The Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers, and since 1993 to other ranks, of the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force and other services, and formerly to officers of other Commonwealth countries, for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy".
Distinguished Flying Cross
Obverse of the decoration.
... exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy in the air.
The award was established on 3 June 1918, shortly after the formation of the Royal Air Force (RAF), with the Royal Warrant published on 5 December 1919. It was originally awarded to RAF commissioned and warrant officers, including officers in Commonwealth and allied forces. In March 1941 eligibility was extended to Naval Officers of the Fleet Air Arm, and in November 1942 to Army officers, including Royal Artillery officers serving on attachment to the RAF as pilots-cum-artillery observers. Posthumous awards were 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 Distinguished Flying Medal, which had until then been awarded to other ranks, was discontinued. While remaining a reward for "flying in active operations against the enemy", the requirement was changed from "valour, courage or devotion to duty" to "exemplary gallantry".
The DFC 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 DFC now serves as the third-level award for all ranks of the British Armed Forces for exemplary gallantry in active operations against the enemy in the air, not to the standard required to receive the Victoria Cross or the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross. Apart from honorary awards to those serving with allied forces, all awards of the DFC are announced in the London Gazette.
A bar is added to the ribbon for holders of the DFC who received a further award, with a silver rosette worn on the ribbon when worn alone to denote the award of each bar.
The decoration, designed by Edward Carter Preston, is a cross flory, 2.125 inches (54.0 mm) wide. The horizontal and bottom bars are terminated with bumps, the upper bar with a rose. The decoration's face features aeroplane propellers, superimposed on the vertical arms of the cross, and wings on the horizontal arms. In the centre is a laurel wreath around the RAF monogram, surmounted by a heraldic Imperial Crown.
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 1.25-inch (32 mm) ribbon was originally white with deep purple broad horizontal stripes, but it was changed in 1919 to the current white with purple broad diagonal stripes.
Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon bars
DFC and Bar
DFC and Two Bars
From 1918 to 2017 approximately 22,322 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 1,737 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 80 DFCs have been earned, including awards for the Falklands and the wars in the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, two second-award, and one third-award bar have been awarded.
The above figures include awards to the Dominions: In all, 4,460 DFCs have gone to Canadians, including 256 first bars and six second bars. Of these, 193 crosses and nine first bars were for service with the RAF in World War I. For World War II, 4,018 DFCs with 213 first bars and six second bars were earned by members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, with a further 247 crosses and 34 first bars to Canadians serving with the RAF. From 1918 to 1972 the DFC was awarded to 2,391 Australians, along with 144 first Bars and five second Bars. Over 1,000 DFCs were awarded to New Zealanders during the World War II, with the most recent awards for service in Vietnam. In 1999 the DFC was replaced by the New Zealand Gallantry Decoration.
A total of 1,022 honorary awards have been made to members of allied foreign forces. This comprises 46 for World War I, 927 with 34 first and three second award bars for World War II, eight with three bars to members of the US Air Force for the Korean War, and one to the US Marine Corps during the Iraq War.
Squadron Leader James Liston, who saved the crew of his Lancaster bomber during World War II by going out onto the wing to extinguish fires after being hit.
King Albert I of Belgium, who on many occasions during World War I was flown in a British aircraft to reconnoitre enemy positions.
^John Mussell (ed). Medal Yearbook 2015. pp. 390, 429, 459. Token Publishing, Honiton, Devon.ISBN 978-1-908-828-16-3
^ abCaptain H. Taprell Dorling. Ribbons and Medals. p. 41. Published A.H.Baldwin & Sons, London. 1956.
^Crompton, Ann, ed. (1999). Edward Carter Preston, 1885–1965: Sculptor, Painter, Medallist. University of Liverpool Art Gallery. ISBN 0853237921.
^John Mussell (ed). Medal Yearbook 2015. pp. 87. Token Publishing, Honiton, Devon.ISBN 978-1-908-828-16-3
^ abcP E Abbott & J M A Tamplin. British Gallantry Awards. pp. 95–98. Nimrod Dix & Co, London, 1981.ISBN 0-902633-74-0
^Post 1979 DFCs include 9 for the Falklands (London Gazette Supplement, 8 October 1982); 5 for Sierra Leone (London Gazette Supplement, 30 September 2003); 14 for Gulf War (London Gazette Supplement, 29 June 1991Late award: 21 November 1994) & 1 honorary award; 16 & 2 bars for Iraq and 29 & 1 second award bar for Afghanistan, plus awards for smaller conflicts.