 70 improvised explosive devices in his time in Afghanistan. Staff Sergeant Kim Hughes was also awarded the George Cross for improvised explosive disposal efforts. Two other soldiers have been awarded the George Cross for actions carried out in the conflict in Afghanistan.
- L/Cpl Matthew Croucher of the Royal Marines Reserve was awarded the George Cross for smothering a grenade explosion with his body and equipment on an operation in Afghanistan. Croucher was the first reservist to receive either a VC or GC since current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan began.
- Mark Wright, of the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, was posthumously awarded the George Cross for entering a minefield in an attempt to save the lives of other injured soldiers. He maintained the morale of the other wounded soldiers, despite his serious injuries, but died of his wounds during the flight to the field dressing station.
On 3 August 2015 the London Gazette announced the award of a George Cross to Colour Sergeant Kevin Howard Haberfield of the Royal Marines, the award to be dated 22 November 2005. There was no citation.
- Norton was an Ammunition Technical Officer of the Royal Logistic Corps and the GC was awarded for gallantry on 24 July 2005 when he led a bomb disposal team at the site of an IED attack on a US military patrol in Iraq, sustaining serious injuries.
- Trooper Christopher Finney of the Blues and Royals was awarded the George Cross on 31 October 2003 for gallantry during a friendly fire incident in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Finney is also the youngest military recipient of the decoration.
The most recent civilian recipient was Sergeant Stewart Guthrie of the New Zealand Police, who received his award posthumously for his part in apprehending a gunman in the 1990 Aramoana massacre in New Zealand.
In its history, the GC has been awarded directly to only four women:
- Odette Hallowes, (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry and SOE) - the only woman to have received the GC whilst alive
- Violette Szabo, (Auxiliary Territorial Service and SOE) - Awarded posthumously.
- Noor Inayat Khan, (Women's Auxiliary Air Force and SOE) (in World War II) - Awarded posthumously.
- Barbara Jane Harrison, an air stewardess on BOAC Flight 712, who died on 8 April 1968 after helping many passengers escape from an onboard fire at Heathrow Airport. - Awarded posthumously.
Apart from the four women who received the GC directly, a number of women have received awards that were later superseded by the GC and exchanged for it (e.g. Doreen Ashburnham-Ruffner who in September 1916 received the Albert Medal for Lifesaving for saving her young cousin from a cougar attack. She exchanged her initial medal for the George Cross in 1971).
The GC was awarded to the island of Malta in a letter dated 15 April 1942 from King George VI to the island's Governor Lieutenant-General Sir William Dobbie:
To honour her brave people, I award the George Cross to the Island Fortress of Malta to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history.
The Governor answered:
By God's help Malta will not weaken but will endure until victory is won.
The cross and the messages are today found in the War Museum in Fort Saint Elmo, Valletta. The fortitude of the population under sustained enemy air raids and a naval blockade which almost saw them starved into submission, won widespread admiration in Britain and other Allied nations. Some historians argue that the award was in fact a propaganda gesture to justify the huge losses sustained by Britain to prevent Malta from capitulating as Singapore had done in the Battle of Singapore.
The George Cross is woven into the Flag of Malta and can be seen wherever the flag is flown.
Royal Ulster Constabulary
The GC was awarded to the RUC in 1999 by Queen Elizabeth II following the advice of her Government. The Queen presented the George Cross to the organisation at Hillsborough Castle, County Down. The citation published by Buckingham Palace on 23 November 1999 stated:
For the past 30 years, the Royal Ulster Constabulary has been the bulwark against, and the main target of, a sustained and brutal terrorism campaign. The Force has suffered heavily in protecting both sides of the community from danger—302 officers have been killed in the line of duty and thousands more injured, many seriously. Many officers have been ostracised by their own community and others have been forced to leave their homes in the face of threats to them and their families. As Northern Ireland reaches a turning point in its political development this award is made to recognise the collective courage and dedication to duty of all of those who have served in the Royal Ulster Constabulary and who have accepted the danger and stress this has brought to them and to their families.
Awards to Commonwealth citizens
There have been 10 GCs awarded to Canadians including those by substitution for awards superseded by the GC. The recipients comprised nine men and one woman. The GC is no longer awarded to Canadians by the Queen of Canada, who awards the Canadian Cross of Valour instead.
The George Cross was awarded to 22 Australians, 11 to the Australian forces and 11 to civilians. It is the highest decoration of the Australian Honours System after the British Victoria Cross and the Victoria Cross for Australia. Although Australia established the Cross of Valour within the Australian Honours System in 1975 'for acts of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme peril' it was not until 1992 that Australia officially ceased recommending British honours. During the period 1975 to 1992, the last George Cross to an Australian was awarded in 1978.
Of the 22 awards, 14 were direct awards and eight were Empire Gallantry Medal (two) and Albert Medal (six) exchange awards. Four awards were to the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve who served in the extremely dangerous role of mine disposal during the Second World War. Courage of a different sort was displayed by two prisoners of war who endured terrible suffering without flinching, with Private Horace William Madden dying of privations while assisting fellow prisoners, and Captain Lionel Colin Matthews eventually being executed by his captors for building a resistance network. The last Australian to be awarded the GC (in 1978), and the most recent surviving civilian recipient, was Constable Michael Kenneth Pratt of the Victoria Police, Melbourne, for arresting two armed bank robbers in June 1976.
Holders of the George Cross or Victoria Cross are entitled to an annuity, the amount of which is determined by the awarding government. Since 2015, the annuity paid by the British government is £10,000 per year . In Canada under the Gallantry Awards Order, members of the Canadian Forces, or people who joined the British forces before 31 March 1949 while domiciled in Canada or Newfoundland, receive $3,000 per year. For Australian holders, the amount is determined by clause 11A1.2 of the Australian Defence Force Pay and Conditions, and as of January 2005 is $250 per year.
George Cross Committee
Restriction of use
Since 1943, in accordance with the George Cross (Restriction of Use) Ordinance, it is unlawful in Malta to use the George Cross, an imitation of it or the words George Cross for the purposes of trade or business without the Prime Minister's authorisation.
George Cross in literature and the arts
The fictional detective inspector William E. "Jack" Frost in the novels of R. D. Wingfield is a recipient of the George Cross, which sometimes serves as a plot element in allowing him to get away with actions that would otherwise have landed him in trouble.
Charles (Karl, Graf von) Dennim, the protagonist in Geoffrey Household's 1960 thriller Watcher in the Shadows, was awarded the George Cross for espionage work during the Second World War, including undercover service as a Gestapo officer at the Buchenwald concentration camp. He refused to accept the award on the basis that "one does not defile a decoration".
- British and Commonwealth orders and decorations
- Category:Recipients of the George Cross
- List of George Cross recipients
- List of living recipients of the George Cross
- George Medal
- Cross of St. George, a Russian award
- St. George's cross, the flag of England
- Flag of Malta, a flag bearing the cross
- Soham Rail Disaster – 2 June 1944
- The Victoria Cross and George Cross Association
- Elizabeth Cross
- PDSA Gold Medal – seen as the animal equivalent of the GC
- The London Gazette: . 3 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 17 March 2003.
- Mussell, J.W. (Editor), (2015), Medal Yearbook 2016, (Token Publishing Ltd: Devon)
- British Gallantry Medals, p. 138
- "George Cross Database". Archived from the original on 14 May 2011.
- The London Gazette: . 31 January 1941. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
- British Gallantry Awards, p. 138
- George Cross Database. Retrieved on 12 September 2007.
- London Gazette, No. 35060 – Warrant, Fifth clause
- The London Gazette: . 31 January 1941. secondly
- The London Gazette: . 31 January 1941. seventhly
- London Gazette, No. 35060 – Warrant, Eighth clause
- One miniature replica signifying a single award. In the event of a second award of the GC (the award of a bar), a second replica would be worn on the ribbon, and so on for further awards. The London Gazette: . 31 January 1941. eighthly
- Exchange awards are not gazetted although the original EGM, AM and EM announcements were gazetted.
- Kevin Brazier. The complete George Cross, Pen & Sword, 2012, ISBN 978 1 84884 287 8
- "George Cross for Army Afghanistan bomb heroes". BBC. 18 March 2010. Retrieved 18 March 2010.
- "Royal Marine Reservist to receive the George Cross". Ministry of Defence. 23 July 2008.
- "Marine who threw himself on exploding grenade to protect comrades awarded George Cross". Daily Mail. 23 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-23.
- The London Gazette: . 15 December 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
- The London Gazette: no. 61311. p. 14242. 3 August 2015. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
- The London Gazette: . 24 March 2006. Retrieved 2007-12-19.
- The London Gazette: . 30 October 2003. Retrieved 2007-12-19.
- The London Gazette: . 17 February 1992. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
- The London Gazette: . 13 December 1946. Retrieved 2008-05-27.
- The London Gazette: . 5 April 1949. Retrieved 2007-11-16.
- The London Gazette: . 7 August 1969. Retrieved 2008-05-16.
- Grove, Dr Eric (17 February 2011). "The Siege of Malta in World War Two". BBC. Retrieved 15 April 2007.
- Turner, John Frayn (2010). Royal Ulster Constabulary. Awards of the George Cross 1940-2009 (2 ed.). Pen & Sword Books Ltd. p. 165. ISBN 9-78184884-200-7. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
- "'New era' as NI police change name". BBC News. 4 November 2001. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
- The London Gazette: . 11 June 1965. Retrieved 2008-01-10. – Warrant, Fourteenth clause
- Letter from Roger Smethurst dated 20 April 2012, released as part of a response from Cabinet Office to a request made using WhatDoTheyKnow, accessed 2 August 2012.
- Chapter 115 - George Cross (Restriction of Use) Ordinance
- Abbott, PE and Tamplin, JMA, British Gallantry Awards, (1981), Nimrod Dix and Co.
- Bisset, I., The George Cross, MacGibbon & Kee (1961)
- Duckers, P., British Gallantry Awards 1855–2000, (2001), Shire Publications
- Hebblethwaite, M., One Step Further: Those whose gallantry was rewarded with the George Cross. Series of 9 books. Chameleon HH Publishing Ltd from 2005 (ISBN 0954691717 onwards)
- Hissey, Terry, Come if Ye Dare: The Civil Defence George Crosses, (2008), Civil Defence Assn (ISBN 9780955015328)
- Mussell, J. (Editor), (2012), Medal Yearbook 2013, (Token Publishing Ltd: Devon)
- Smyth, Sir John, The Story of the George Cross, Arthur Baker Ltd. (1968) ISBN 0-213-76307-9
- Stanistreet, A., 'Gainst All Disaster, Picton Publishing Ltd. (1986) ISBN 0-948251-16-6
- Wright, Christopher J.; Anderson, Glenda M., eds. (2013). The Victoria Cross and the George Cross: the complete history (3 vols). York: Methuen & Co. ISBN 9780413777522.
- The Register of the George Cross, This England, 2nd Edition (1990) ISBN 0-906324-17-3
- George Cross (Restriction of Use) Ordinance, Government of Malta, (1943)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to George Cross.|
- Official Victoria Cross & George Cross Association website
- Marion Hebblethwaits's listing and books on the George Cross
- New Zealand Defence Force – Medal information page
- Search recommendations for the George Cross on The UK National Archives' website.
- Canadian World War II recipients
- Ceremonial Secretariat – Types of Bravery Award
- Royal Engineers Museum: George Crosses awarded to Royal Engineers (Bomb Disposal)
- BBC On This Day 1942: Malta gets George Cross for bravery
- George Cross at Sea in World War 2, including Naval bomb Disposal
- Soham Rail Disaster 2 June 1944
- GC winners from The Times obituaries
- George Cross recipients from the county of Essex
- "Stolen from Himachal, George Cross to go under hammer in UK", Times of India, 26 November 2009.