Air Force Cross (AFC)

The Air Force Cross (AFC) was first established by King George V on the 3rd June 1918, after the formation of the RAF. It is a military decoration awarded to personnel of the United Kingdom Armed Forces, and formerly also to officers of the other Commonwealth countries, for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying, though not in active operations against the enemy". It may also be granted to individuals not belonging to the RAF for having rendered distinguished services to aviation in actual flying.

It was originally awarded to Air Force commissioned officers and Warrant Officers, but this was expanded after the Second World War to include Army and Navy aviation officers, and again in 1993 to other ranks after the review of gallantry awards and the discontinuation of the Air Force Medal.

During the First World War, approximately 680 were awarded. During the Second World War, 2,001 decorations were awarded, with 26 bars awarded.

Recipients of the Air Force Cross are entitled to use the post-nominal letters "AFC". A bar is added to the ribbon for holders of the AFC who received a second award. The bar has an eagle in the centre and the year of the award is engraved on the reverse.

The AFC was essentially a non-combat version of the Distinguished Flying Cross.


Materials:   The majority of the British medals and clasps are made of solid silver, though some were issue in bronze versions, mainly to Indian non-combatants.  The majority of the British campaign awards are circular, usually 36mm in diameter.

Ribbons:    Medals are worn suspended from their own specific ribbons. These were first made of silk but cotton was increasingly used as the nineteenth century developed.  Their own colours often have a symbolic significance: the equal stripes of the ‘1939 to 1945 Star,’ for example, are dark blue to represent the service of the Royal and Merchant Navies, red, to represent that of the Armies and light blue to represent that of Air Forces.

Ribbon width can vary slightly though it is generally 32mm wide.

Ribbon – White with red broad diagonal stripes. The ribbon was originally white with red broad horizontal stripes, but changed in 1919.

Air Force Cross ribbon bar (1918-1919)
Air Force Cross ribbon bar (1918-1919)
Air Force Cross ribbon bar since 1919
Air Force Cross ribbon bar since 1919
Air Force Cross and Bar ribbon bar
Air Force Cross and Bar ribbon bar

Suspender - Straight

Type – Gallantry medal

Eligibility – British, Commonwealth (formerly) and allied forces

Awarded for – "... gallantry while flying but not on active operations against the enemy.

Established – 3rd June, 1918

Post nominals - AFC

Naming – issued unnamed

Total Awarded – 3,857

Clasps – A bar is added for those awarded further AFCs.

Description – The medal is a silver cross 60 mm high and 54 mm wide, representing aircraft propeller blades, with wings between the arms. The obverse depicts Hermes, mounted on a hawk in flight, bestowing a 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. For the Second World War DFCs the letters G (top), R (left), VI (bottom), and I (right) and for the Korea DFCs E (top), II (left), R (right), and the bottom blank. The top arm is ensigned by an Imperial Crown.

The George VI has King George VI's (Reigned 1936-52) royal cypher.

On the reverse of the award, within a central circle, the Royal Cypher GV, GVI, EIIR are engraved, above the date 1918, the year when the award was instituted. The AFC is issued unnamed.

A bar is awarded for an additional act which would have warranted the AFC. The bar has an eagle in the centre and the year of the award is engraved on the reverse.

This guide will help you through all the parts and descriptions of military medals


Major L L Gordon ‘British Battles and Medals’


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