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In Memoriam - The George Cross & Albert Medal

The George Cross (GC) was instigated in 1940 during WWII when there was a need to acknowledge acts of outstanding bravery and courage by civilians. It was intended that the George Cross should stand supreme as the 'civilian Victoria Cross' (VC) and so not be undermined by the award of larger numbers.The GC is the highest gallantry award for civilians and shares equal precedence with the VC

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 George 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.




The Albert Medal was introduced in 1886 and named after the Prince Consort. It was awarded for "daring and heroic actions performed by mariners and others in danger of perishing, by reason of wrecks and other perils of the sea". It was amalgamated with the George Cross in 1949.

The AM was an oval medal, 57 millimeters high and 30 millimeters wide. The early issues were gold and bronze, the later issues were either gold (1st class) or bronze (2nd class). The AM's (gold 1st class) ribbon was originally blue with two white stripes, but was changed to a wider blue ribbon with four white stripes. The AM 2nd class inherited the original ribbon size with two white stripes. In 1904 the 2nd class AM changed the ribbon size to that of the 1st class AM, while retaining the 2nd class two white stripes.

The AM's obverse consist of a letter "V" (for Victoria) entwined with a letter "A" for Albert. AM's issued for gallantry at sea also have an anchor. The obverse has the words "For Gallantry in Saving Life" with "At Sea" or "on Land" added as appropriate .In 1917 the title was altered producing the Albert Medal in gold (formerly the AM 1st Class) and the Albert Medal (formerly the 2nd class bronze medal).





Lt Cdr FH Brooke Smith GC RD RNR (1934-36)

One of the Brooke Smith dynasty Francis was awarded the GC in the second world war. He volunteered for mine disposal duties. Having previously defused 6 mines he went aboard the fire float Firefly on the Manchester Ship Canal to defuse a parachute mine.He had never dealt with a similar mine before but with considerable difficulty he managed to defuse it. His medals are on display in the Imperial War Museum in London.


Lt Cdr W. Fletcher AM DFC RN (1919-21)

Lt Cdr Fletcher was awarded the AM for attempting to rescue Amy Johnson and another person who had crashed into the freezing Thames estuary in 1941. Fletcher, who was convinced there was still a chance of saving the second body ripped off his boots and duffel coat before plunging into the icy sea. From his ship, the trawler  Haslemere, the body appeared motionless; and at least two crew members thought the figure might be a German as they believed they could make out a tell-tale helmet. The crew watched as Fletcher appeared to support himself on the body before striking out for  a rescue boat battling through the waves to reach him. One of the crew said he appeared "just about done" as the waves tossed him in and out of view. Eventually he was pulled aboard and given artificial respiration, but he never regained consciousness and died five days later from exposure and shock at the Royal Naval Hospital, Sheerness. His grave is in Woodlands Cemetery at Gillingham, Kent.

Captain Peter John Irving (1862-63)
Irving served with the White Star Line. He was awarded several medals for saving life at sea in the UK and the USA, particulalry for the rescue of passengers and crew from the Glamorgan. (Link - note his name is mispelt). From references in the previous link and The Cadet magazine (1899 July page 176) it is clear that he has been awarded the Albert Medal prior to 1899. Unfortunatley no details of the circumstances have been found. If you have information please email me.



Lt E R McKinstry GC RNR (1876-78)

Details of his award are not known other than it was for a rescue at sea. According to The Cadet magazine he rescued people on three separate occasions, including one when third officer in the White Star's Teutonic. He jumped overboard and saved the life of a naval instructor at the 1887 naval review at Spithead for which he received a reward of 30 pounds. The instructor had been knocked into the water by the boom of a training brig.



Sub Lieutenant Charles Wood Robinson, AM RNR (1882-84)

"Her Majesty the Queen has been graciously pleased to confer the Decoration of the Albert Medal of the Second Class on Sub Lieutenant Charles Wood Robinson, R.N.R., Third Officer of the R.M.S. Teutonic of Liverpool. The following is an account of the services in respect of which the decoration has been conferred. While the Teutonic was steaming at the rate of about 21 knots in St. George's Channel on the 17th April, 1893, at 6.30am, when few people were about the deck, Mr. Robinson noticed a passenger climbing on to the rail of the ship with the evident intention of jumping overboard. He made an ineffectual attempt to prevent him and then without divesting himself of any of his clothing immediately dived after the man from a height of 35 feet above the water, and only about 30 feet forward of the propellers of the vessel. Mr. Robinson reached the man and did his utmost to rescue him, but his efforts were met with violent resistance, and in the end the man succeeded in drowning himself. Mr. Robinson ran great risk of being drawn under the propellers, and when picked up was in a very exhausted condition."

Later, while serving as a Lt in the RN he was stationed  in the Persian Gulf where he became a fluent translator in Persain and Arabic.



Lt Cdr Arthur Richard Shaw Warden AM RN (1882-83)

Lt Cdr Warden was awarded the Albert Medal on 25th October 1915 at Bolougne harbour. The SS Maine loaded with ammunition and high explosive caught fire and was abandoned by her crew. Lt Cdr Warden proceeded onboard and found high explosive cases on fire in the aft hold. He was passed a fire hose and wandered through the burning explosives gradually extinguishing the flames. His award acknowledged that his action prevented an explosive that could have had disastrous results.

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