Air Force Cross (United Kingdom)

The Air Force Cross (AFC) is a military decoration awarded to officers, and since 1993 other ranks, of the United Kingdom Armed Forces, and formerly also to officers of the other Commonwealth countries. It is granted for "an act or acts of exemplary gallantry while flying, though not in active operations against the enemy". A bar is added to the ribbon for holders who are awarded a further AFC.[4]

Air Force Cross
Air Force Cross (UK)
Obverse of medal
Awarded by United Kingdom and Commonwealth
TypeMilitary decoration
EligibilityBritish, Commonwealth (formerly) and allied forces
Awarded for"... gallantry while flying but not on active operations against the enemy."[1]
StatusCurrently awarded
DescriptionSilver cross
Established3 June 1918
Total awardedIncluding further award bars:[2]
George V: 804
George VI: 3,053
Elizabeth II (to 2017): 1,696
Total: 5,553
Order of Wear
Next (higher)Distinguished Flying Cross[3]
Next (lower)Royal Red Cross, Second Class[3]
RelatedAir Force Medal
UK AFC ribbon
Ribbon: diagonal alternate white and red stripes
Bar to the Air Force Cross
Ribbon bar for 2nd award


The award was established on 3 June 1918, shortly after the formation of the Royal Air Force (RAF). It was originally awarded to RAF commissioned officers and Warrant Officers, but was later expanded to include Royal Navy and army aviation officers.[5]

While consistently awarded for service while "flying though not in active operations against the enemy", the AFC was originally awarded for "valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying"[6] with many awards made for meritorious service over a period of time, rather than a specific act of bravery.[7] These awards were discontinued in 1993,[2] when the criteria was narrowed to "exemplary gallantry while flying".[8]

A bar is added to the ribbon of holders of the AFC for each further award, with a silver rosette worn on the ribbon when worn alone to denote the award of each bar.[9]

Recipients of the Air Force Cross are entitled to use the post-nominal letters "AFC".

Between 1919 and 1932 the AFC was also awarded to civilians, on the same basis as for RAF personnel.[10] In March 1941 eligibility was extended to Naval Officers of the Fleet Air Arm, and in November 1942 to Army officers,[5] with posthumous awards permitted from 1979.[11]

Since the 1993 review of the honours system as part of the drive to remove distinctions of rank in bravery awards, all ranks of all arms of the Armed Forces have been eligible, and the Air Force Medal, which had until then been awarded to other ranks, was discontinued.[4]

The AFC had also been awarded by Commonwealth countries but by 1990's most, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, had established their own honours systems and no longer recommended British honours.[12]


  • The medal is a silver cross, 60 millimetres (2.4 in) in height and 54 millimetres (2.1 in) wide, representing aircraft propeller blades, with wings between the arms. It was design by Edward Carter Preston.[5]
  • The obverse depicts Hermes, riding on the wings of a hawk holding a laurel wreath. At the top of the upper arm is the royal crown, while the other three arms bear the royal cypher of the reigning monarch at the time of issue.[4]
  • The reverse is plain, except for a central roundel bearing the reigning monarch's cypher and the date '1918'. Originally awarded unnamed, from 1939 the year of issue was engraved on the reverse lower limb of cross,[5] and since 1984 it has been awarded named to the recipient.[2]
  • The suspender is straight and decorated with laurel wreaths.[4]
  • The ribbon bar denoting a further award is silver, with the Royal Air Force eagle in its centre. Bars awarded during World War II have the year of award engraved on the reverse.[5]
  • The 32 mm (1.25 inch) ribbon was originally white with red broad horizontal stripes, but changed in July 1919 to the current white with red broad diagonal stripes at a 45-degree angle.[5]
Air Force Cross ribbon bars
AFC AFC and Bar
UK AFC 1918 ribbon
UK AFC 1918 w Bar ribbon
Since 1919
UK AFC ribbon
UK AFC w Bar ribbon2


Numbers awarded

From 1918 to 2017 approximately 5,360 Air Force Crosses and 193 bars have been awarded. The figures to 1979 are laid out in the table below,[13] the dates reflecting the relevant entries in the London Gazette:

Period Crosses 1st bar 2nd bar
World War I 1918–19 679 2
Inter–War 1920–39 159 10 3
World War II 1940–45 2,001 26 1
Post–War 1946–79 2,242 135 8
Total 1918–79 5,081 173 12

In addition, between 1980 and 2017 approximately 279 AFCs[14] and eight second-award bars[15] have been awarded.

The above figures include awards to the Dominions:
In all, 560 AFCs have gone to Canadians, including those serving in the RAF, including 70 for World War I, 462 and one bar for World War II and 28 post–war awards.[16]
A total of 444 AFCs and two bars have been awarded to Australians, the last award made in 1983.[17]
A number of awards were made to New Zealanders until the AFC was replaced by the New Zealand Gallantry Decoration in 1999.[18]

A total of 87 honorary awards have been made to members of allied foreign forces, including 26 for World War I, 58 for World War II and three post-war, the latter all to members of the US Air Force.[13]

Notable awards

See also


  1. ^ "Defence Fact Sheet". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 9 October 2008.
  2. ^ a b c John Mussell (ed). Medal Yearbook 2015. pp. 88. Token Publishing, Honiton, Devon.ISBN 978-1-908-828-16-3
  3. ^ a b "JSP 761 Honours and Awards in the Armed Forces" (PDF). p. 12A-1. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d "Gov.UK, MOD: AFC". Retrieved 9 October 2008.
  5. ^ a b c d e f P E Abbott & J M A Tamplin. British Gallantry Awards. pp. 4–8. Nimrod Dix & Co, London, 1981.ISBN 0-902633-74-0
  6. ^ "No. 30723". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 May 1918. p. 6533.
  7. ^ For example AFC to Wing Commander David, RAF, January 1943. "This officer has been employed on flying training since November 1941 and by his example, personality and ability has set a high standard and produced most creditable results...[and] has been untiring in his efforts to improve the standard of training." Peter Duckers. British Gallantry Awards 1855–2000. p. 32. Shire Publications, Oxford, 2010.
  8. ^ "No. 56693". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 September 2002. p. 11148.
  9. ^ Peter Duckers. British Gallantry Awards 1855 – 2000. pp. 31–32. Shire Publications, Oxford, 2010.ISBN 978-0-7478-0516-8.
  10. ^ For example, Alan Cobham received the AFC in 1926 for "valuable and distinguished service rendered to aviation by his London to Cape Town return flight and numerous previous flights"."No. 33143". The London Gazette. 19 March 1926. p. 2019.
  11. ^ P E Abbott & J M A Tamplin. British Gallantry Awards. p. xx. Nimrod Dix & Co, London, 1981.ISBN 0-902633-74-0
  12. ^ John Mussell (ed). Medal Yearbook 2015. pp. 390, 429, 459. Token Publishing, Honiton, Devon.ISBN 978-1-908-828-16-3
  13. ^ a b P E Abbott & J M A Tamplin. British Gallantry Awards. pp. 8–10. Nimrod Dix & Co, London, 1981.ISBN 0-902633-74-0
  14. ^ Based on awards announced in London Gazette.
  15. ^ Bars awarded 1980-2017, London Gazette: 12 June 81 (2 bars); 30 Dec 81; 31 Dec 82; 18 Apl 83; 30 Dec 86; 16 June 1989; 9 Sept 96.
  16. ^ Veterans Affairs Canada – Air Force Cross (Retrieved 14 November 2018)
  17. ^ "Imperial Awards". It's an Honour. Australian Government. Archived from the original on 23 June 2006. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  18. ^ New Zealand Defence Force: British Commonwealth Gallantry Awards - Air Force Cross (Retrieved 14 November 2018)
  19. ^ "No. 32716". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 June 1922. p. 4325.
  20. ^ Dan, van der Vat (13 July 2011). "Air Marshal Sir Geoffrey Dhenin obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  21. ^ "No. 40497". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 June 1955. p. 3292.
  22. ^ "No. 32563". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1921. p. 10719.
  23. ^ "No. 41727". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 June 1959. pp. 3732–3733.
  24. ^ Thorne, Michael (27 April 2014). "Peter Thorne obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 May 2016.

External links

Allan Wright

Group Captain Allan Richard Wright, (12 February 1920 – 16 September 2015) was a Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter pilot and flying ace of the Second World War. Wright scored 11 kills, three shared kills, five probable kills and seven damaged against the German Luftwaffe, and was one of the last surviving airmen called The Few who served in the Battle of Britain.

Barry Gration

Air Marshal Ian Barrington "Barry" Gration (born 30 June 1936) is a former senior officer in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), whose career culminated with his appointment as Chief of the Air Staff from 1992 to 1994.

Carl Agar

Carlyle Clare Agar AFC (November 28, 1901 – January 27, 1968) was a pioneering Canadian aviator.

Carl Frederick Falkenberg

Carl Frederick Falkenberg DFC, AFC (4 February 1897 – 7 October 1980) was a Canadian First World War flying ace, officially credited with 17 victories.

David Mackay (pilot)

Astronaut David William Donald Mackay AFC (born 1957) is the Chief Pilot of Virgin Galactic, and a former test pilot. He is the first native-born Scot to visit space.

Frank Barnwell

Captain Frank Sowter Barnwell OBE AFC FRAeS BSc (23 November 1880 – 2 August 1938) was a British aeronautical engineer. With his elder brother Harold he built the first successful powered aircraft made in Scotland and later went on to a career as an aircraft designer with the Bristol Aeroplane Company, designing aircraft such as the Bristol Fighter, the Bulldog and the Blenheim.

Fred Chaney Sr.

Sir Frederick Charles Chaney (20 October 1914 – 17 December 2001) was an Australian politician. He served as a member of the House of Representatives from 1955 to 1969, as federal Minister for the Navy from 1964 to 1966, as Administrator of the Northern Territory from 1970 to 1973, and finally as Lord Mayor of Perth from 1978 to 1982.

Geoffrey de Havilland

Captain Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, OM, CBE, AFC, RDI, FRAeS (27 July 1882 – 21 May 1965) was an English aviation pioneer and aerospace engineer. His Mosquito has been considered the most versatile warplane ever built, and his Comet was the first jet airliner to go into production.

George Croil

Air Marshal George Mitchell Croil CBE, AFC (June 5, 1893 – April 8, 1959) was a Royal Flying Corps pilot during World War I who went on to become the first Chief of the Air Staff of the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was asked to step down as CAS in 1940 and Croil then served as the Inspector-General of the RCAF until his retirement in 1944 when the post of Inspector General was abolished.

Ian Allan (RAF officer)

Air Commodore John Watson Allan, (6 May 1918 – 9 July 1988), known as Ian Allan, was a Royal Air Force officer and flying ace of the Second World War, who was credited with 14 kills.

Allan was born in Cathcart, Scotland. He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in 1938, and qualified as a pilot in October 1940, serving with No. 266 Squadron RAF during the Battle of Britain. On 20 January 1941 he received a commission in the RAFVR. In 1942 he joined No. 256 Squadron RAF as a night pilot operating Boulton Paul Defiants. Allan was promoted to Flight Officer on 20 January 1943, with seniority of 14 January 1943. In July 1943 Allan led a detachment of his squadron to Malta. Between 12 July and 31 August 1943, with the assistance of his observer, Flight Lieutenant Harold James Davidson, he was credited with 14 enemy aircraft destroyed, with five being brought down on the night of 15/16 July and two each on 16/17 July and 25/26 July. He and Davidson were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in recognition of their aerial victories on 31 August 1943.At the beginning of 1944 Allan joined No. 151 Squadron RAF and undertook night ranger operations over Northern Europe, before moving to No. 29 Squadron RAF. In December 1944 he became commanding officer of No. 29 Squadron, which operated de Havilland Mosquitos, and he remained with the unit for the rest of the war. On 1 January 1945 he was mentioned in despatches. He was promoted to the permanent rank of squadron leader on 1 September 1945. In December 1945 Allan became a staff officer.

In 1950 he took command of the all-weather fighter wing at RAF Coltishall and in 1953 he led a flight of de Havilland Vampires during the Coronation Review flypast. He was promoted to wing commander on 1 July 1952. In March 1954 he served as an Administration Staff Officer at RAF Fighter Command, before becoming Officer Commanding Administration Wing, No. 3 Flying Training School RAF. He was awarded the Air Force Cross (United Kingdom) on 10 June 1954. On 14 September 1959 he took up the role of officer commanding, Administration Wing at RAF Northolt. Between 1960 and 1966 he worked at the Joint Warfare Establishment, before becoming officer commanding, RAF Leeming on 16 September 1966. On 1 June 1971 Allan assumed his final posting as the commandant of the Officer and Aircrew Selection Centre. He had been promoted to air commodore on 1 July 1967, and retired from the RAF on 6 May 1973.

Jack Higgins (RAF officer)

Air Marshal Sir John Frederick Andrews Higgins, (1 September 1875 – 1 June 1948), known as Jack Higgins, was a senior officer in the Royal Flying Corps, serving as a brigade commander from 1915 to 1918. After the First World War he served in a range of senior posts in the Royal Air Force until his retirement in 1930. He returned to active service for the first year of the Second World War.

John Marlow Thompson

Air Commodore John Marlow Thompson, (16 August 1914 – 23 July 1994) was a Royal Air Force (RAF) officer and a flying ace of the Second World War.

Laurence Jones

Air Marshal Sir Laurence Alfred Jones, (18 January 1933 – 27 September 1995) was a senior Royal Air Force commander.

Norman Brearley

Sir Norman Brearley, (1890 – 9 June 1989) was a commercial and military pilot and one of the pioneers of the airline industry within Australia.

Oswald Morris

Oswald Norman Morris, OBE, DFC, AFC, BSC (22 November 1915 – 17 March 2014) was a British cinematographer. Known to his colleagues by the nicknames "Os" or "Ossie", Morris' career in cinematography spanned six decades.

Peter Terry

Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter David George Terry, (18 October 1926 – 19 December 2017) was a senior Royal Air Force commander who held a number of high-level British and NATO posts. Terry was also Governor of Gibraltar, holding that position from 1985 to 1989.

Peter Wykeham

Air Marshal Sir Peter Guy Wykeham, (born Wykeham-Barnes; 13 September 1915 – 23 February 1995) was a Royal Air Force fighter pilot and squadron commander, and a flying ace of the Second World War. He was credited with 14 and 3 shared aerial victories.

Sandy Wilson (RAF officer)

Air Chief Marshal Sir Ronald Andrew Fellowes Wilson, (born 27 February 1941), often known as Sir Andrew Wilson and sometimes known informally as Sir Sandy Wilson, is a retired senior Royal Air Force officer.

William Vale

William "Cherry" Vale, (3 June 1914 – 29 November 1981) was a Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter pilot and flying ace of the Second World War. He was credited with 30 enemy aircraft shot down, shared in the destruction of three others, and claimed 6 damaged and another two shared damaged. His 20 kills achieved while flying the Hawker Hurricane and his 10 with the Gloster Gladiator made him the second highest scoring Hurricane and biplane pilot in the RAF, in both cases after Marmaduke Pattle.

Royal family
Orders of chivalry
Civil bravery
Nursing service
Meritorious service
South Africa
until 6 April 1952






we Sizwe

Azanian People's
Liberation Army
South Africa
From 1994


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.