When the George Cross was instituted in 1940, it replaced the Empire Gallantry Medal (EGM). In 1971, living recipients of the Albert Medal (AM) and Edward Medal (EM) were invited to exchange their award for the George Cross.
EMPIRE GALLANTRY MEDAL
The Empire Gallantry Medal (officially called the Medal of the Order of the British Empire for Gallantry) was introduced on 29 December 1922. It was intended to recognise specific acts of gallantry, and was replaced by the George Cross.
When the George Cross was introduced in September 1940, living recipients of the EGM could return their EGM and receive the George Cross. Also the next-of-kin of those EGM recipients who had died after 3 September 1939, could exchange the EGM for the GC.
The EGM itself was a circular silver medal, 36 millimetres in diameter, with the recipient’s name around the medal’s rim.
The obverse (outward facing side) had the seated figure of Britannia, her left hand resting on a shield and her right hand holding a trident. In the upper right corner was a blazing sun. The phrase “For God and the Empire” was around the upper side of this face.
The 1st type of reverse side had 6 lions, with the Royal Cipher in the middle. The 2nd type of reverse side had four lions; two either side of the Royal Cipher.
The EGM’s ribbon was altered on several occasions. It was originally plain purple (civil awards), with a thin scarlet central stripe for military awards. From July 1937 the ribbon was rose-pink with pearl-grey edges for civil awards, with the addition of a pearl-grey central stripe for military awards. From 1933, a silver laurel branch was added to the ribbon.
The decision as to which division a recipient joined was based upon the events of the gallantry and not upon the recipient’s occupation or rank.
The Albert Medal (AM) was introduced on 7 March 1866, and was named after Queen Victoria’s husband and consort Price Albert who died on 14 December 1861 at Windsor. A royal warrant issued in 1867 created two classes of AM: 1st and 2nd class. Ten years later, in 1877, the warrant was altered to allow the saving of life on land to be recognised by the award of the Albert Medal.
The AM was an oval medal, 57 millimetres high and 30 millimetres 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).
In 1949 the Albert Medal in Gold was replaced by the George Cross. The Albert Medal, now only issued in bronze, was only awarded posthumously. In 1971, the Albert Medal was ceased and all living recipients were invited to exchange their Albert Medals for the George Cross.
On 13 July 1907, a royal warrant introduced the Edward Medal to recognise the bravery of miners and quarrymen in endangering their lives to rescue their fellow workers. On 1 December 1909, the original warrant was amended to broaden the category of workers to include all industrial workers.
Following this modified warrant, there became two versions of the Edward Medal (EM): Mines and Industry.
In both cases, the medal was a circular silver or bronze medal, 33 millimetres in diameter with a dark blue ribbon edged with yellow. Both medals were either issued in silver or bronze.
EDWARD MEDAL (MINES)
The Edward Medal (Mines) had the sovereign’s profile on the obverse, while the reverse had a miner rescuing a stricken miner, with the text “For Courage” across the top. The medal was designed by W. Reynolds-Stephens.
The EM (Mines) was intended to recognise life-saving in mines and quarries, with two grades of medal: 1st class (silver) and 2nd class (bronze). Unlike other awards, the cost of the medal was borne by a fund that was created by a group of philanthropists led by a leading mine owner called A. Hewlett. Both classes of medal were engraved with the recipient’s name.
Living recipients of the Edward Medal (Mines) were invited in 1971 to exchange their Edward Medal for the George Cross. However, 2 silver and 7 bronze Edward Medal holders decided not to exchange their medals.
The Edward Medal (Mines) is now only awarded posthumously. It is one of the rarest gallantry awards, as since its introduction in July 1907 only 77 silver and 318 bronze EM (Mines) have been awarded.
EDWARD MEDAL (INDUSTRY)
The Edward Medal (Industry) had the sovereign’s profile on the obverse, while the reverse was originally a worker helping an injured co-worker with a factory in the background, with the words “For Courage” diagonally across the top. A 2nd reverse type was issued in 1912; that of a lady figure holding a laurel branch against a factory skyline.
The EM (Industry) was awarded for acts of bravery in factory accidents and disasters. Like the EM (Mines) it was also in two classes: 1st (silver) and 2nd (bronze) class. However, no 1st class medals have been awarded since 1948.
Living recipients of the Edward Medal (Industry) were invited in 1971 to exchange their Edward Medal for the George Cross.
The Edward Medal (Industry) is now only awarded posthumously. Since its introduction in December 1909, only 25 silver and 163 bronze Edward Medals (Industry) have been awarded.