The George Cross is the equivalent of the Victoria Cross, but for gallantry in civilian situations or in military situations not considered to be in the face of the enemy. It was created in 1940 and at the time this book was written had been awarded directly 161 times and by exchange or indirectly 245 times, for a total of 406 awards. This makes it a rather rarer award than the Victoria Cross itself.
Although the George Cross itself wasn't created until 1940, a number of earlier gallantry awards were later merged into the newer award, and their holders are considered to hold the George Cross (even if they chose not to exchange their medals). This includes the Empire Gallantry Medal, the Albert Medal (for life saving at land or sea) and the Edward Medal (for bravery in mines or other industrial accidents). As a result the first four awards detailed in this book are from before the First World War, and include two Albert Medals and two Empire Gallantry Medals. In some cases several people were awarded one of the earlier awards for a particular incident, but only one or two lived long enough to exchange their award for the George Cross - this happens with the very first entry, where three men were awarded the Albert Medal for bravery during an industrial accident, but only one survived to exchange for the George Cross.
This sort of book gives one an idea of how the award has developed over time. In the case of the George Cross the civilian element seems to have been entirely abandoned in recent decades (perhaps matching the increase in the more widespread use of the honours system), and military awards had dwindled before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The format is simple - we begin with a history of the George Cross, the warrant that set it up and later changes. Next comes a chronological list of recipients, and this is followed by a series of chronological chapters that look at the actual awards. Here the focus is almost entirely on the incident itself, with a sentence or two on the earlier life and fate of the recipient. The last two chapters give a list of known burial locations and an alphabetical list of recipients, with the number of their award and a page reference (this is effectively the index).
If you want more information about individual recipients of the GC then Marion Hebblethwaite series of books is a better bet, but if you want a single volume reference work on the George Cross then this is an excellent choice.
1 - A Short History of the George Cross
2 - The Terms of the 1940 George Cross Warrant, and its Amendments
3 - Roll of Honour: A Complete Chronological List of All George Cross Holders
4 - George Crosses (Exchanges) Awarded before the First World War
5 - George Crosses (Exchanges) Awarded during the First World War
6 - George Crosses (Exchanges) Awarded between the World Wars
7 - George Crosses Awarded during the Second World War
8 - George Crosses Awarded after the Second World War
9 - George Crosses Awarded in Iraq and Afghanistan
10 - Burial Locations
11 - Alphabetical List of George Cross Recipients
Author: Kevin Brazier
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military