George Cross recipients: A guide to who’s received the prestigious medal so far
5 July 2021, 09:46
The Queen has awarded the NHS with the George Cross for their efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The prestigious medal has only been bestowed upon a small amount of people - with just two other collective bodies receiving the honour previously.
In a touching, handwritten note, Queen Elizabeth II wrote: "This award recognises all NHS staff, past and present, across all disciplines and all four nations.
"Collectively, over more than seven decades, they have supported the people of our country with courage, compassion and dedication, demonstrating the highest standards of public service.
"You have the enduring thanks and heartfelt appreciation of us all."
Sir Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, commented: "This unprecedented award rightly recognises the skill and compassion and the fortitude of staff right across the National Health Service - the nurses, the paramedics, the doctors, the cleaners, the therapists, the entire team - who under the most demanding of circumstances have responded to the worst pandemic in a century and the greatest challenge this country has faced since the Second World War.
"Out of those dark times have come the best of what it means to be a carer and a health professional."
He added: "In the face of adversity we have seen extraordinary team work, not just across the NHS but involving hundreds of thousands of volunteers, millions of carers, key workers and the British public who have played an indispensable role in helping the health service to look after many hundreds of thousands of seriously ill patients with coronavirus.
"And so, as we congratulate staff across the health service on this award, we recognise that completing the NHS Covid vaccination programme which is in the final stages is now the surest way out of this pandemic and provides a sense of hope."
Here's the history behind the George Cross medal, and who's received it so far...
What is the George Cross?
Created on September 24, 1940 by King George VI, the George Cross is the highest award bestowed for non-operational gallantry.
Its inception coincided with the Blitz, with the desire to acknowledge and celebrate civilian war efforts and their courage in the face of the enemy.
Announcing the new award, King George VI said: "In order that they should be worthily and promptly recognised, I have decided to create, at once, a new mark of honour for men and women in all walks of civilian life.
"I propose to give my name to this new distinction, which will consist of the George Cross, which will rank next to the Victoria Cross, and the George Medal for wider distribution."
The medal itself was designed by Percy Metcalfe, an English artist, sculptor and designer, who regularly produced designs for the Royal Mint.
Who has received the medal?
So far, the medal has been awarded more than 400 times - 12 have been awarded to women, while 394 have been awarded to men.
The medal has only been awarded to a collective body on two other occasions, however; the island of Malta received one in 1942 for its bravery during enemy bombardments in the Second World War, and in 1999, the Royal Ulster Constabulary of Northern Ireland received the award from the Queen.