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British & Commonwealth Military Honours and Awards

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Military Honours & Awards

Members of the British and Commonwealth Armed Forces can be awarded via the UK Honours system for exceptional gallantry, achievement or service.

They are eligible for the military divisions of civilian honours as well as for decorations and medals for gallantry and distinguished service which are exclusive to the Armed Forces.

Nominations for these awards are recommended to The Queen via the Ministry of Defence.

Usually, a commanding officer will write a citation nominating an individual. This recommendation is then passed up the military chain of command for consideration.

For the two highest awards: the Victoria Cross and the George Cross, recommendations are further endorsed by the VC Committee, comprising the Permanent-Under Secretary and Service Chiefs of Staff, and the George Cross Military Committee, which is a sub committee of the Honours and Decorations Committee.

Civilians are also eligible for some of the following awards:

The Victoria Cross


The first British medal to be created for bravery, the Victoria Cross ranks alongside the George Cross as the nation's highest award for gallantry.

It is awarded only in exceptional circumstances: "for most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy."

The George Cross

Instituted in 1940 by The Queen’s father King George VI, the George Cross ranks with the Victoria Cross as the nation’s highest award for gallantry. It recognises actions of supreme gallantry in circumstances for which the Victoria Cross was not appropriate.

It may be awarded to civilians, as well as members of the Armed Forces for acts of gallantry not in the presence of the enemy, including, for example, military explosive ordnance disposal personnel.

It is awarded for "for acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger."

The Distinguished Service Order

Instituted in 1886, it recognises outstanding leadership during active operations.

The Conspicuous Gallantry Cross

Since 1993 it has been awarded in recognition of an individual act or acts of conspicuous gallantry during active operations against the enemy.

The George Medal

Instituted in 1940 like the George Cross, the George Medal is awarded to civilians for acts of great bravery, but not so outstanding as to merit consideration for the George Cross. The GM can also be awarded to military personnel for acts of bravery not in the face of the enemy.

The Distinguished Service Cross


The Military Cross

and 

Distinguished Flying Cross

Recognise acts of bravery during combat operations respectively at sea, on land and in the air "for gallantry during active operations against the enemy."

Air Force Cross

The Air Force Cross is awarded "for gallantry while flying but not on active operations against the enemy."

The Queen's Gallantry Medal

Can be awarded to civilians or military personnel "for exemplary acts of bravery."

Mention in Despatches

The oldest form of recognition of gallantry within the UK Armed Forces. Reserved for gallantry during active operations. Recipients do not receive a medal or insignia at an Investiture, but instead their citation is published in the London Gazette.

The Queen's Commendation for Bravery

and 

Queen's Commendation for Bravery in the Air

These awards mark specific acts of gallantry shown during non-active operations.

The Royal Red Cross

The Royal Red Cross is only awarded to members of the Nursing Services, and is given "for exceptional devotion and competency in the performance of actual nursing duties."

Royal Red Cross 2nd Class

Again, only awarded to members of the Nursing Services for "special devotion and competency in the performance of actual nursing duties."

Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service

Recognises meritorious service during, or in support of, operations.

The Elizabeth Cross

Instituted in 2009, and granted to the next of kin of Armed Forces personnel killed on operations or as a result of terrorism in a mark of national recognition for their loss.

Read more about the Elizabeth Cross

Military divisions of civilian orders

Members of the Armed Forces may be considered for the military divisions of The Order of the British Empire. Military officers may also be considered for the military divisions of The Order of the Bath.

You can view a hierarchy of gallantry, leadership and bravery awards for both active and non-active operations on the Ministry of Defence website