The Awards of the George Cross 1940 – 2009
By John Frayn Turner
Published by Pen and Sword (www.pen-and-sword.co.uk)
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In September 1940 King George VI instituted the George Cross. It was to be awarded “For Gallantry” to both civilians and service personnel away from direct combat. Since then it has been awarded 160 times directly and 244 times indirectly. The latter category consists of personnel who were awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal, the Albert Medal or the Edward Medal and were eligible to exchange their award for the GC. In the book there is an Appendix stating the names of the indirect recipients whereas all the direct awards are featured.
This interesting book details the actions in which all of the 160 direct GCs were awarded. It is organised on a chronological basis. The first chapter starts with those awarded for 1940 and the subsequent chapters cover the period up to 1947 on a yearly basis. The final four chapters cover 1950, 1960-70, 1971-77 and 1989 – 2009. The recipients of the GC are split roughly one third for civilians and two thirds to service personnel. Although the GC ranks alongside the Victoria Cross (VC) it is by far a lesser known decoration. It has been awarded on significantly less occasions than the VC so in real terms it is much scarcer than the VC. It is still “in issue” and the latest bestowal recorded in the book was in early 2008.
The text starts with the initial awards of this exceptional medal earned during the Blitz. Members of Bomb Disposal Teams feature highly amongst those awarded as they undertake these specialised and highly dangerous assignments. Civilians too are featured – there are examples where rescuers during the Blitz tunnelled in the rubble of cities to rescue those buried underneath. There are other accounts of selfless courage from service personnel, Air Raid Precautions, Fire Service, Railway personnel, Home Guard, Police, Merchant Navy etc to name but a few.
The book gives details of the “group” awards. The Island of Malta features amongst these as the award was given to the Islands’ population in recognition of their outstanding heroism and devotion. There was a similar award for supreme gallantry to the Special Operations Executive (SOE).
Perhaps the most unusual bestowal of this medal was to George Anthony Taylor who was a Volcanologist. He exhibited extreme courage during the eruption of the Mount Lamington volcano in Papua during January 1951. Another fascinating and unusual award was to Barbara Jane Harrison a Stewardess on British Overseas Airways Corporation (April 1968) who died whilst saving others during an aircraft fire. Both of these courageous individuals’ acts are recorded in the book.
For anyone interested in gallantry medals this is a “must have” book - it details all the acts of extreme courage that have earned this most prestigious medal. It will enthral the reader right from the first page up to the last page. Congratulations should go to the author for producing this exceptional text.