Guidance

Civilian gallantry - operation

The modern system of national civilian gallantry awards.

What is civilian gallantry?

The modern system of national civilian gallantry awards dates from the Second World War when the George Cross and George Medal were introduced to recognise actions by civilians and military personnel not in the face of the enemy. There is a separate system of military gallantry awards.

Unlike other honours, gallantry awards may be awarded posthumously. Awards may be made to foreign nationals, apart from the George Cross which is restricted to British subjects.

Nominations for civilian gallantry

Nominations come from a variety of sources, including members of the public, the emergency services and government departments. All nominations are validated to check the facts of the case and an individual’s role.

Levels of civilian gallantry awards

There are four levels of civilian gallantry award:

  • The George Cross (GC) - introduced in 1940, is granted only for acts of gallantry of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger
  • The George Medal (GM) - introduced in 1940, is granted for gallantry of an extremely high order
  • The Queen’s Gallantry Medal (QGM) - introduced in 1974, is granted for gallantry of a high order
  • The Queen’s Commendation for Bravery (QCB) and The Queen’s Commendation for Bravery in the Air (QCBA) - introduced in the Second World War as the equivalent to Mention in Dispatches, are granted for gallantry not up to the foregoing standards, but entailing risk to life and meriting national recognition

The George Cross Committee

Nominations are considered by the George Cross Committee (GCC). The members are:

  • Sir Jonathan Stephens (chair)
  • the Private Secretary to HM Queen
  • the Private Secretary to the Prime Minister
  • the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence
  • Dame Mary Marsh (independent member)
  • Lord Evans (independent member)

Nominations come from a variety of sources, including members of the public, the emergency services and government departments. All nominations are validated to check the facts of the case and an individual’s role.

Cases are assessed against a number of factors including:

  • whether the individual has gone above and beyond the call of duty
  • the level of risk involved
  • whether a deliberate decision was made to act
  • persistence in acting
  • whether the safety or lives of others were protected by the individual’s actions

The GCC’s recommendations are submitted through the Prime Minister to The Sovereign for approval. Awards are announced in the London Gazette.

Receiving a civilian gallantry award

Recipients of the George Cross, the George Medal and the Queen’s Gallantry Medal receive their awards at a Royal Investiture. Investitures are organised by the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood at St. James’s Palace.

Recipients of the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery and the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery in the Air receive their medals from a senior official in the relevant area.

Forfeiture of civilian gallantry awards

There is a clear expectation that those invited to receive an honour are, and will continue to be, role models. Recipients should be aware that honours can be cancelled on the advice of the Honours Forfeiture Committee.

Published 28 December 2018