The George Cross

Awarded to Signalman Kenneth H Smith GC

For exceptional acts of meritorious service

See it

The George Cross is on display in the museum’s medal gallery


The George Cross is awarded for acts of meritorious service.


 Instituted in 1940 by King George VI and intended primarily for civilians to reward their bravery.


 Only circa 160 George Crosses have been directly awarded.

About the George Cross

‘For acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger’

The George Cross is awarded for acts of meritorious service. It is second only to The Victoria Cross (VC) in order of wear (taking precedence over all other orders medals and decorations). The George Cross is a rare award with only circa 160 directly awarded (some 244 have been exchanged for Empire Gallantry, Albert and Edward Medals as these awards no longer exist).

Originally instituted on 24th September 1940 by King George VI, the George Cross (GC) was intended primarily for civilians to reward their bravery. It remains the highest gallantry award available to civilians but can be awarded to members of the Armed Forces for actions where purely military honours would not normally be granted.

The George Cross medal, with its distinctive navy blue ribbon, was designed by Percy Metcalfe, a sculptor, artist and designer originally from Wakefield who studied at The Royal College of Art, London.

The first recipient of the George Cross was Thomas Hopper Alderson for his heroic actions in rescuing people during the blitz. A number of women have received the George Cross though the only female living, to be awarded the George Cross is Odette Samson Hallowes (1912-1995). A member of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) and Special Operations Executive (SoE) she was awarded the GC for resistance activities. Posthumous awards were made to fellow FANYs, Violette Szabo and Noor Inyat Khan.

A collective award was made to the Island Of Malta via a letter dated April 1942 from King George VI  ‘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.’

One of the most recent awards was made in 2015 to Colour Sergeant Kevin Howard Haberfield RM with the award dated 2005. A number of Commonwealth citizens have also received the George Cross.

Living recipients of the George Cross are entitled to an annuity from the British Government, as of 2015 this was £10,000.

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The Royal Signals and the George Cross – Awarded posthumously to Signalman Kenneth H Smith GC

A superb clandestine operations

The George Cross awarded to Signalman Kenneth Smith for ‘warning of explosion’ is proudly exhibited in the Royal Signals Museum, Blandford.


How The George Cross was won

Extracted from The London Gazette of 19 October 1945


Smith George Cross
On the night of 10 January 1945, on the Island of Ist in the Adriatic (off the coast of Yugoslavia), Signalman Smith was a member of a patrol of the Long Range Desert Group, which was attacked by saboteurs, who laid time-bombs in the vital houses of the Island. After hearing some shots, Signalman Smith entered the Wireless Room and found one such bomb on the table. Realising that there were a number of partisans in the room and young children elsewhere in the house, Signalman Smith immediately picked up the bomb, which was ticking. He intended to move it to a place of safety behind a nearby wall, but he had only gone a few yards outside the house when the bomb exploded and he was blown to pieces.

There is no doubt that Signalman Smith’s action certainly saved the lives of many of his comrades, partisans and civilians, and that he showed superb courage and complete disregard for personal safety in lifting a time-bomb which was already ticking when he knew that it might explode at any minute.


Family visit to the island of Ist


The posthumously awarded George Cross of Signalman Smith became the property of his mother along with his five campaign medals. She in turn gave her second son the George Cross and her third son Michael the campaign medals to safeguard.

Michael was only three years old when Kenneth won the George Cross so he never really knew his brother but later stated,

‘I had always wanted to know more about the circumstances in which my brother had given his life. Then in 1985 my sister saw an article by the local British Legion in the Lincoln press. They were seeking information about my brother on behalf of the Council of Ist (pronounced EAST) who wished to erect a memorial to him. As a result we sent them a copy of the citation and a photograph of him.’

This stirred Michael’s interest in his brother’s award, the story was featured on an ITV lunchtime news programme -Pebble Mill.

In July 1988 Michael, his wife and his son  visited Ist. A reception was held for the family to meet with locals who knew Kenneth, Vjeko Smoljan and a friend Maria. Vjeko (who had befriended Kenneth) and Maria were in the house at the time of the original fatal incident.

During their visit to Ist the family saw the original house, radio room and Kenneth’s initial burial place. After visiting the Island, Michael and his family went on to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Military Cemetery in Belgrade where Signalman Kenneth Smith GC had been finally laid to rest after the War.


The medal is lost, found and ‘rescued’ by The Royal Signals Museum

When Michael and Kenneth’s brother died the George Cross could not be found. They assumed it was lost but in fact his wife reported that the medal had been sold some six months after it was given to him. Armed with this knowledge Michael and his son Jamie set out to determine the medal’s whereabouts. Within a short period they received an e-mail from a South African advising that the medal was in the hands of Spink and would soon appear for auction. They contacted Spink who advised them the Royal Signals Museum had also sought information about the medal. With Michael’s blessing the medal was acquired by The Museum.

Michael stated

‘I am delighted that the medal has finally found a safe home where it will be respected and treasured. I think it would have been a great pity for such a national treasure to have gone overseas or to a private collector. I am a very happy man. It will now be on show as a permanent reminder to the nation of those who gave their lives so freely that we may live on in freedom’.

Signalman Kenneth H Smith GC and his medals which are on display at The Royal Signals Museum.