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George Cross
George Cross.jpg
Obverse of the cross. Ribbon: 1½", dark blue.
Awarded by George VI and Elizabeth II
Type Civil decoration
Eligibility Commonwealth subjects
Awarded for "... acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger."
Status Currently awarded
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.
Post-nominals GC
Statistics
Established 24 September 1940
Last awarded 16 June 2017 (gazetted)[1]
Total awarded 408 (including 2 collective awards)
Posthumous
awards
90 (including 4 former EGM recipients)
Distinct
recipients
408 (including 2 collective awards)
Order of Wear
Next (higher) Victoria Cross[2]
Next (lower) Order of the Garter
Related George Medal and Queen's Gallantry Medal
UK George Cross ribbon.svg
GC ribbon bar

The George Cross (GC) is the second highest award of the United Kingdom honours system. It is awarded "for acts of the greatest heroism or for most conspicuous courage in circumstance of extreme danger",[3] not in the presence of the enemy, to members of the British armed forces and to British civilians.[4] Posthumous awards have been allowed since it was instituted. It was previously awarded to residents of Commonwealth countries (and in one case to a Commonwealth country), most of which have since 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. 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.[5]

Contents

CreationEdit

The George Cross was instituted on 24 September 1940 by King George VI.[6] 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.[7]

The medal was designed by Percy Metcalfe. The Warrant for the GC (along with that of the George Medal), dated 24 September 1940, was published in The London Gazette on 31 January 1941.[8]

The King in his speech announcing the new award, stated that it would rank next to the Victoria Cross. This was second on the Order of Wear, much higher than the then existing awards for bravery not in the presence of the enemy, the highest being the two-class Albert Medal (AM); and the lowest being the single class Empire Gallantry Medal (EGM). In a substitution of awards unprecedented in the history of British decorations, holders of the EGM were required to exchange their insignia for the GC,[9][10] most receiving their replacement GC at a formal investiture. The four honorary EGM awards to foreigners were not exchanged and could therefore continue to be worn.[11] In 1971, surviving recipients of the Albert Medal and the Edward Medal (EM) became George Cross recipients, but unlike the EGM exchange of insignia, they had the option of retaining their original insignia. 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.[12][13][14]

AwardEdit

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.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17]

When the Cross is worn by a woman, it may be worn on the left shoulder, suspended from a ribbon fashioned into a bow.[17]

In June 1941 the specification of the ribbon width was amended to one and a half inches.[18]

Bars can be awarded for further acts of bravery meriting the GC, although none have yet been awarded. In common with the Victoria Cross, 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, a distinction peculiar to these two premier awards for bravery. In the event of a second award, a second replica would be worn on the ribbon.[19]

Recipients are entitled to the postnominal letters GC.[20]

All original individual GC awards are published in The London Gazette.[21]

George Cross CommitteeEdit

The George Cross Committee of the Cabinet Office considers cases of military and civilian gallantry.[22] The Committee has no formal terms of reference.[22]

RecipientsEdit

Since its inception in 1940, the GC has been awarded 408 times, 394 to men, 12 to women, one award to the Island of Malta and one to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). About half the recipients have been civilians. There have been 163 original awards including those to Malta and RUC, including 106 made before 1947.[23] There have been 245 exchange awards, 112 to Empire Gallantry Medal recipients, 65 to Albert Medal recipients and 68 to Edward Medal recipients.[24] Of the 161 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.[12][25]

Collective awardsEdit

 
The Flag of Malta displays its George Cross

The George Cross has, on the express instruction of the Sovereign, been awarded, to the island of Malta and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

MaltaEdit

 
The George Cross awarded to Malta (National War Museum, Malta)

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.[26]

The George Cross was incorporated into the Flag of Malta beginning in 1943 and remains on the current flag adopted at the country's independence in 1964.

Royal Ulster ConstabularyEdit

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.[27]

Two years later, on 4 November 2001, as a result of the Patten Report, the RUC became the Police Service of Northern Ireland incorporating the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC.[28]

Awards to Commonwealth citizensEdit

CanadaEdit

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.

AustraliaEdit

 
Memorial to Australian recipients, George Cross Park, Canberra

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 officers of 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. Captain Lionel Colin Matthews was eventually executed by his captors for building a resistance network in British North Borneo in the Second World War,[29] while Private Horace William Madden, captured in Korea in 1951, died of privations while assisting fellow prisoners and openly resisting enemy efforts to force him to collaborate.[30] The last Australian to be awarded the GC (in 1978) was Constable Michael Kenneth Pratt of the Victoria Police, Melbourne, for arresting two armed bank robbers in June 1976.

A memorial to Australian recipients, George Cross Park, was opened in Canberra, the Australian capital, on 4 April 2001 by the Governor General of Australia, Sir William Deane.

AnnuityEdit

Holders of the Victoria Cross or the George Cross are entitled to an annuity, the amount of which is determined by the awarding government.[31] Since 2015, the annuity paid by the British government is £10,000 per year.[32] 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.[7] Australia has been responsible for the payment of both the Victoria Cross Allowance and the George Cross annuity since the 1940s. The Victoria Cross Allowance which includes both the Victoria Cross for Australia and the British Victoria Cross is included in s.103 of the Veterans' Entitlement Act and is presently $A4,447.00 per year. Although there is not a statutory instrument for the payment of the George Cross annuity, both annuities for the Australian Cross of Valour and George Cross match the Victoria Cross Allowance payment.

Restriction of useEdit

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.[33]

George Cross in fictionEdit

The fictional detective inspector William E. "Jack" Frost in the novels of R. D. Wingfield and television series A Touch Of Frost 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. The character tends to experience survivor guilt whenever his George Cross is brought to mind.

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".

Ray Davies makes reference to George Cross recipients in the Kinks song "The Village Green Preservation Society" with the lyric "God save the George Cross and all those who were awarded them".

Hugh Grant's character, Alexander Waverly, in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015) is a recipient of the George Cross.

Alex O'Loughlin's character Steve McGarrett and Scott Caan's character Danny Williams in "Hawaii Five-0" episode "No Ke Ali'i' Wahine A Me Ka Aina" (2016) are recipients of the George Cross for stopping a terrorist attack against Europe.

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ "No. 61969". The London Gazette (8th supplement). 16 June 2017. p. 11774. 
  2. ^ "No. 56878". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 March 2003. p. 3351. 
  3. ^ Clause five of the George Cross gazette
  4. ^ The phrase "in the presence of the enemy" was inserted into the Victoria Cross Warrant in 1881 and continues in the present warrant but is often misquoted as "in the face of the enemy".
  5. ^ Mussell, J.W. (Editor), (2016), Medal Yearbook 2017, (Token Publishing Ltd: Devon)
  6. ^ British Gallantry Medals (Abbott and Tamplin), p. 138
  7. ^ a b "George Cross Database". Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. 
  8. ^ "No. 35060". The London Gazette. 31 January 1941. pp. 622–624. 
  9. ^ "No. 35141". The London Gazette (Supplement). 18 April 1941. p. 2285. 
  10. ^ British Gallantry Awards by P E Abbott and J M A Tamplin list two AM in Gold awards between 1920 and 1939, p. 22. There were 130 EGM awards between 1922 and 1940, p. 242
  11. ^ British Gallantry Medals (Abbott and Tamplin), p.242
  12. ^ a b George Cross Database. Retrieved on 12 September 2007.
  13. ^ "No. 45566". The London Gazette. 6 January 1972. p. 171. 
  14. ^ "No. 45566". The London Gazette. 6 January 1972. p. 172. 
  15. ^ London Gazette, No. 35060 – Warrant, Fifth clause
  16. ^ "No. 35060". The London Gazette. 31 January 1941. p. 623.  secondly
  17. ^ a b "No. 35060". The London Gazette. 31 January 1941. p. 623.  seventhly
  18. ^ "No. 35199". The London Gazette. 24 June 1942. p. 3600.  seventhly
  19. ^ "No. 35060". The London Gazette. 31 January 1941. p. 623.  eighthly
  20. ^ London Gazette, No. 35060 – Warrant, Eighth clause
  21. ^ The awards to Malta and the RUC were not gazetted. The Exchange awards are not gazetted although the original EGM, AM and EM announcements were gazetted.
  22. ^ a b 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.
  23. ^ British Gallantry Medals (Abbott and Tamplin), p. 142
  24. ^ Kevin Brazier. The complete George Cross, Pen & Sword, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84884-287-8
  25. ^ "George Cross for Army Afghanistan bomb heroes". BBC. 18 March 2010. Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  26. ^ Grove, Dr Eric (17 February 2011). "The Siege of Malta in World War Two". BBC. Retrieved 15 April 2007. 
  27. ^ Turner, John Frayn (2010). Royal Ulster Constabulary. Awards of the George Cross 1940–2009 (2 ed.). Pen & Sword Books Ltd. p. 165. ISBN 978-1-84884-200-7. Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  28. ^ "'New era' as NI police change name". BBC News. 4 November 2001. Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  29. ^ David Matthews. (2008). The Duke: A Hero's Hero at Sandakan. Captain Lionel Matthews GC, MC. Seaview Press, West Lakes, South Australia. ISBN 978-1-74008-486-4. 
  30. ^ Michael Ashcroft. (2010). George Cross Heroes. Headline Publishing, London. pp. 249–251. ISBN 978-0755360840. 
  31. ^ "No. 43684". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 1965. p. 5693.  – Warrant, Fourteenth clause
  32. ^ The Independent, 7 July 2015. £10,000 annuity for VC and GC winners
  33. ^ Chapter 115 - George Cross (Restriction of Use) Ordinance

BibliographyEdit

  • Abbott, PE and Tamplin, JMA, British Gallantry Awards, (1981), Nimrod Dix and Co (ISBN 9780902633742)
  • Bisset, I., The George Cross, MacGibbon & Kee (1961)
  • Duckers, P., British Gallantry Awards 1855–2000, (2001), Shire Publications (ISBN 978-0747805168)
  • 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 0-9546917-1-7 onwards)
  • Hissey, Terry, Come if Ye Dare: The Civil Defence George Crosses, (2008), Civil Defence Assn (ISBN 978-0-9550153-2-8)
  • Mussell, J. (Editor), (2016), Medal Yearbook 2017, (Token Publishing Ltd: Devon) (ISBN 978-1908828385)
  • 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 978-0-413-77752-2. 
  • 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)

External linksEdit