Instituted on 24 September 1940 by King George VI, the George Cross, which may be awarded posthumously, is granted in recognition of "acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger."
Although primarily a civilian award, the cross may also be awarded to military personnel for gallant conduct which is not in the face of the enemy.
The decoration consists of a plain silver cross, with the Royal cipher "GVI" in the angle of each limb. In the centre is a circular medallion showing St. George and the Dragon, and surrounded by the inscription, "For Gallantry". The reverse is plain and bears the name of the recipient and the date of the award.
The cross, which is worn before all other decorations except the Victoria Cross, is suspended from a dark blue ribbon threaded through a bar adorned with laurel leaves.
Ladies not in uniform wear the George Cross, suspended from a wide bow of blue ribbon, below the left shoulder. Recipients of the decoration are permitted to add the post-nominal letters "GC" to their name.
The GC is the successor to the Medal of the Order of the British Empire for Gallantry and its recipients were obliged to return it to the Central Chancellery of the Orders of Knighthood to have it replaced by a George Cross. In 1971, recipients of the Albert Medal could also exchange this for a George Cross.
Air Recipients of the George Cross 1939 – 45