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Order of the British Empire O.B.E.

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The Order of the British Empire

Project photo: Grand Cross's star of the Order of the British Empire.

The Order of the British Empire recognises distinguished service to the arts and sciences, public services outside the Civil Service and work with charitable and welfare organisations of all kinds.

It was created during the First World War in 1917 by George V.

The King recognised the need for a new award of honour which could be more widely awarded, in recognition of the large numbers of people in the British Isles and other parts of the Empire who were helping the war effort both as combatants and as civilians on the home front.

For the first time, women were included in an order of chivalry, and it was decided that the Order should also include foreigners who had helped the British war effort.

From 1918 onwards there were Military and Civil Divisions, as George V also intended that after the war the Order should be used to reward services to the State in a much wider sense.

Today the Order of the British Empire is the order of chivalry of British democracy. Valuable service is the only criterion for the award, and the Order is now used to reward service in a wide range of useful activities.

Citizens from other countries may also receive an honorary award, for services rendered to the United Kingdom and its people. There are more than 100,000 living members of the Order throughout the world.

After some debate, St Paul's Cathedral was nominated by a special committee and approved by The Queen, as the Chapel of the Order.

As the cathedral of the capital city, it could accommodate services attended by very large congregations.

In the words of one committee member, 'St Paul's symbolised the victory of the British spirit during the war of 1939-45 in that, although badly damaged and shaken, it survived the ordeal by battle in an almost miraculous way.'

A Chapel for the Order was built in the cathedral crypt (where Nelson, Wellington and Sir Christopher Wren are buried, amongst others).

Its formal dedication in 1969 was attended by The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh (Grand Master of the Order).

Once every four years, approximately 2,000 members of the Order attend a service there to celebrate the Order.

Many people who have been awarded an honour from overseas attend these services, and each person attending wears their award.

Motto:

For God and the Empire

Chapel:

St. Paul's Cathedral

Ranks:

Knight/Dame Grand Cross, Knight/Dame Commander, Commander, Officer, Member

Post-nominals:

GBE, KBE/DBE, CBE, OBE and MBE

Founded:

1917

The Order is composed of five classes in civil and military divisions. In descending order of seniority, these are:

Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE), see Knight Grand Cross


Knight Commander or Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE or DBE)

Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)

Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)

Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE)

Only the highest two ranks automatically cause an individual to become a knight or dame, an honour allowing the recipient to use the title "Sir" (male) or "Dame" (female) before their first name (though men can be knighted separately from this and other Orders of Chivalry). Honorary knighthoods, given to individuals who are not nationals of a realm where Queen Elizabeth II is Head of State, permit use of the honour as a post-nominal but not as a title before their name. Awards in the Order of the British Empire in the Commonwealth Realms were discontinued with the establishment of national systems of honours and awards such as the Order of Canada, the Order of Australia and the New Zealand Order of Merit. Foreign recipients are classified as honorary members of the Order they receive, and do not contribute to the numbers restricted to that Order as full members do.

There is also a related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are not members of the Order, but who are nonetheless affiliated with the Order. The British Empire Medal had not been used in the United Kingdom or its dependencies since 1993, but was revived in 2012 with 293 BEMs awarded for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. In addition, BEM is used by the Cook Islands and by some other Commonwealth nations.

Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE)

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Knight Commander or Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE or DBE)


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Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)

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Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE)

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The British Empire Medal


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