Honours for Gallantry

The Seal of the Imperial Service Order

These two awards take precedence over all other honours. They are awarded for gallantry and bravery, and are open to all.

Instituted on 29th January 1856 by Queen Victoria, this most prestigious award was instituted to reward acts of valour during the Crimean War. It takes precedence over all other orders and decorations. It is also the most democratic war honour, placing 'all persons on a perfectly equal footing in relation to eligibility for decoration'.

It is a cross pattée of bronze, (this is a type of cross that has arms that are broader at the perimeter than at the centre). It is inscribed with the legend 'For Valour', and is awarded for 'most conspicuous bravery ... or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy'. A royal warrant of 1920 made provision for awards to women serving in the Armed Forces, but no woman has yet been awarded the VC.

There have been 1,356 awards of the VC to 1,353 individuals. The first ceremony was held on 26 June 1857 when Queen Victoria invested 62 of the 111 recipients in a ceremony in Hyde Park.

The George Cross was instituted on 24th September 1940 at the height of the Blitz by King George VI for civil gallantry, or for military actions not in the face of the enemy. The award is open to male and female civilians, as well as to anyone serving in the Armed Forces, and it ranks immediately after the VC in the order of precedence.

In 1942 the island of Malta was awarded the GC in recognition of the gallantry displayed by the islanders during the German bombardment in the Mediterranean. The only other collective award of the GC was in 2000, to the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Since its inception in 1940 there have been 159 awards of the GC, 86 of which have been posthumous awards.

 

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