Tea And Medals Podcast: For Gallantry

BFBS podcast unpacks the history behind the George Cross.

The latest bonus episode of the podcast series Tea and Medals has been released, focusing on the history behind the George Cross.

Chatting with medals expert Mark Smith, BFBS’s Darren Coventry found out more about the high honour, which sits as an equal alongside the Victoria Cross in terms of stature.  

In the episode, Mark explains the two fundamental reasons behind its introduction in 1940. He says:

“World War Two brings war to the civilian population, and there is a need for two reasons. One, because people are performing acts of bravery, but also for morale because we have to be seen to be fighting back, and brave people need recognising.

“Now, for civilians, there really is a very strange set of medals. They were first instituted by Prince Albert, and they are called the Albert Medals. There [was] one for sea and one for land, blue and a red ribbon.

“They are very high awards, and they were used for train crashes and fires, that sort of things, or shipwrecks.

“Edward VII instituted some medals for bravery during industry, so this is for coal mines, and particularly accidents in factories, and they are fantastic medals. And they are very hard-earned awards.”

Mark added:

“But once war came to the capital, once war came to England with the Luftwaffe bombing us during the Blitz, we had this civilian organisation of people who were going to be the air raid wardens, the auxiliary fireman, the auxiliary ambulance drivers … there suddenly became an opportunity for men and women to perform incredible acts of heroism. But what are we going to give them?

“And George VII institutes his medal. The George Cross.”

Later in the episode, Mark details the specifics of the George Cross’s position in terms of rank compared to the Victoria Cross. He says:

“On the table of gallantry, they are exactly the same. There is no difference between these two awards. The only difference is that the Victoria Cross is awarded in the face of the enemy.”


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