The Story of… The civilian courage award: The George Cross
The award for civilian gallantry is highly cherished by recipients and collectors alike
"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."
At the height of the Blitz, George VI's radio broadcast on September 24 1940 was a boost to morale; the king had met the public clamour for acts of civilian courage to be publicly rewarded.
But medals were not awarded lightly. Between 1940 and 1947, just 106 George Crosses were issued to members of the Commonwealth, making them highly sought after today by alternative investors.
The first recipient was T H Alderson in September 1940. An air raid precautions detachment leader in Bridlington, Yorkshire, Alderson successfully rescued trapped persons on several occasions following bombing raids.
Although George Crosses do not tend to make as much at auction as Victoria Crosses, they can command significant sums.
One such medal, awarded to a carpenter who saved two people from a burning building in London during the Second World War, sold for £20,000 at the Charterhouse auction house in 2008.
As part of the West Kensington Heavy Rescue Squad, Leslie Owen Fox tunneled 15 feet through the burning wreckage of a bombed house in 1944 for two hours to successfully rescue those inside.
The medal can also be awarded to military personnel for gallant conduct not in the face of the enemy.
More than 150 George Crosses have now been directly awarded, although around another 250 were transferred from Empire Gallantry medals, which were superseded by the George Cross in 1940, and the Albert and Edward medals in the 1970s.
The Albert medal was awarded for "saving life on land and at sea", while the Edward medal was issued to miners and industrial workers.
The most recent recipient of the George Cross was Staff Sgt Brett Linley, who defused more than 100 bombs in Afghanistan but died while on duty last July.
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Image: Robert Prummel