The Air Force Cross (AFC) is a military decoration awarded to officers, and since 1993 other ranks, of the British Armed Forces, and formerly also to officers of the other Commonwealth countries. It is granted for "an act or acts of exemplary gallantry while flying, though not in active operations against the enemy". A bar is added to the ribbon for holders who are awarded a further AFC.
Air Force Cross
Obverse of medal
"... gallantry while flying but not on active operations against the enemy."
While consistently awarded for service while "flying though not in active operations against the enemy", the AFC was originally awarded for "valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying" with many awards made for meritorious service over a period of time, rather than a specific act of bravery. These awards were discontinued in 1993, when the criteria were narrowed to "exemplary gallantry while flying".
A bar is added to the ribbon of holders of the AFC for each further award, with a silver rosette worn on the ribbon when worn alone to denote the award of each bar.
Between 1919 and 1932 the AFC was also awarded to civilians, on the same basis as for RAF personnel. In March 1941 eligibility was extended to Naval officers of the Fleet Air Arm, and in November 1942 to Army officers, with posthumous awards permitted from 1979.
Since the 1993 review of the honours system as part of the drive to remove distinctions of rank in bravery awards, all ranks of all arms of the Armed Forces have been eligible, and the Air Force Medal, which had until then been awarded to other ranks, was discontinued.
The AFC had also been awarded by Commonwealth countries but by the 1990s most, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, had established their own honours systems and no longer recommended British honours.
The medal is a silver cross, 60 millimetres (2.4 in) in height and 54 millimetres (2.1 in) wide, representing aircraft propeller blades, with wings between the arms. It was design by Edward Carter Preston.
The obverse depicts Hermes, riding on the wings of a hawk holding a laurel wreath. At the top of the upper arm is the royal crown, while the other three arms bear the royal cypher of the reigning monarch at the time of issue.
The reverse is plain, except for a central roundel bearing the reigning monarch's cypher and the date '1918'. Originally awarded unnamed, from 1939 the year of issue was engraved on the reverse lower limb of cross, and since 1984 it has been awarded named to the recipient.
The suspender is straight and decorated with laurel wreaths.
The ribbon bar denoting a further award is silver, with the Royal Air Force eagle in its centre. Bars awarded during World War II have the year of award engraved on the reverse.
The 32 mm (1.25 inch) ribbon was originally white with red broad horizontal stripes, but changed in July 1919 to the current white with red broad diagonal stripes at a 45-degree angle.
Air Force Cross ribbon bars
AFC and Bar
From 1918 to 2017 approximately 5,360 Air Force Crosses and 193 bars have been awarded. The figures to 1979 are laid out in the table below, the dates reflecting the relevant entries in the London Gazette:
World War I
World War II
In addition, between 1980 and 2017 approximately 279 AFCs and eight second-award bars have been awarded.
The above figures include awards to the Dominions:
In all, 560 AFCs have gone to Canadians, including those serving in the RAF, including 70 for World War I, 462 and one bar for World War II and 28 post–war awards.
A total of 444 AFCs and two bars have been awarded to Australians, the last award made in 1983.
A total of 87 honorary awards have been made to members of allied foreign forces, including 26 for World War I, 58 for World War II and three post-war, the latter all to members of the US Air Force.
^For example AFC to Wing Commander David, RAF, January 1943. "This officer has been employed on flying training since November 1941 and by his example, personality and ability has set a high standard and produced most creditable results...[and] has been untiring in his efforts to improve the standard of training." Peter Duckers. British Gallantry Awards 1855–2000. p. 32. Shire Publications, Oxford, 2010.
^Peter Duckers. British Gallantry Awards 1855 – 2000. pp. 31–32. Shire Publications, Oxford, 2010.ISBN 978-0-7478-0516-8.
^For example, Alan Cobham received the AFC in 1926 for "valuable and distinguished service rendered to aviation by his London to Cape Town return flight and numerous previous flights"."No. 33143". The London Gazette. 19 March 1926. p. 2019.
^P. E. Abbott & J. M. A. Tamplin. British Gallantry Awards. p. xx. Nimrod Dix & Co, London, 1981.ISBN 0-902633-74-0
^John Mussell (ed). Medal Yearbook 2015. pp. 390, 429, 459. Token Publishing, Honiton, Devon.ISBN 978-1-908-828-16-3
^ abP E Abbott & J M A Tamplin. British Gallantry Awards. pp. 8–10. Nimrod Dix & Co, London, 1981.ISBN 0-902633-74-0