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George Cross: Facts & Statistics, Matters of Interest and some Questions and Answers

Institution: The GC was instituted by Royal Warrant on the 24 September 1940

Design: The GC was designed by Mr Percy Metcalfe CVO RDI (1895-1970). He was also responsible for the crowned head of King George VI used on the George Medal and the 1939-45 War Medal.

Manufacture: The GC is made of silver and struck by the Royal Mint

Ribbon: The ribbon is 38mm wide and the colour is officially described as 'dark blue'

Suspension: By a straight silver bar, slotted for the ribbon, with a ring lug below. The front of the bar is ornamented with laurel leaves

Obverse: A central medallion showing St George and the Dragon surrounded by a circular band inscribed "For Gallantry" with the Royal cypher "GVI" across the angle between each limb of the cross. The central Saint George and the dragon scene is based on the work of Benedetto Pisttucci (1784-1855), and has appeared on several British coins.

Reverse: Blank with the recipient's title or rank, full name, and where appropriate, unit, are inscribed on the reverse of the cross together with the appropriate London Gazette date.

First Award: Mr Thomas Alderson, Detachment Leader, ARP, Bridlington, Yorkshire (London Gazette, 30 September 1940)

First Investiture: The first investiture of the GC took place on the 24 May 1941 at Buckingham Palace. Appropriately the recipients represented the three armed services as well as the civilian services. HM King George VI presented the decoration firstly to Mr. Thomas Alderson, to whom he said "You are the first recipient of the George Cross. It gives me very great pleasure to hand it to you."
The other recipients that day were Lt Cdr Robert Armitage of the RNVR, Maj Herbert Barefoot of the Corps of Royal Engineers and Wg Cdr Laurence Sinclair of the RAF.

First Overseas award: Lt John Patton, Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers for Bomb disposal work on the 21 September 1940, at Weybridge, Surrey. (LG, 17 December 1940)

Latest Award: Cpl Mark Wright. The most recent civilian award was to Sgt Stewart Guthrie, New Zealand Police, for apprehending a gunman in Aramoana, NZ (LG, 15 February 1992) The most recent living civilian award was to Constable Michael Pratt, Victoria Police, Melbourne, Australia for arresting two armed bank robbers (LG, 5 July 1978)

Youngest Direct Recipients: Mr John Bamford, 15 years and 7 months, Newthorpe, Nottinghamshire, 19 October 1952 (LG, 16 December 1952); Chris Finney 18, Miss Barbara Harrison, 22 years and 10 months, Heathrow, London, 8 April 1968 (LG, 8 August 1969)

Youngest Direct Overseas Recipient: Leading Aircraftman Karl Gravell, Royal Canadian Air Force, who was 19 years and one month when he was killed in his GC action in November 1941 (LG, 11 June 1942)

Youngest Indirect Recipients: Mr David Western, (Albert Medal) 10 years and 10 months, Osterley Park, London, 17 February 1948 (LG, 13 August 1948); Miss Doreen Ashburnham, (Albert Medal) 11 years and 4 months, Vancouver Island, Canada, 23 September 1916 (LG, 21 December 1917)

Oldest Direct Recipient: Lt. William Foster, Home Guard, 61 years, Salisbury, Wiltshire, 13 September 1942 (LG, 27 November 1942)

Oldest Direct Overseas Recipient: Mr. Errol Emanuel, District Commissioner, East New Britain District, Papua New Guinea, who was 52 years and eight months when he was killed in his GC action in August 1971 (LG, 1 February 1972)

Oldest Indirect Recipient: Capt. Alfred Morris, Mill Foreman, Ashanti, Gold Coast, 29 May 1923 (LG, 4 July 1924) was 90 years and 3 months old at the time of the AM & EM exchanges in 1971

Longest Lived Recipient: Cdr Alfred Newman, Royal Navy, 10 October 1917 (LG, 1 March 1918) was 96 years and 4 months old when he died on 1 September 1984

Longest Held Award: Capt. Frank Naughton, Royal Tank Corps, 5 August 1936 (LG, 1 February 1937) became a recipient of the GC in 1940 and died in 2004, therefore he held the decoration for 63 years. Interestingly Capt Naughton was not invested with the GC until 1947, therefore Col Stuart Archer (LG, 30 September 1941) has physically held the GC longer being invested in 1941.

Shortest Held Award: Plt Off Gerald Close, RAF, 13th April 1937 (LG, 21 December 1937) became a recipient of the GC through the EGM exchanges in September 1940. Sadly he was killed flying over France on the 9th May 1941; therefore he held the decoration for just seven months.

Earliest Direct Award: The earliest deed for which the GC was directly awarded took place on the 11 February 1940 at Immingham Dock, North Lincolnshire. The GC was awarded to Mr Leonard Harrison and Flt Lt John Dowland. (LG, 3 & 7 January 1941 respectively)

Earliest Indirect Award: The earliest act of gallantry for which the GC was indirectly awarded took place on the 27 November 1908 in a dry dock in Jarrow. Mr Thomas McCormack was subsequently awarded the Albert Medal. (LG, 23 July 1909)

Most GCs awarded for one incident: Ten GCs were indirectly awarded for rescue work in the aftermath of the earthquake in Quetta, Baluchistan, India on the 31st May 1935. Seven recipients of the Empire Gallantry Medal and three Albert Medallists became holders of the GC in 1940 and 1971 respectively.

First GC Approved by Queen Elizabeth II: Mr George Taylor, Vulcanologist, Papua New Guinea, 18 January 1951 (LG, 22 April 1952)

Second Awards: No second award or Bar to a GC has yet been awarded

Awards to Women: Women have always been eligible for the GC, and the following have received the direct award.

Lt Odette Sansom MBE (later Mrs Hallowes), Women's Transport Service (FANY) SOE, October 1942 to May 1945. She was the first to receive the award.

Ensign Violette Szabo, WTS (FANY) SOE, April 1944-February 1945

Assistant Section Officer Noor Inayat-Khan, WAAF/SOE, 16 June 1943 to 12 September 1944

Miss Barbara Harrison, Air Stewardess, BOAC, Heathrow Airport, 8 April 1968

The following awards were translated from the Empire Gallantry Medal in 1940.

Miss Emma Townsend, Attempted Rescue, Cottage Hospital, Kingsbridge, Devon, 6 September 1932

Miss Dorothy Thomas, Nursing Sister, Middlesex Hospital, London, 26 January 1934

Ashraf-un-Nisa (The Begum of Hydrabad), Hydrabad, 14 June 1935

Corporal (later Section Officer) Daphne Pearson, WAAF, Detling, Kent 31 May 1940

The following awards were translated from the Albert Medal in 1971.

Miss Hilda Wolsey, Nurse, Hanwell, London, 11 June 1910

Miss Doreen Ashburnham, (later Mrs Ashburnham-Ruffner), Schoolgirl, Vancouver Island, Canada, 23 September 1916

Miss Harriet Fraser, (later Mrs Barry), Staff Nurse TFNS, 31 January 1919

Miss Florence Allen, (later Mrs Allen), Nurse, Quetta, India 31 May 1935

Miss Margaret Vaughan, (later Mrs Purves), Schoolgirl, Sully Island, Glamorgan, 28 May 1949

Total GCs awarded including exchanges: The total number of awards to date is 404.

By direct award (Posthumous) 86
By direct award (Surviving) 74 (Includes Malta and the RUC)
Eligible Empire Gallantry Medallists 112 (Includes 4 Next-of-kin)
Eligible Albert Medallists 64 (Only 49 were actually exchanged)
Eligible Edward Medallists 68 (Only 59 were actually exchanged)

The distribution of these awards in terms of the recipients' affiliation, job or service is broadly as follows, These numbers do not add up to the total!

Military: Army (74), Naval Services (67), Air Force Services (41), Agents (6), POWs (13)

Civilian Services: Police, Prison, Fire, Civil Defence, RNLI and Other Rescue (36)

Civilian Workers: Miners(46), Railwaymen (7), Other workmen, nurses etc. (62)

Overseas awards: Australia (21), New Zealand (4), Canada (11), Other (32)

Awards of George Cross and George Medal: A total of eight people have been awarded both the GC and GM. Of these recipients, two have been awarded the GM twice.

Lt Cdr Robert Armitage, RNVR, Bomb disposal

Lt Cdr John Bridge GM and Bar, RNVR, Bomb disposal

Mr Richard Bywater The only civilian to have this rare distinction.

Cdr Ernest Gidden OBE, RNVR, Bomb disposal

Lt Cdr Leon Goldsworthy DSC, RANVR, Bomb disposal

Lt Cdr John Mould, RANVR, Bomb disposal

Lt Hugh Syme GM and Bar, RANVR, Bomb disposal

Cdr Geoffrey Turner, RNVR, Bomb disposal

Civilian awards: Of the 160 direct awards of the GC, only 49 have been made to civilians (excluding Malta and the RUC), even though it is supposed to be a predominantly civilian award.

Other civilian gallantry awards: The following table shows the current civilian gallantry awards, in their order of precedence, and the date that the award was instituted

Precedence Gallantry Award   Instituted
George Cross (GC) 24 September 1940
George Medal (GM) 24 September 1940
Queen's Gallantry Medal (QGM) 20 June 1974
Queen's Commendation for Bravery 15 December 1939
Queen's Commendation for Bravery in the Air 1 January 1942

Awards to brothers: There is one instance of the GC being awarded to brothers.

Messrs. David and Samuel Booker who were originally awarded the Edward Medal for rescue work in Littleton Colliery, South Staffordshire on the 14 May 1937.

There is one instance of the GC and VC being awarded to brothers.

Maj Hugh Seagrim DSO MBE, 19 Hyderabad Regiment, Indian Army and SOE, was awarded a posthumous GC for his work behind the Japanese lines in Burma, February 1943 to February 1944

Lt Col Derek Seagrim, 7th Battalion, The Howards was awarded a posthumous VC in North Africa, 20/21 March 1943

Annual annuity: There was no provision for the payment of any annuity contained in the original Warrant. However, from 4 February 1965 living holders of the GC were granted a tax-free annuity of £100. The figure remained unchanged until 15 August 1995 when it was raised to £1,300. This was further increased to £1,495 from 1 April 2002.

Additionally some Commonwealth Governments pay annuities to GC holders.

Living GC recipients: There are presently 20 living recipients. (Go to page)

GCs on Public Display: The Imperial War Museum: The Victoria Cross & George Cross Gallery at London's Imperial War Museum contains a good cross-section of GC awards. Apart from the decorations, it also contains an account of the deeds and other items of interest. The following table lists the decorations which may be found there — they are sometime on location.

George Cross

Mr T.H. Alderson, ARP Warden, Rescue work, Bridlington, Yorkshire, 30 September 1940

Lt Col George Styles

Cdr John Bridge

Gordon Love Bastian

Lt R.S. Armitage, RNVR, Bomb disposal, 27 December 1940

Miss D. Ashburnham, 11 year-old school girl, Fighting off cougar, 20 December 1917

Sub-Lt J.H. Babington, RNVR, Bomb disposal, 27 December 1940

Maj H.J.L. Barefoot, Royal Engineers, Bomb disposal, 22 January 1941

Pte R. Blackburn, 1st Bn, Cheshire Regiment, Forest fire rescue, 23 June 1936

Sub-Lt F.H. Brooke-Smith, RNR, Shipboard bomb disposal, 27 June 1941

Lt R. Davies, Royal Engineers, Bomb disposal, 30 September 1940

Capt M.K. Durrani, Indian State Forces, Fortitude as POW, 23 May 1946 (GC only)

CPO R.V. Ellingworth, RN, Bomb disposal, 20 December 1940) (Posthumous)

Pte E.M. Elston, 1st Bn, West Yorkshire Regiment, Earthquake rescue, 19 November 1935

Fireman H. Errington, Auxiliary Fire Service, Fire rescue, 8 August 1941

Constable A.J. Gledhill, Metropolitan Police Force, Arresting armed suspect 23 May 1967 (L/R)

Bosun W.H.D. McCarthy, RN, Sea rescue, 27 July 1943

Lt H.R. Newgass, RNVR, Bomb disposal, 4 March 1941

Col L.A. Newnham, Middlesex Regiment, Fortitude as POW, 18 April 1946 (Posthumous)

Cpl J.D.M. Pearson, WAAF, Aeroplane crash rescue, 19 July 1940

Mr J.S. Purvis, Pit lad, South Garesfield Colliery, Durham, Mine rescue, 22 November 1929

Flt Lt J.A. Quinton, RAF, Aeroplane crash rescue self sacrifice, 23 October 1951 (Posthumous)

Supdt G.I. Richardson, Lancashire Constabulary, Arresting armed criminal 12 November 1972 (Posthumous)

Lt. O.M.C. Sansom, WTS (FANY) and SOE, Espionage, France, 20 May 1946

Wg Cdr. L.F. Sinclair, 110 Sqn, RAF, Aeroplane crash rescue, 21 January 1941

Mr R.G. Taylor, Advertising agent, Bank robbery shooting, 1 August 1950 (Posthumous)

Mr H. Wilson, Miner, Harriseahead Colliery, Staffordshire, Mine flood rescue, 22 August 1922

Wg Cdr F.F.E. Yeo-Thomas, RAFVR, Espionage, France, 15 February 1946

Edward Medal

Dr W.C.G. Baldwin, Works manager, Munitions factory, Explosives rescue, 16 April 1943

Mr J.S. Purvis, Pit lad, South Garesfield Colliery, Durham, Mine rescue, 22 November 1929

Albert Medal

Cadet D. Hay (later Marquis of Tweeddale), RNR, Sea Rescue, 8 July 1941

CPO J. Lynch, RN, Sea Rescue, 15 June 1948

2nd Hand J. H. Mitchell, RNR, Harbourside rescue, 29 April 1941

L/Cpl S. Williams, City of London Regiment, Gunpowder store rescue, 30 August 1918

GCs on Public Display : The Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon. There are several George Crosses currently located in the RAF Museum's medal collection:

Lt O.C. Bryson, RFC, Aeroplane crash rescue, 11 January 1918 (AM also displayed)

Flt Sgt H.J. Cannon, RFC, Aeroplane crash rescue, 16 April 1918 (AM also displayed)

Mr H.F. Charrington, Civil Engineer, Air Ministry Works Dept., Aeroplane crash rescue, 8 March 1940

Plt Off. G.C.N. Close, RAF, Aeroplane crash rescue, 21 December 1937

Sqn Ldr. H. Dinwoodie, RAFVR, Bomb disposal, 4 February 1947

Flg Off. R.C. Graveley, RAF, Aeroplane crash rescue, 11 November 1939

AC1 V. Hollowday, RAF, Attempted Aeroplane crash rescue, 21 January 1941

Cpl J.M. McClymont, Auxiliary Air Force, Aeroplane crash rescue, 19 July 1940

Flt Sgt S.J. Woodbridge, RAFVR, Fortitude as POW, 28 September 1948

Matters of Interest and Questions and Answers

This is a new section where I intend to include matters sent to me which may be of interest to readers.

from Peter Sharpe

A friend searching for some material for me in the PRO just stumbled across this RECOMMENDATION FOR A BAR TO THE GEORGE CROSS to Lieutenant John Bryan Peter Miller, GC, RNVR (see Duppa-Miller) in file Air 2/9504 - the same file had a recommendation for a GC to Acting Lieutenant Dennis James Patrick O'Hagan, RCNVR (subsequently awarded GM).

The Bar to the GC was NOT awarded.

Q - From Denis S A Rose

We know that no Bar has been awarded to the GC, but we know that in the years 1910 and again in 1911 George Silkstone and John Thorne were awarded Bars to their Edward Medals in Silver. Had they lived to 1971 would both of them become recipients of the GC and Bar?

A - We think we could assume that they would have automatically become recipients of the GC and Bar.

Some comments on exchanges from Peter Sharpe

I believe that the relevant decisions are these - Nov 1949 when KGVI effectively decreed that he would no longer approve any Albert Medals in Gold as there was now the GC and that any future AMs of other classes would be limited to posthumous awards. Royal Warrant 24.1.1969 announced that surviving UK holders of AMs (any class) would have an annual gratuity from 14.11.68. Royal Warrant 15.12.71 revoked the AM (effective 21.10.71) and living recipients of all classes of the AM were deemed to be GCs.

Q - We have had some queries about recipients of the BEM (For Gallantry). While the EGM was replaced by the GC the BEM was not it was replaced by the QGM in 1974.

A - We can think of several recipients of the BEM that also held the GC, however this was in addition to the EGM, AM or EM. Haller and Lynch. None became a recipient of the GC by holding the BEM on its own.

Q - I was wondering if you have any idea where I would be able to find a list (if that exists) of the people who were awarded the MBE or the OBE. I am looking for someone who was rewarded the one or the other after the war. Strangely enough this person was a hotel owner, owning the 'late' Stork Hotel in Liverpool. His name was John Clancy and he was awarded the MBE or OBE for services rendered helping the war effort. I am trying to find out what exactly he did to have been given such a high award

A - Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood, St James's Palace, London, SW1A 1BH, United Kingdom

The Chancery holds registers of all recipients within the various British Orders and can locate the detail you require. Or have a look here: Gazettes Online and type in John Clancy.

Q - I notice that the number on the photo of C. Feetham is different from the number in the Rank and Number item. Why is that?

A - The number on the photo will be his British Seaman's Card ID number the other number is his service number (Discharge Number) which is the important one

Q - I would like to find out if there are any organisations specific to the Malta theatre of war and are there any organised tours of the island covering this area?

A - Answers to please

Q - What are the main civilian awards?

A - Taken from the National Archive site they are:

Albert Medal (for merchant seamen, the Royal Navy and later firemen, miners, railwaymen, the army, and others),

Edward Medal (for miners, quarrymen and later dock workers, railwaymen, etc.),

Empire Gallantry Medal (from 1922 for gallantry)

British Empire Medal (from 1922 --1993 for meritorious service)

George Cross (from 1940 for gallantry, replacing the Empire Gallantry Medal, and later the Edward Medal and Albert Medal)

George Medal (from 1940 for gallantry)

Queen’s Gallantry Medal (from 1974 for gallantry).

Q - Re: Dr Geoffrey Baldwin, GC - Do I take it (a) that you do not know of any web site that lists Edward Medal winners, (b) that Sallows and Wheeler did not exchange their EMs for GCs, and (c) that you do not have any further info on Sallows and Wheeler and do not know of any source of such info?

A - The only website I know that lists any Edward Medal recipients, other than my own, is one on Mine rescue work listed on the Database Links page. (Obviously outside the scope of Baldwin et al). Sallows and Wheeler did not exchange their EMs for GCs as they died before the October 1971 exchange date. From what I have heard the lack of posthumous recognition for Albert Medal and Edward Medal recipients is still a sensitive subject 30 years later. Further info on Sallows and Wheeler may be found in: Heroic Endeavour, A complete Register of the Albert, Edward and Empire Gallantry Medals and how they were won, Henderson, GM, Donald, J.B. Hayward & Son, 1988, ISBN 0 90375 439 8. This contains resumes of all AM, EM and EGM citations.

Additional detail on Baldwin can be found in the book 'Gainst All Disaster: Gallant Deeds above & beyond the call of duty, by Allan Stanistreet. (Picton Publishing, 1986, ISBN 0 94825 116 6)

Q - Where can I find out how medals are awarded?

A - Try this site

Q - How can I contact the GC Association?

A - Write to VC & GC Association, Horse Guards, Whitehall, London, SW1A 2AX

Some Abbreviations

Please note that the Bold character is for ease of reading.

2nd Lt Second Lieutenant

A/Cdre Air Commodore - 1 star rank (equivalent to Brigadier and Commodore)

ACM Air Chief Marshal - 4 star rank (equivalent to General and Admiral)

Adm Admiral

AFC Air Force Cross

AFM Air Force Medal

AHQ Air Headquarters

AM Albert Medal

AM Air Marshal - 3 star rank (equivalent to Lieutenant General and Vice Admiral)

AOC Air Officer Commanding

AOC in C Air Officer Commanding in Chief

AVM Air Vice-Marshal - 2 star rank (equivalent to Major General and Rear Admiral)

BEM British Empire Medal

Capt Captain

CARO Canadian Army Routine Orders

CBE Commander of the Order of the British Empire

CD Canadian Forces' Decoration

Cdr Commander

Cdre Commodore

Col Colonel

CVO Commander of the Royal Victorian Order

DCM Distinguished Conduct Medal

DFC Distinguished Flying Cross

DFM Distinguished Flying Medal

DSC Distinguished Service Cross

DSM Distinguished Service Medal

DSO Distinguished Service Order

EM Edward Medal

ERD Emergency Reserve Decoration

EGM Empire Gallantry Medal

Fg Off Flying Officer (equivalent to Lieutenant in the Army and Sub-Lieutenant in the Navy)

Flt Flight (a sub division of a Squadron)

Flt Cdr Flight Commander

Flt Lt Flight Lieutenant (equivalent to Captain in the Army and Lieutenant in the Navy)

Gen General

GOC General Officer Commanding

Gp Capt Group Captain (equivalent to Colonel in the Army and Captain in the Navy)

HQ Headquarters

IOM Indian Order of Merit

KBE Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire

KCB Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath

KCVO Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order

Lt Lieutenant

Lt Cdr Lieutenant Commander

Lt Col Lieutenant Colonel

Lt Gen Lieutenant General

Maj Major

Maj Gen Major General

Mid'n Midshipman

MBE Member of the Order of the British Empire

MC Military Cross

MM Military Medal

MRAF Marshal of the RAF - 5 star rank (equivalent to Field Marshal and Admiral of the Fleet)

MSM Meritorious Service Medal

MVO Member of the Royal Victorian Order

OBE Officer of the Order of the British Empire

Plt Off Pilot Officer (equivalent to 2nd Lieutenant in the Army, no equivalent in the Navy)

R Adm Rear Admiral

RD Royal Naval Reserve Decoration

RFC Royal Flying Corps

RNAS Royal Naval Air Service

SASO Senior Air Staff Officer

SGM Sea Gallantry Medal

Sqn Squadron

Sqn Cdr Squadron Commander

Sqn Ldr Squadron Leader (equivalent to Major in the Army and Lieutenant Commander in the Navy)

V Adm Vice Admiral

Wg Cdr Wing Commander (equivalent to Lieutenant Colonel in the Army and Commander in the Navy)

(WS) War Substantive