George Medal

The George Medal (GM), instituted on 24 September 1940 by King George VI,[3] is a decoration of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, awarded for gallantry "not in the face of the enemy" where the services were not so outstanding as to merit the George Cross.

The George Medal
George Medal obverse
George Medal Rev
Obverse and reverse of the medal
Awarded by United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Commonwealth
TypeCivil decoration
EligibilityThose performing acts of bravery in, or meriting recognition by, the United Kingdom
Awarded for"... acts of great bravery"
StatusCurrently awarded
DescriptionSilver disc, 36 mm diameter
Established24 September 1940
Total awardedApprox 2,122
About half awarded to civilians[1]
27 bars for second award
Order of Wear
Next (higher)Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (Flying)[2]
Next (lower)Queen's Police Medal, for Gallantry
RelatedGeorge Cross
UK George Medal ribbon

Ribbon bar of the George Medal
UK GM w Bar ribbon

Ribbon of the GM and Bar


In 1940, during the height of the Blitz, there was a strong desire to reward the many acts of civilian courage. The existing awards open to civilians were not judged suitable to meet the new situation, therefore it was decided that the George Cross and the GM would be instituted to recognise both civilian gallantry in the face of enemy bombing and brave deeds more generally.[1]

Announcing the new awards, the King said:

In order that they should be worthily and promptly recognised, I have decided to create, at once, a new mark of honour for men and women in all walks of civilian life. I propose to give my name to this new distinction, which will consist of the George Cross, which will rank next to the Victoria Cross, and the George Medal for wider distribution.[4]

The Warrant for the GM (along with that of the GC), dated 24 January 1941, was published in The London Gazette on 31 January 1941.[5]


The medal is granted in recognition of "acts of great bravery".[6] The original warrant for the George Medal did not explicitly permit it to be awarded posthumously. This was changed in December 1977 to allow posthumous awards, several of which have been subsequently made.[7]

The medal is primarily a civilian award, but it may be awarded to military personnel for gallant conduct that is not in the face of the enemy.[8] As the Warrant states:

The Medal is intended primarily for civilians and award in Our military services is to be confined to actions for which purely military Honours are not normally granted.[9]

Recipients are entitled to the post-nominal letters GM.[10]

Bars are awarded to the GM in recognition of the performance of further acts of bravery meriting the award. In undress uniform or on occasions when the medal ribbon alone is worn, a silver rosette is worn on the ribbon to indicate each bar.[11]

The details of all awards to British and Commonwealth recipients are published in The London Gazette. Approximately 2,122 medals have been awarded since its inception in 1940, with 27 second award bars.[1]


The GM is a circular silver medal 36 mm (1.4 in) in diameter, with the ribbon suspended from a ring. It has the following design.[12]
The obverse depicts the crowned effigy of the reigning monarch. To date, there have been four types:

George Medal, King George VI, first obverse

George VI, 1940 to 1948. Inscribed GEORGIVS VI D: G: BR: OMN: REX ET INDIAE IMP:

George Medal, King George VI, second obverse

George VI, 1948 to 1952. Inscribed GEORGIVS VI DEI: GRA: BRITT: OMN: REX FID: DEF:

George Medal, Queen Elizabeth, first obverse

Elizabeth II, 1952 to late 1950s. Inscribed ELIZABETH II D: G: BR: OMN: REGINA F.D.

George Medal, Queen Elizabeth, second obverse

Elizabeth II, late 1950s to date. Inscribed ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA REGINA F.D.

The reverse shows St George on horseback slaying the dragon on the coast of England, with the legend THE GEORGE MEDAL around the top edge of the medal.
The ribbon is 31.7 mm (1.25 in) wide, crimson with five narrow blue stripes. The blue colour is taken from the George Cross ribbon.[13] Worn on the left chest by men, women not in uniform wear the medal on the left shoulder, with the ribbon fashioned into a bow.[11]

The name of the recipient is engraved on the rim of the medal, although some Army awards have impressed naming.[12]


Coat of Arms of Ignacio Echeverría
Posthumous armorial achievement of Ignacio Echeverría embellished with his Grand Cross of the Order of Civil Merit (Spain), Silver Medal of the Order of Police Merit (Spain) and George Medal (United Kingdom)

The first recipients, listed in the London Gazette of 30 September 1940, were Chief Officer Ernest Herbert Harmer and Second Officer Cyril William Arthur Brown of the Dover Fire Brigade, and Section Officer Alexander Edmund Campbell of the Dover Auxiliary Fire Service, who on 29 July had volunteered to return to a ship loaded with explosives in Dover Harbour to fight fires aboard while an air raid was in progress.[14][15] Seven other people were also awarded the medal, including the first women; Ambulance Driver Dorothy Clarke and Ambulance Attendant Bessie Jane Hepburn of Aldeburgh, Suffolk, for rescuing a man badly injured in an explosion.[14]

The first recipient chronologically was Coxswain Robert Cross, commander of the RNLI lifeboat City of Bradford, based at Spurn Point, whose award was gazetted on 7 February 1941. It was awarded for an incident on 2 February 1940 when Cross took the lifeboat out in gale force winds, snowsqualls, and very rough seas to rescue the crew of a steam trawler.[16][13]

The youngest recipient was Charity Anne Bick, who lied about her age to join the ARP service at 14 years old, and who delivered several messages by bicycle during a heavy air raid in West Bromwich in late 1940.[17]

The first person to receive a second award was George Samuel Sewell, an engineer working for Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd., based at the oil terminal at Salt End, near Hull, for his actions during an air raid. Having been one of the first recipients in September 1940,[14] his bar to the George Medal was gazetted on 4 July 1941.[13][18]

2015 was the 75th anniversary of the creation of the award and was marked with a ceremony in London.[19]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Medal Yearbook 2015, page 93
  2. ^ "No. 56878". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 March 2003. p. 3352.
  3. ^ British Gallantry Medals (Abbott and Tamplin), p.138
  4. ^ "George Cross Database". Archived from the original on 14 May 2011.
  5. ^ "No. 35060". The London Gazette. 31 January 1941. pp. 623–624.
  6. ^ London Gazette, 31 January 1941 – Warrant, Fifth clause
  7. ^ "No. 47397". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 December 1977. p. 15235.
  8. ^ Which could not therefore be recognised by a military decoration, that typically require gallantry in the face of the enemy.
  9. ^ The London Gazette, 31 January 1941 – Warrant, Second clause
  10. ^ The London Gazette, 31 January 1941 – Warrant, Ninth clause
  11. ^ a b London Gazette, 31 January 1941 – Warrant, Seventh clause
  12. ^ a b British Gallantry Medals (Abbott and Tamplin), p.146
  13. ^ a b c "British Military & Criminal History, 1900-99". Stephen's Study Room.
  14. ^ a b c "No. 34956". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 September 1940. p. 5768.
  15. ^ Sencicle, Lorraine (27 July 2013). "Dover Fire Service – Part II from 1939". The Dover Historian. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  16. ^ "No. 35066". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 February 1941. p. 742.
  17. ^ "No. 35074". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 February 1941. p. 870.
  18. ^ "No. 35210". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 July 1941. pp. 3893–3894.
  19. ^ "75th anniversary of the George Cross and George Medal". BBC.


  • Abbott, P. E.; Tamplin, J. M. A. (1981). British Gallantry Awards. London: Nimrod Dix and Co. ISBN 9780902633742.
  • Dorling, H. Taprell, (1956), Ribbons and Medals, A. H. Baldwin & Son
  • Duckers, Peter (2001). British Gallantry Awards 1855–2000. Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire: Shire Publications. ISBN 9780747805168.
  • Henderson, P. (1984). Dragons Can be Defeated: A Complete Record of the George Medal's Progress, 1940-83. London: Spink & Son Ltd. ISBN 978-0907605140.
  • Mussell, John W. (ed.). The Medal Yearbook 2015. Devon, UK: Token Publishing. ISBN 9781908828248.
  • McDermott, P. (2016). Acts of Courage, Register of The George Medal 1940-2015. Bromsgrove: Worcestershire Medal Service Ltd. ISBN 9780995553101.

External links

1992 New Zealand bravery awards

The 1992 New Zealand bravery awards were announced via a Special Honours List on 18 February 1992, and were dated 19 December 1991. Eight of the 13 recipients were recognised—three of them posthumously—for acts of bravery during the Aramoana Massacre on 13 November 1991.

Alan McNicoll

Vice Admiral Sir Alan Wedel Ramsay McNicoll, (3 April 1908 – 11 October 1987) was a senior officer in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and a diplomat. Born in Melbourne, he entered the Royal Australian Naval College at the age of thirteen and graduated in 1926. Following training and staff appointments in Australia and the United Kingdom, he was attached to the Royal Navy at the outbreak of the Second World War. As torpedo officer of the 1st Submarine Flotilla in the Mediterranean theatre, McNicoll was decorated with the George Medal in 1941 for disarming enemy ordnance. He served aboard HMS King George V from 1942, sailing in support of several Arctic convoys and taking part in the Allied invasion of Sicily. McNicoll was posted for staff duties with the Admiralty from September 1943 and was involved in the planning of the Normandy landings. He returned to Australia in October 1944.

McNicoll was made executive officer of HMAS Hobart in September 1945. Advanced to captain in 1949, he successively commanded HMAS Shoalhaven and HMAS Warramunga before being transferred to the Navy Office in July 1950. In 1952, McNicoll chaired the planning committee for the British nuclear tests on the Montebello Islands, and was appointed commanding officer of HMAS Australia. He commanded the ship for two years before it was sold off for scrap, at which point he returned to London to attend the Imperial Defence College in 1955. He occupied staff positions in London and Canberra before being posted to the Naval Board as Chief of Personnel in 1960. This was followed by a term as Flag Officer Commanding HM Australian Fleet.

McNicoll's career culminated with his promotion to vice admiral and appointment as First Naval Member and Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) in February 1965. As CNS, McNicoll had to cope with significant morale and recruitment issues occasioned by the February 1964 collision between HMAS Melbourne and Voyager and, furthermore, oversaw an extensive modernisation of the Australian fleet. In 1966, he presided over the RAN contribution to the Vietnam War, and it was during his tenure that the Australian White Ensign was created. McNicoll retired from the RAN in 1968 and was appointed as the inaugural Australian Ambassador to Turkey. He served in the diplomatic post for five years, then retired to Canberra. McNicoll died in 1987 at the age of 79.

David Purley

David Charles Purley, GM (26 January 1945 – 2 July 1985) was a British racing driver born in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, who participated in 11 Formula One World Championship Grands Prix, debuting at Monaco in 1973.

Purley is best known for his actions at the 1973 Dutch Grand Prix, where he abandoned his own race and attempted to save the life of fellow driver Roger Williamson, whose car was upside down and on fire following a serious accident. Purley was awarded the George Medal for his courage in trying to save Williamson, who suffocated in the blaze.

During pre-qualifying for the 1977 British Grand Prix Purley sustained multiple bone fractures after his car's throttle stuck open and he crashed into a wall. His deceleration from 108 mph (173 km/h) to 0 in a distance of 26 in (66 cm) is one of the highest G-loads survived in a crash. He scored no championship points during his Formula One career. He died in a plane crash, having retired from motorsport and taken up aerobatics, in 1985.

Douglas Harkness

Douglas Scott Harkness, (March 29, 1903 – May 2, 1999) was a Canadian politician, teacher, farmer and former lieutenant colonel in the Royal Canadian Artillery.

George Cross

The George Cross (GC) is the second highest award of the United Kingdom honours system. It is awarded "for acts of the greatest heroism or for most conspicuous courage in circumstance of extreme danger", not in the presence of the enemy, to members of the British armed forces and to British civilians. Posthumous awards have been allowed since it was instituted. It was previously awarded to residents of Commonwealth countries (and in one case to Malta, a colony which subsequently became a Commonwealth country), most of which have since established their own honours systems and no longer recommend British honours. It may be awarded to a person of any military rank in any service and to civilians including police, emergency services and merchant seamen. Many of the awards have been personally presented by the British monarch to recipients or, in the case of posthumous awards, to next of kin. These investitures are usually held at Buckingham Palace.

Greenock Blitz

The Greenock Blitz is the name given to two nights of intensive bombing of the town of Greenock, Scotland by the Nazi German Luftwaffe during the Second World War. The raids over the nights of the 6 and 7 May 1941 targeted the shipyards and berthed ships around the town (similar to the Clydebank Blitz the previous March). The brunt of the bombing fell on residential areas. Over the two nights, 271 people were killed and over 10,200 injured. From a total of 180,000 homes nearly 25,000 suffered damage and 5,000 were destroyed outright.

Harry Cobby

Air Commodore Arthur Henry Cobby, (26 August 1894 – 11 November 1955) was an Australian military aviator. He was the leading fighter ace of the Australian Flying Corps during World War I, with 29 victories, in spite of the fact that he saw active service for less than a year.

Born and educated in Melbourne, Cobby was a bank clerk when war broke out, and was prevented by his employer from enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force until 1916. After completing flight training in England, he served on the Western Front with No. 4 Squadron AFC, operating Sopwith Camels. His achievements as a fighter pilot were recognised with the Distinguished Service Order, the Distinguished Flying Cross and two bars, and a mention in despatches.

Acclaimed a national hero, Cobby transferred to the newly formed Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in 1921 and rose to the rank of wing commander. He left the Permanent Air Force (PAF) in 1936 to join the Civil Aviation Board, but remained in the RAAF reserve. Re-joining the PAF at the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Cobby held senior posts including Director of Recruiting and Air Officer Commanding North-Eastern Area. In 1943, he was awarded the George Medal for rescuing fellow survivors of an aircraft crash. He was appointed Air Officer Commanding No. 10 Operational Group (later Australian First Tactical Air Force) the following year, but was relieved of his post in the wake of the "Morotai Mutiny" of April 1945. Retiring from the Air Force in 1946, Cobby served with the Department of Civil Aviation until his death on Armistice Day in 1955.

Ian Henderson (police officer)

Ian Stuart McWalter Henderson, (1927 – 13 April 2013) was a British citizen known for his role in resolving the Mau Mau crisis in Kenya in the late 1950s and also for managing the Bahraini General Directorate for State Security Investigations from 1966–1998. Henderson was dubbed the Butcher of Bahrain due to torture and the numerous human rights violations that were alleged to have taken place under his command there, especially during 1990s uprising in Bahrain.Henderson was born in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, in 1927 but grew up among the Kikuyu in Kenya and lived most of his life overseas. He served as a Colonial Police Officer in Kenya during the 1950s and was famed for his role in capturing Mau Mau rebel leader Dedan Kimathi, which he wrote a book on, titled The Hunt for Kimathi, also published under the title Man Hunt in Kenya by Doubleday. In 1954 Henderson was awarded the George Medal, the second-highest award for bravery not in combat, and later a bar to the George Medal, for suppressing the Mau Mau uprising. "Ian Henderson has probably done more than any single individual to bring the Emergency to an end" wrote General Sir Gerald Lathbury when he left Kenya in 1957.After independence, he was deported from Kenya and moved to Bahrain. He was employed as the head of the General Directorate for State Security Investigations in Bahrain for some 30 years, retiring from his position in February 1998. He was accused of complicity in torture during the period of protracted social unrest of 1990s uprising in Bahrain, leading to an investigation by British authorities in 2000. The investigation was concluded in August 2001 and no charges were filed, despite thorough documentation by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch of the torture. He always denied any involvement in torture, despite the release of the documentary "Blind Eye to the Butcher" which contains evidence and interviews with the disfigured torture victims who identify Ian Henderson.Ian Henderson was honoured by Queen Elizabeth II with the CBE (1984), George Medal (1954) (and Bar (1955)) and the King's Police and Fire Services Medal (1953). He was honoured by Government of Bahrain with The Order of Shaikh 'Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa (Wisam al-Shaikh 'Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa) Exceptional Class (2000), The Order of Bahrain (Wisam al-Bahrein) 1st Class (1983) and The Medal of Military Merit (Wissam al-Khidmat al-Askari) 1st Class (1982).

John Volanthen

John Paul Volanthen, GM (born June 1971) is a British cave diver who specializes in rescues through the Cave Rescue Organisation, South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue, and the British Cave Rescue Council. In 2018, he played a leading role in the Tham Luang cave rescue.

He cave dives as a hobby and conducts rescues as a volunteer. He works as an IT consultant in Bristol.

Lionel Van Praag

Lionel Maurice Van Praag, GM (17 December 1908 – 15 May 1987) was an Australian motorcycle speedway champion, who won the inaugural Speedway World Championship in London on 10 September 1936. Van Praag's victory saw him established as Australia's first ever motorsport World Champion.

Nancy Wake

Nancy Grace Augusta Wake, (30 August 1912 – 7 August 2011) was a secret agent during the Second World War. Living in Marseille with her French industrialist husband when the war broke out, Wake slowly became enmeshed with French efforts against the Germans, and worked to get people out of France. Later she became a leading figure in the maquis groups of the French Resistance and was one of the Allies' most decorated servicewomen.

After the fall of France in 1940, she became a courier for the French Resistance and later joined the escape network of Captain Ian Garrow. By 1943, Wake was the Gestapo's most wanted person with a 5-million-franc price on her head. Therefore, it became necessary for her to leave France.

After reaching Britain, Wake joined the Special Operations Executive. On March 1, 1944, she parachuted into occupied France near Auvergne, becoming a liaison between London and the local maquis group headed by Captain Henri Tardivat in the Forest of Tronçais. From April 1944 until the liberation of France, her 7,000+ maquisards fought the Germans in many different ways. At one point, being aware of this large group of Maquis, the Germans sent in 22,000 soldiers to wipe them out. However, due to Wake's extraordinary organizing abilities, her Maquisards were able to defeat them causing 1,400 German deaths, while suffering only 100 among themselves. Wake's Maquisards thus accounted for about 70% of the

about 2,000 Germans killed by the French resistance during the liberation of France, while their fatalities made up only 1% of the about 8,000 French resistance fighters killed in action. A comparison with other contemporary engagements (e.g. the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, in which the Allies suffered 10,000+ casualties including 4,414 confirmed dead vs. 4,000 - 9,000 casualties on the German side, or the Battle of Arnhem, in which there were 1,984 British vs. 1,300 - 1,725 German battle deaths) makes Wake's achievement look even more outstanding. However, there are several sources about Nancy Wake in which this exploit is not mentioned.

Queen's Fire Service Medal

The Queen's Fire Service Medal is awarded to members of the fire services in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth of Nations for distinguished service or gallantry. It was introduced on 19 May 1954 when it replaced the King's Fire Service Medal. Recipients may use the post-nominal letters “QFSM.”

The most common form of the award is the Queen's Fire Service Medal for Distinguished Service. The equivalent medal for gallantry, the Queen's Fire Service Medal for Gallantry, is now rarely awarded. Acts of gallantry in the fire service would, since 1977, normally attract the George Medal or Queen's Gallantry Medal.

Queen's Gallantry Medal

The Queen's Gallantry Medal (QGM) is a United Kingdom decoration awarded for exemplary acts of bravery by civilians, and by members of the Armed Forces "not in the face of the enemy", where the services were not so outstanding as to merit the George Cross or the George Medal, but above the level required for the Queen's Commendation for Bravery.

Reis Leming

Reis Lee Leming GM (6 November 1930 – 5 November 2012) was an American airman who was awarded the British George Medal for his efforts in rescuing people during the North Sea flood of 1953.

Richard Stanton (cave diver)

Richard William Stanton, (born 1961) also known as Rick Stanton, is a British civilian cave diver who specializes in rescues through the Cave Rescue Organisation and the British Cave Rescue Council. He has been called "one of the world's most accomplished cave-divers", "the face of British cave diving," and "the best cave diver in Europe". Stanton has lived in Coventry for many years, and was formerly a firefighter with the West Midlands Fire Service for 25 years prior to his retirement. In 2018 he played a leading role in the Tham Luang cave rescue and was awarded the George Medal in the Civilian Gallantry List.

Royston Smith

Royston Matthew Smith, (born 13 May 1964) is a British Conservative Party politician.

He was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Southampton, Itchen at the 2015 general election.

Sartaj Singh (general)

Lieutenant General Sartaj Singh (died 23 April 1998) was a senior officer in the Indian Army. He was commissioned into the Regiment of Artillery of the British Indian Army in 1940, and served as an anti-tank gunner in Ceylon. After completing training to serve as a gunnery staff instructor in the UK in 1947, he served as the first Indian instructor at the School of Artillery in Deolali. He served on a United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Congo, and commanded a division in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1972 for his outstanding services to the nation. At the time of his retirement in 1974 he was General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Southern Command, with the rank of lieutenant general.

Tenzing Norgay

Tenzing Norgay (; Sherpa: བསྟན་འཛིན་ནོར་རྒྱས tendzin norgyé; 29 May 1914 – 9 May 1986), born Namgyal Wangdi and often referred to as Sherpa Tenzing, was a Nepali-Indian Sherpa mountaineer. He was one of the first two individuals known to reach the summit of Mount Everest, which he accomplished with Edmund Hillary on 29 May 1953. Time named him one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

Victor Rothschild, 3rd Baron Rothschild

Nathaniel Mayer Victor Rothschild, 3rd Baron Rothschild, (31 October 1910 – 20 March 1990) was a senior executive with Royal Dutch Shell and N M Rothschild & Sons, an advisor to the Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher governments of the UK, as well as a member of the prominent Rothschild family.

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