- George Cross
Infobox Military Award
name= George Cross
caption= Obverse of the medal. Ribbon: 38 mm, dark blue.
type= Civil decoration.
eligibility= Commonwealth subjects.
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 CypherGVI; (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
total= 159 (including 2 collective awards)
recipients= 159 (including 2 collective awards)
caption2=The George Cross (GC) is the highest
civil decorationof the Commonwealth of Nations. [Although certain Commonwealth Realms have now instituted their own indigenous honours systems, replacing the GC and other Commonwealth awards so far as their citizens are concerned.] The GC is the civilian counterpart of the Victoria Crossand the highest gallantry award for civilians as well as for military personnel in actions which are not in the face of the enemy or for which purely military honours would not normally be granted. [Mackay, J. (Author), Mussell, P. (Author), Mussell, J.W. (Editor), (2005), "The Medal Yearbook 2006", (Token Publishing Ltd: Devon) ] However, the VC is higher in order of precedence and would be worn first by an individual who had been awarded both decorations (which has not so far occurred).
The GC was instituted on
24 September 1940by King George VI. [British Gallantry Medals, p. 138] 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 Medalfor wider distribution." [http://www.gc-database.co.uk/decoration.htm George Cross Database.] Retrieved on 12 September 2007.]
The Warrant for the GC (along with that of the GM), dated
24 January 1941, was published in the " London Gazette" on 31 January 1941. [LondonGazette|issue=35060|startpage=622|endpage=624|date= 31 January 1941|accessdate=2008-01-10]
The GC was intended to replace 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. [British Gallantry Awards, p. 138] The anomaly was only rectified in 1971, when the surviving recipients of the AM and the EM were invited to exchange their award 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. [http://www.gc-database.co.uk/facts.htm George Cross Database.] Retrieved on 12 September 2007.]
The medal, 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"." [London Gazette, No. 35060 - Warrant, Fifth clause]
The medal is primarily a civilian award; however the George Cross may be awarded to military personnel for gallant conduct which is not in the face of the enemy. [Which could not therefore be recognised by a military decoration, given that they typically require gallantry in the face of the enemy.] As the Warrant states:
Bars are awarded to the GC in recognition of the performance of further acts of bravery meriting the award, although none have yet been awarded. Recipients are entitled to the postnominal letters GC. [London Gazette, 31 January 1941 - Warrant, Eighth clause] 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. [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. London Gazette, No. 35060 - Warrant, Seventh clause]
The details of all 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 posthumously to 86 recipients and to 73 living people (excluding the two collective awards to
Maltaand the Royal Ulster Constabulary); including those who were originally awarded other medals, the total number of recipients is 404.
The Ministry of Defence announced on
23 July 2008that L/Cpl Matthew Croucherof the Royal Marines Reservewill be awarded the George Cross for smothering a grenade explosion with his body and equipment on an operation in Afgahnistan.Croucher, will be the first reservist to receive either a VC or GC since current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan began. [cite web|title=Royal Marine Reservist to receive the George Cross|url=http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/HistoryAndHonour/RoyalMarineReservistToReceiveTheGeorgeCross.htm|publisher=Ministry of Defence| date = 2008-07-23] [cite news| title =Marine who threw himself on exploding grenade to protect comrades awarded George Cross|work = Daily Mail| date = 2008-07-23| url=http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1037353/Marine-threw-exploding-grenade-protect-comrades-awarded-George-Cross.html| accessdate = 2008-07-23]
Prior to 23 July 2008 the most recent recipient of the George Cross was Corporal Mark Wright, of the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, who died in
Helmand Provinceof Afghanistanon 6 September 2006, after entering a minefieldin an attempt to save the lives of other injured soldiers. He entered the minefield with a small team after another soldier stepped on a landmine. While the first casualty was being tended to, further landmines detonated as a landing space was cleared for a CASEVACattempt, causing severe injuries to several others. Cpl Wright remained in the minefield, and ordered others out, but he was himself injured by another mine while making his way to the helicopter. 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. [LondonGazette|issue=58182|supp=yes|notarchive=yes|startpage=17352|endpage=17353|date= 15 December 2006|accessdate=2008-01-10]
Prior to that, the two most recent military recipients of the George Cross were Captain Peter Norton, an
Ammunition Technical Officerof the Royal Logistic Corps, for gallantry when, on 24 July 2005, he led a bomb disposalteam at the site of an IED attack on a US military patrol in Iraq, sustaining serious injuries. [LondonGazette|issue=57935|supp=yes|notarchive=yes|startpage=7191|endpage=4192|date= 24 March 2006|accessdate=2007-12-19] Previously, Trooper Christopher Finneyof the Blues and Royalshad been awarded the George Cross on 31 October 2003for gallantry during a friendly fire incident in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. [LondonGazette|issue=57100|supp=yes|notarchive=yes|startpage=1|date= 30 October 2003|accessdate=2007-12-19] 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 Aramoana massacrein New Zealand. [LondonGazette|issue=52837|supp=yes|startpage=2783|endpage=2784|date= 17 February 1992|accessdate=2008-01-10]
In its history, the GC has been awarded directly to only four women (although a number of others have received the awards superseded by the GC),
Odette Sansom, [LondonGazette|issue=37693|supp=yes|startpage=4175|date= 16 August 1946|accessdate=2008-05-27] Violette Szabo, [LondonGazette|issue=37820|supp=yes|startpage=6127|date= 13 December 1946|accessdate=2008-05-27] and Noor Inayat Khan[LondonGazette|issue=38578|supp=yes|startpage=1703|date= 5 April 1949|accessdate=2007-11-16] (all members of FANY, who were awarded the George Cross for actions carried out while serving as agents in the Special Operations Executive(SOE) during World War II), and Barbara Jane Harrison, an Air Stewardess, on a BOACflight at Heathrow Airport, who died on 8 April 1968after helping many passengers escape from an onboard fire. [LondonGazette|issue=44913|startpage=8211|date= 7 August 1969|accessdate=2008-05-16]
The George Cross has, on the express instruction of the Sovereign, been awarded twice on a collective basis, [Such collective awards have only been bestowed on three occasions—two separate awards of the George Cross to Malta and the RUC and one award of the
Conspicuous Gallantry Crossto the Royal Irish Regiment.] to the island of Malta and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).
The GC was awarded to the island of Malta in a letter dated
15 April 1942from King George VI to the island's Governor Lieutenant-General Sir William Dobbie:
The Governor answered:
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 Singaporehad done in the Battle of Singapore. [cite web |title=The Siege of Malta in World War Two |url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/siege_malta_06.shtml |accessdate=April 15 |accessyear=2007]
The George Cross is woven into the
Flag of Maltaand 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 paid her own personal tribute to the RUC by presenting the George Cross to the organisation in person at
Hillsborough Castle, County Down.
The citation published in the
London Gazetteon November 23 1999states:
Two years later (on
4 November 2001), the RUC was renamed and is now the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Awards by nation
There have been 10 GCs awarded to Canadians (including those by substitution for awards superseded by the GC): eight military, one Merchant Navy, and one woman. The GC is no longer awarded to Canadians by the
Queen of Canada, who awards the Cross of Valour (Canadian) instead.
14 George Crosses were awarded to Australians between 1940 and 1978, five of this total going to civilians. In alphabetical order the Australian GC recipients are:
Eric George Bailey, New South Wales Police Force(1946) [LondonGazette|issue=37771|supp=yes|startpage=5307|date= 25 October 1946|accessdate=2008-05-27]
Raymond Tasman Donoghue, tram conductor (1960) [LondonGazette|issue=42162|supp=yes|startpage=6849|date= 7 October 1960|accessdate=2008-05-27]
Errol John Emanuel, District Commissioner, Territory of Papua New Guinea(1971) [LondonGazette|issue=45588|startpage=1281|date= 1 February 1972|accessdate=2008-05-27]
* Lieutenant Leon Verdi Goldsworthy, mine disposal (1944) [LondonGazette|issue=36707|supp=yes|startpage=4333|date=
15 September 1944|accessdate=2008-05-27]
George Gosse, mine disposal (1945)
Benjamin Gower Hardy, prisoner of warguard (1944)
* Private Ralph Jones, prisoner of war guard (1944)
Horace William Madden, prisoner of war, Korea (1951)
Lionel Colin Matthews, prisoner of war, Borneo(1942-44)
John Stuart Mould, mine disposal (1941-42)
Michael Kenneth Pratt, Victoria Police(1976) [LondonGazette|issue=47582|supp=yes|startpage=8045|date= 3 July 1978|accessdate=2008-01-10]
* Chief Petty Officer Jonathan Rogers, HMAS "Voyager" disaster (1964)
Hugh Randall Syme, mine disposal (1941-42)
George Anthony Morgan Taylor, vulcanologist, Territory of Papua New Guinea (1951)
Of the 14, four awards were made to officers of the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve (Goldsworthy, Gosse, Mould and Syme) who served in the extremely dangerous role of mine disposal during
World War II. Courage of a different sort was displayed by two prisoners of war (Madden and Matthews) who endured terrible suffering without flinching, with Madden dying of privations while assisting fellow prisoners, and 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 Pratt of the Victoria Police, Melbourne, for arresting two armed bank robbers in June 1976. A memorial to Australian recipients was opened in the Capital, Canberra, on 4 April 2001by the Governor General of Australia, Sir William Deane. George Cross Park is in Blamey Crescent bounded by Moten Street, Campbell.
The George Cross is no longer awarded to Australians. The
Queen of Australiaestablished the Cross of Valour in 1975 to be awarded by the Australian Crown "only for acts of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme peril". This is now used instead of the George Cross.
Holders of the George Cross or Victoria Cross are entitled to an annuity, the amount of which is determined by the awarding government. [LondonGazette|issue=43684|supp=yes|startpage=5693|date=
11 June 1965|accessdate=2008-01-10 - Warrant, Fourteenth clause] Since 2002, the annuity paid by the British government is £1,495 per year. As at January 2005, under the "Canadian Gallantry Awards Order", members of the Canadian Forces, or people who joined the British forces before 31 March 1949while 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 ForcePay and Conditions", and as of January 2005 is $250 per year.
Restriction of Use
As of 1943 in accordance with the
George Cross (Restriction of Use) Ordinance, in Maltait is unlawful to use the George Cross or an imitation of it or the words George Cross, for the purposes of trade or business without the authorisation of the Prime Minister.
* 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)
* Mackay, J and Mussell, J (eds) - "Medal Yearbook - 2005", (2004), Token Publishing.
* Smyth, Sir John - "The Story of the George Cross", Arthur Baker Ltd. (1968) ISBN 0213763079
* Stanistreet, A - "
'Gainst All Disaster", Picton Publishing Ltd. (1986) ISBN 0-948251-16-6
* "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)
British and Commonwealth orders and decorations
List of George Cross recipients
List of living George Cross recipients
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
* [http://medals.nzdf.mil.nz/category/i/i1.html New Zealand Defence Force - Medal information page]
* [http://www.gc-database.co.uk George Cross Database]
* [http://collections.ic.gc.ca/courage/georgecrossrecipients.html Canadian World War II recipients]
* [http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/ceremonial/bravery/types.asp Ceremonial Secretariat - Types of Bravery Award]
* [http://www.remuseum.org.uk/rem_his_gc.htm Royal Engineers Museum: George Crosses awarded to Royal Engineers (Bomb Disposal)]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/april/15/newsid_3530000/3530301.stm BBC On This Day 1942: Malta gets George Cross for bravery]
* [http://www.naval-history.net/WW2MedalsBr-GC.htm George Cross at Sea in World War 2, including Naval bomb Disposal]
* [http://www.soham.org.uk/history/trainexplosion.htm Soham Rail Disaster]
2 June 1944
* [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/system/topicRoot/Holders_of_the_Victoria_Cross/ GC winners from "The Times" obituaries]
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