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Armed Forces: Commemoration

Volume 712: debated on Wednesday 1 July 2009

Statement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The then Secretary of State for Defence, the right honourable Des Browne, informed the House on 10 June 2008 of plans to introduce a new national form of recognition for the families of those Armed Forces personnel who die on operations or as a result of terrorist activity while on duty. These plans were based on the recommendations of the military chiefs of staff. The Secretary of State said that the recognition would be in the form of an emblem for wear and a memorial scroll similar in concept to those that were issued to the families of those who died in the two world wars and in Korea in the early 1950s.

Much detailed work has been undertaken since that announcement. We had hoped to provide more details before now but there were sensitive and complex issues involved which required much time to work through.

I am pleased to be able to announce further details of this recognition to the House today. These details, recommended by the chiefs of staff, have been welcomed by MoD Ministers, endorsed by the cross-government Committee on Honours and Awards and approved by Her Majesty the Queen. In particular, I am delighted to inform the House that Her Majesty has asked that the emblem should be known as the Elizabeth Cross.

The Elizabeth Cross is made of hallmarked silver and is in the form of a cross with laurel wreath passing between the arms. The arms of the cross bear floral symbols representing England (rose), Scotland (thistle), Ireland (shamrock) and Wales (daffodil). The centre of the cross bears the crowned cypher of Her Majesty the Queen. The reverse of the cross will be engraved with the name of the serviceperson in whose memory it is granted. A miniature version of the Elizabeth Cross will also be granted. Both will be presented in a black leather-style presentation box with the royal cypher on the lid and the royal coat of arms on the inner silk lining.

The memorial scroll is on parchment-style paper, headed with the royal coat of arms and the following words: “This Scroll Commemorates … who gave his/her life for Queen and Country on …”. The scroll will bear the signature of Her Majesty the Queen in the upper left-hand corner.

The Elizabeth Cross and scroll will be granted in national recognition of their loss and sacrifice to the next of kin of UK Armed Forces personnel who have died on operations or as a result of an act of terrorism. Eligible personnel to be remembered in this way are those who were serving with, or former members of, the Regular and Reserve Armed Forces or the Royal Fleet Auxiliary when deployed in direct support of a designated operation. It is important to make the distinction that this is not a posthumous medal for the fallen but national recognition for the family for their loss.

The next of kin of eligible personnel whose deaths fall into the following categories will be recognised in this way:

those who died from whatever cause while serving on a medal-earning operation. Medal-earning operations are those in which deployed personnel received a campaign medal, general service medal or operational service medal which demonstrated the risk and rigour involved. Operations where a UN, NATO or other international body or other nations’ campaign medal was accepted for wear, in the absence of a UK medal, also qualify;

those who died as a result of an act of terrorism where the available evidence suggests that the serviceperson, whether on or off duty, was targeted because of his or her membership of the UK Armed Forces;

those who died on a non-medal-earning operational task where death has been caused by the inherent high risk of the task; and

those who died a subsequent and premature death as a result of an injury or illness attributed to the circumstances outlined above.

In addition to recognising future operational deaths in this way, deaths in the circumstances outlined above that occurred after 1 January 1948, or as a result of service in Palestine since 27 September 1945, will be recognised retrospectively. These dates reflect the fact that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission attributed deaths up to 1 January 1948 to World War II service (with the exception of Palestine).

The next of kin will receive both the Elizabeth Cross and the memorial scroll. For retrospective claims and when the next of kin is deceased, their legal successor may apply.

Only one Elizabeth Cross is to be granted for each death recognised but an additional scroll will be available to the following (or their legal successors) where they are not the next of kin:

the parents of the deceased; and

the spouse/partner of the deceased or someone who had a substantive relationship with the deceased.

As a memorial scroll was issued at the time to those who died in the Korean War, the Elizabeth Cross only (and not the new scroll) will be issued in remembrance of those who died during that war.

As with all forms of recognition, there will be those who fall outside the qualifying criteria. There is a risk involved in much of what the Armed Forces do routinely. Some members of the Armed Forces sadly die, for example, in training incidents or in road accidents in the United Kingdom. While any death is a tragic loss to the family concerned and to the Armed Forces, the chiefs of staff recommended this new recognition for the special circumstances of operational duty. In addition, they considered that the terrible circumstances where an individual was targeted by terrorists because of their membership of the Armed Forces should be similarly recognised.

The first Elizabeth Crosses and memorial scrolls will be granted from one month today, on 1 August 2009. From today, families of those who died in qualifying circumstances are invited to apply for the Elizabeth Cross and scroll to the MoD Medal Office, which will administer the scheme. It is simply not possible to contact the families of all those who may be eligible going back over 50 years, as address details held for next of kin are likely to be out of date.

Full details of how to apply, including an application form, can be found via the MoD website at www.mod.uk/defenceinternet/defencefor/veterans/medals/, while those without access to the internet may call 0800 085 3600 and ask for details to be sent to them.

For new qualifying deaths after 1 August 2009, it is intended that, in most cases, the next of kin will be offered the opportunity for the Elizabeth Cross and memorial scroll to be presented privately and in an appropriate way at the time of the funeral if they so wish.

For retrospective cases, next of kin who are resident in the UK will be offered the opportunity to receive the Elizabeth Cross and memorial scroll at a formal presentation ceremony in the region where they live. Such presentations may be made by a lord-lieutenant or a senior military representative. It is likely to be some months before these events are arranged, as locations will very much depend on the number of recipients living in a particular region and we cannot establish this until applications are received.

If they prefer, families may choose to receive the Elizabeth Cross and memorial scroll by recorded delivery. Next of kin living overseas will normally receive the cross and scroll in this way.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces and who have done so in the past. That debt extends to the families who support them and who bear the burden while loved ones are deployed away from home. I am delighted that the families of those who sadly die in the circumstances that I have described are now to receive some tangible evidence of the nation’s gratitude in the form of the Elizabeth Cross and memorial scroll.

Members will be able to view the Elizabeth Cross and memorial scroll from this afternoon in the Library of the House.