Levels of Gallantry Awards
Within the UK, gallantry awards are defined by four levels of gallantry and are further defined as operational or non-operational gallantry awards, i.e. not in contact with the enemy. The levels of award, shown below, also define the order of wear although some anomalies exist in these arrangements.
Level 1 – VC / GC
Level 2 – CGC / GM
Level 3 – DSC / MC / DFC / QGM / AFC
Level 4 – MID / QCB / QCBA
There are strict rules surrounding the wearing of medals and decorations. The order of wear directs that ‘Crosses’ in Level 3, such as the MC, DFC etc are to be worn in precedence to the George Medal despite this medal being a Level 2 award. This annoying anomaly is much to do with the aesthetics of crosses and medals being worn together in a group. The latest full list of the British Orders of Knighthood, decorations, medals and the order of wear can be found in The London Gazette, Edition 56878 dated 17 March 2003.
In determining which level of civilian award an individual should be nominated for, the Government issued ‘guidance’ rather than definitive instructions, based on the risk of death in the incident as follows:
George Cross – over 90% risk of death
George Medal – 50% to 90% risk of death
Queen’s Gallantry Medal – 20% to 50% risk of death
Queen’s Commendations – below 20% risk of death
As can be seen, the distinction between the level of decorations is purely subjective and has ever been thus. On 22 March 1944, when addressing the House of Commons on the debate on War Decorations and Medals, Winston Churchill said;
“If all have it, it is of less value. There must, therefore, be heartburnings and disappointments on the border line. A medal glitters, but it also casts a shadow. The task of drawing up regulations for such awards is one which does not admit of a perfect solution. It is not possible to satisfy everybody without running the risk of satisfying nobody. All that is possible is to give the greatest satisfaction to the greatest number and to hurt the feelings of the fewest.”