Page last updated at 13:20 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 14:20 UK

New Queen's award for forces dead

The Elizabeth Cross
The Cross is the first award instituted by a reigning monarch since 1940

The Queen has approved a new honour in her name for members of the armed forces who are killed in action or as a result of a terrorist attack.

The Elizabeth Cross will be awarded to the families of those killed.

In a personal message to service personnel, the Queen said the emblem was "a right and proper way of showing our enduring debt".

It will be available to the relatives of all those killed in conflicts since the end of World War II.

The emblem will be made of sterling silver in the shape of a cross and a wreath, and will feature the rose, thistle, shamrock and daffodil to represent soldiers from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

It will be awarded along with a Memorial Scroll signed by the Queen and bearing the name of the individual killed.

'Enduring loss'

Gordon Brown announced the new award during Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons on Wednesday.

He said: "I am confident that this will be a very special and fitting tribute indeed for the great debt we owe to all those who die on operations and the enduring loss shouldered by their families."

The Queen explained her motivation for instituting the award in a special radio message on the British Forces Broadcasting Service.

It is a lasting symbol of the nation's recognition of and gratitude for their sacrifice
Air Chief Marshal Jock Stirrup

"This seems to me a right and proper way of showing our enduring debt to those who are killed while actively protecting what is most dear to us all," she said.

"The solemn dignity which we attach to the names of those who have fallen is deeply engrained in our national character.

"As a people, we accord this ultimate sacrifice the highest honour and respect."

The Ministry of Defence estimates that about 8,000 families could be eligible for the award.

It says it will contact the families of those who have died since 2000 about receiving it, but relatives of those killed before that date will be required to apply themselves.

They will then be able to decide whether they wish to receive the award publicly or in private.

'Immense pride'

It is the first time the name of a reigning monarch has been given to a new award since 1940.

Memorial Scroll
Families will also receive a Memorial Scroll signed by the Queen

Then King George VI introduced the George Cross, the highest honour for civilian acts of bravery.

Before this, the Victoria Cross was introduced by Queen Victoria in 1856 for exceptional gallantry by members of the armed forces.

The chief of the defence staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, said relatives would wear the Elizabeth Cross with "immense pride".

He said: "It is a reminder not just of the ultimate price their loved ones have paid while safeguarding our security and freedom, it is also a lasting symbol of the nation's recognition of and gratitude for their sacrifice."

The Cross will be available to all those killed since 1948 in conflicts including the Falklands War and Northern Ireland Troubles.

Personnel who died in Palestine between September 1945 and the end of 1947 will also be eligible.

It will apply to regular and reserve personnel and will cover those who died in battle and later as a result of injuries received in the field.

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said: "The Elizabeth Cross was recommended by the military chiefs to Her Majesty to recognise the huge debt this country owes to the families those brave individuals have left behind."

We asked for your views on the new award. Please find a selection of your comments below.

Excellent idea. What about those killed as a result of bombings, such as at Deal in 1989 and the many others so similar to that dreadful event. Do they get the recognition they deserve as well as those killed actively fighting?
Richard Austin, Seaford, United Kingdom

As an Ex WO2 with 23 years' Regular Service and 15 years TA & Army Cadet Force I think the Emblem is very good and it is definitely a good idea.
Bill Richardson, Stockton on Tees England

This award is not only a fantastic demonstration of pride in our armed forces, but also a demonstration of gratitude and debt we ALL owe to the men and women who put us before their own lives. They are the true heroes of our nation and its a shame the media focus on celebrities as role models when its these real people we should honour and remember.
Martin Callan, London

This recognition of our brave men and women is a good thing. It is also fitting that our present Queens name is attached to it.
Kathleen Parsons, Rochester

About time, let's celebrate being British instead of all this division and show younger generations the importance of remembrance.
Pauline Osborne, Oxford

An excellent idea. Where will it stand in precedence with other medals and honours?
Gavin Bamford, Lisburn, Northern Ireland

About time pleased about this, my son died Afghanistan Dec 08. His wife should get this award along with his other Afghanistan medal.
Maddison Davies , Telford, England

This is a beautiful award! I salute Her Majesty, the Armed Forces and the British government for this magnificent idea.
Thomas Fleming, Rochester, NY, USA

A fitting way to remember those service personnel who didn't come back, as well as recognising the grief felt by husbands and wives, children, parents and siblings. I am concerned however that using the emblems of the Home Nations may exclude those Commonwealth and Nepalese troops who also fell. Their sacrifice is no less significant
Noel, London

Having served, this is a very fitting medal given to the families, to recognise the ultimate sacrifice that a member of there family paid serving there country. When the time comes for a family member to wear it at the appropriate remembrance all will see and recognise that a member of that family paid the ultimate price.
Martin, Rugby, England

I think this is a great idea, but feel a little sad it has taken so long to come into being. As a former member of the RAF with 14 years' service, much of it on active duties, I genuinely hope Her Majesty does not have to issue too many more!!
Carl, Gloucester

A great step forward, but will the men and woman of the Merchant Navy be included?
E Wallace, Cumbernauld

This is brilliant. Sorry it hasn't happened before now. Considering the awful losses during WWI & WWII it is a shame that the families have no official recognition of their loved one's gift of their lives for our country. However, I think the practical suggestion of introducing this for all those since WWII is of great significance and well worth the cost of the metal and paper. The only thing that bothers me is just how are these awards being funded?
Ann Covell, Sturminster Newton, Dorset, UK

The creation of the new Elizabeth Cross Award is particularly right and fitting. It will comfort and uplift the families in their distress. The association of Her Majesty with this award reminds me of her own service in The Second World War, long before coronation.
Andrew Churchley, United Kingdom

Although an extremely sad symbol of the ultimate sacrifice, it will nonetheless, be a greater symbol of honour & pride to the memory of our fallen heroes for their loved ones. This award is an endorsement of each & every word sworn with pride in the Oath of Allegiance & is an enduring reminder of their solemn promise to Queen & Country. My son will commence his first tour of duty 2010 in Afghanistan, and the fear that surrounds me is etched on the faces of those families whose loved ones never make it home in one piece. Their pain is tangible. So ask the families of those who have laid down their lives, what greater honour there could be than to hold dear a symbol of our enduring gratitude, alongside the promise that we will never forget.
Julie McGrath, Halstead, Essex

Our daughter who lost her husband in Helmand in 2006 helped approve the design. It is a way of recognising the loss of these families and what their loved ones did for our nation.
Brian O'Sullivan, Milton Keynes

Commendable, but why a cross? A shield would have been more appropriate and less religious.
Albert E. James, Vancouver, Canada

I lost my fiancé, Marine Neil Dunstan, on 12th November 2008 and think The Elizabeth Cross is a wonderful, fitting tribute to all our brave soldiers who have died serving their country. Neil was extremely proud to be a Royal Marine and so wanted to make a difference in Afghanistan. I believe this medal will honour the part he played. However, I feel extremely upset that I do not think I will receive my man's medal, as we were not married and so I am not classed as next of kin; although we lived together, had made wedding plans and Neil made his wishes to the military that I was next of kin. So, although I think it's a good idea, I just wish that it would be awarded to fiancés and wives, not just wives.
Kate Miller, Plymouth, England

I welcome this move. However, one report suggested that this award would go to those who fell in conflict or acts of terrorism. Will this include the dozens of police officers who were murdered by the IRA and other terrorists organizations in Northern Ireland, North Yorkshire, London etc. etc? It would seem churlish to deny those families just because their loved ones wore a different coloured uniform.
Colin Sinclair, Leeds, W. Yorks

It's a wonderful idea, but it's not new. A cross of very similar design called the Memorial Cross has been awarded by Canada & New Zealand to the next of kin of soldiers killed in action, ever since WW1.
Chris, Brazil

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