The Queen awards the George Cross to the UK's National Health Services

Published 4 July 2021

The Queen has awarded the George Cross to the National Health Services of the United Kingdom.

A personal message from The Queen in support of the Award, handwritten by Her Majesty, reads:

"It is with great pleasure, on behalf of a grateful nation, that I award the George Cross to the National Health Services of the United Kingdom.

This award recognises all NHS staff, past and present, across all disciplines and all four nations.

Over more than seven decades, and especially in recent times, you have supported the people of our country with courage, compassion and dedication, demonstrating the highest standards of public service. 

You have our enduring thanks and heartfelt appreciation.

ELIZABETH R." 

Details of the presentation of the Award will be confirmed at a later date.

Background 

The George Cross

The George Cross was instituted by King George VI on 24th September 1940, during the height of the Blitz.

The George Cross, which may be awarded posthumously, is granted in recognition of “acts of the greatest heroism or of the most courage in circumstances of extreme danger.” The Award recognises actions by civilians and military personnel not in the face of the enemy. 

The award of the George Cross by The Queen is made on the advice of the George Cross Committee and the Prime Minister.

The most recent recipient of the George Cross is Dominic Troulan, a retired British Army officer and former Royal Marine. Mr Troulan was awarded the George Cross on 16th June 2017 for his actions during the 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya. STRICTLY UNDER EMBARGO UNTIL 0001HRS MONDAY 5th JULY 2021 

Collective George Cross Awards

This marks only the third occasion on which the George Cross has been awarded to a collective body, country or organisation, rather than an individual.

Malta, 1942 

In 1942, the George Cross was conferred on Malta by King George VI, in recognition of the fortitude displayed by the island’s inhabitants during sustained and devastating enemy bombardments in the Second World War. 

On 15th April 1942, a handwritten message was sent from King George VI to General Sir William Dobbie, the governor of Malta, to announce the Award. The message read as follows:

To honour her brave people I award the George Cross to the Island Fortress of Malta to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history.

The Royal Ulster Constabulary, 1999

In 1999, The Queen awarded the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), in recognition of the collective and sustained bravery of the Force, including the families of those serving.

The following official George Cross citation was released by Buckingham Palace on 23 November 1999:

For the past 30 years, the Royal Ulster Constabulary has been the bulwark against, and the main target of, a sustained and brutal terrorism campaign. The Force has suffered heavily in protecting both sides of the community from danger - 302 officers have been killed in the line of duty and thousands more injured, many seriously. Many officers have been ostracised by their own community and others have been forced to leave their homes in the face of threats to them and their families. 

As Northern Ireland reaches a turning point in its political development this award is made to recognise the collective courage and dedication to duty of all of those who have served in the Royal Ulster Constabulary and who have accepted the danger and stress this has brought to them and to their families.

The RUC was Northern Ireland’s police force between 1922 and 2001, when it was incorporated into the new Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The George Cross was presented to Constable Paul Slaine by The Queen on 12th April 2000 at a ceremony in Hillsborough Castle, who accepted it on behalf of the RUC. Paul was a police officer confined to a wheelchair as a result of an IRA mortar bomb attack in 1992. Approximately 1,500 RUC officers and their families watched The Queen, accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh, honour the Force at the ceremony.