The MC is granted in recognition of "an act or acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land" to all members of the British Armed Forces of any rank. In 1979, the Queen approved a proposal that a number of awards, including the Military Cross, could be awarded posthumously.
The award was created on 28 December 1914 for commissioned officers of the substantive rank of Captain or below and for Warrant Officers. Apart from some honorary awards to foreigners serving with allied forces, all awards were announced in the London Gazette.
From August 1916, recipients of the Cross were entitled to use the post-nominal letters MC, and bars could be awarded for further acts of gallantry meriting the award, with a silver rosette worn on the ribbon when worn alone to denote the award of each bar.
From September 1916, members of the Royal Naval Division, who served alongside the army on the Western Front, were made eligible for military decorations, including the Military Cross, for the war's duration. Naval officers serving with the division received 140 MCs and eight second award bars.
In June 1917 eligibility was extended to temporary majors, not above the substantive rank of captain. Substantive majors were made eligible in 1953.
In 1931 the award was extended to equivalent ranks in the Royal Air Force for actions on the ground.
Since the 1993 review of the honours system, as part of the drive to remove distinctions of rank in awards for bravery, the Military Medal, formerly the third-level decoration for other ranks, has been discontinued. The MC now serves as the third-level award for all ranks of the British Armed Forces for gallantry on land, not to the standard required to receive the Victoria Cross or the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross.
The above table includes awards to the Dominions: In all, 3,727 Military Crosses have been awarded to those serving with Canadian forces, including 324 first bars and 18 second bars.
2,930 were awarded to Australians, in addition to 188 first bars and four second bars. Of these, 2,403 MCs, 170 first Bars and four second Bars were for World War I. Over 500 MCs were awarded to New Zealanders during World War I and over 250 in World War II. The most recent awards were for service in Vietnam. In 1999 the MC was replaced by the New Zealand Gallantry Decoration.
The honorary MC awards were made to servicemen from fifteen allied countries in the World War I, and nine in the World War II.
For their key roles during World War I, the cities of Verdun and Ypres were awarded the Military Cross, in September 1916 and February 1920 respectively. In May 1920, Field Marshall French presented the decoration to Ypres in a special ceremony in the city.
During World War II Captain Sam Manekshaw, Indian Army (who eventually rose to the rank of Field Marshal), was leading a counter-offensive operation against the invading Japanese Army in Burma. During the course of the offensive, he was hit by a burst of machine-gun fire and severely wounded in the stomach. Major General D.T. Cowan spotted Manekshaw holding on to life and was aware of his valour in face of stiff resistance from the Japanese. Fearing the worst, Major General Cowan quickly pinned his own Military Cross ribbon on to Manekshaw saying, "A dead person cannot be awarded a Military Cross."
The first posthumous Military Cross was that awarded to Captain Herbert Westmacott, Grenadier Guards for gallantry in Northern Ireland during the period 1 February 1980 to 30 April 1980.
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