Military Review

British Commonwealth Heroes

Comparison of the award systems of the USSR and England during the Second World War

The reward system of England (United Kingdom) reflected the monarchical form of government and was formed over several centuries, while the Soviet reward system by the beginning of World War II consisted of just over two decades.

The main British orders according to the medieval tradition were certain associations of their cavaliers, which were in the form of chivalrous orders. In this case, the monarch was like a grandmaster for the gentlemen of all orders and he owned the right to award. There was nothing of the kind in the USSR, which sometimes makes it difficult to compare awards of two countries. We also exclude from comparison the salary of noble titles (earl, viscount, baron, etc.), which was often regarded as a higher reward than any order, but had no analogues in the Soviet Union.

Knights Garters

The highest British order is the Order of the Garter, founded in 1348 and one of the oldest in the world. According to the charter of the Knights of the Order of the Garter, there can be no more than 24 people, in addition to the monarch, the Prince of Wales, members of the royal family and foreign monarchs. The reigning monarch himself chooses the knights of the Order of the Garter, this does not require anyone's representation. However, during the Second World War, when choosing the Knights of the Order, the king listened to the recommendations of the Prime Minister. Prominent statesmen and military figures become knights, their rewarding is announced on St. George's Day, April 23, and the order is presented some time later, usually in June. But the awards were made, of course, as vacancies appeared due to the death of the knights, repeated awards were excluded. So, the wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill was awarded the Order of the Garter in 1953, and received in 1954, just before the end of his political career. Admiral fleet Count Louis Mountbatten of Burma, Supreme Allied Commander of the Southeast Asian Theater of War, was awarded the Order of the Garter in 1955. The British Field Marshals received the Order of the Garter: Bernard Lowe Montgomery, Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Ground Forces in Europe (1946), Alain Brooke (1946), the Imperial General Staff Chief, Harold Alexander (1946), the Allied Commander-in-Chief of the East Asian Land Forces Slim (1959).

“It is believed that all Victoria crosses are made from the bronze of Russian guns, captured after the capture of Sevastopol”
In principle, Stalin, introducing the Order of Victory, may have copied the Order of the Garter. This is indicated by the close number of cavaliers of both orders - 24 of the Order of the Garter, excluding foreign monarchs, and 16 of the Order of Victory, however, taking into account foreign leaders, including one monarch. If we count three repeated awards, then the total number of awards with the Order of Victory during Stalin's life reaches 19, whereas the repeated awarding with the Order of the Garter was not allowed. Stalin made the Order of Victory the highest military order. The Order of the Garter was not formally such. But during the Second World War and in the postwar years they were awarded exclusively for military merit. This can also be attributed to the award of Churchill, who actually served as the Supreme Commander.

"Suvorov" in English

The next highest order of the Order of the Bath was established in 1725. Its head (Grand Master) is also a British monarch. In total, it can be simultaneously up to 120 knights or ladies of the Big Cross, 355 knights, commanders or ladies-commanders and 1925 knights. Foreigners can become honorary knights of the Order of the Bath. Of the Soviet military leaders during the war years, marshals Zhukov (Knight of the Grand Cross), as well as Konev and Rokossovsky (Knight Commander), became such in 1945 year.

British Commonwealth HeroesThis award was received by some British military leaders, who were not awarded the Order of the Garter. Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1940-he became commander of the British Expeditionary Force in France, Field Marshal John Standish Gort for the successful evacuation of Dunkirk, in 1941 year - the commander of British troops in India and Burma, Field Marshal Archibald Wavell for the expulsion of the Italians from Libya, Ethiopia and Eritrea when he was Commander in the Middle East, in 1942, Field Marshal John Greer, Head of the British Military Mission at the Allied Joint Staff in the United States; in 1944, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the Mediterranean Field Marshal Henry Maitland Wilson; and on 1945, Field Marshal Claude Okinlek and Marshal of the Royal Air Force Arthur Harris, Head of the Air Force Bomber Command. The latter was not honored with the Order of the Garter due to the ambiguous attitude in the British society to the strategic bombardment, which led to great civilian casualties. He also was not awarded the title of peer. Note that Field Marshal Okinlek declined the peer title offered to him. Perhaps this was due to the failure of the British forces under his command in North Africa in 1942.

In the Soviet award system there are no analogues of the Order of the Bath. In terms of military merit awards, the Order of Suvorov and the Order of Ushakov to some extent performed similar functions. So, double awarding the Order of Suvorov 1-th degree can be roughly equated to the Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.

To the award is the enemy

The Victoria Cross is the highest military award of England and the Commonwealth for outstanding bravery, valor, self-sacrifice, devotion to duty in the face of the enemy. Specify - the highest among the awards that are not knightly orders. Victoria Cross was established in 1856 for heroes of the Crimean War. They are awarded a soldier of any rank or a civilian subject to military command, such as civilian medical personnel. A total of 1856 awards have been made since 1356. It is believed that all crosses are made of bronze of Russian guns, captured after the capture of Sevastopol, but some researchers have expressed doubts, believing that many of the awards were made of bronze Chinese guns, captured during the suppression of the Boxing Rebellion 1900 – 1901. Now the last winner of the Victoria Cross at the time of awarding is the junior corporal of the parachute regiment Joshua Mark Leakey, who was awarded this award in 2015 for his courage in battles in Afghanistan. In total, after the Second World War, there were only 15 awards with the Victoria Cross, including eight posthumously. But in the years of the Second World Cross, Victoria was awarded a 181 man, including 85 posthumously. In the Soviet award system, the obvious analogue is the Golden Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union. However, unlike her re-awarding the Victoria Cross was only one. Captain Charles Upham of the 2-th New Zealand Division was awarded the Victoria Cross and the bar for it, which means re-awarding. He became the third holder of the strap in stories orders. The first time he was awarded the rank of second lieutenant for participating in the battles on Crete from 22 to 30 in May 1941. For the second time, Aphem received a Victoria Cross for participating in the first battle of El Alamein 14 – 15 in July 1942, where he commanded a company. He was awarded in September 1945, in particular, for “despite two injuries, the first at the time when he crossed open space under enemy fire to inspect the advanced units guarding our minefields, and the second when he completely destroyed a hand grenade truck full of German soldiers ... insisted on staying with its people to take part in the final attack. " In that battle, Aphem also destroyed a German tank and several guns and vehicles. Then he was captured and repeatedly tried to escape from the camps in Italy. In the end, he was sent to the camp of the Colditz Castle in Saxony, which on April 14 was released by American troops on 1945. Apchem returned to New Zealand, where 22 passed away on November 1994 at the age of 86.

And the first cavalier of the Victoria Cross in World War II was Lieutenant Commander (corresponding to Army Major) Gerard Broadmead Rup, captain of the destroyer Glouorm, who died along with most of the crew and ship in the Norwegian Sea 8 on April 1940. The destroyer entered into an unequal battle with the German heavy cruiser "Admiral Hipper" and managed to ram it before his death. The cruiser commander, Captain Helmut Heye, through intermediaries from the International Red Cross, wrote a letter to the British Admiralty describing the battle and recommending the commander of the English destroyer for the award.

We emphasize that the total number of awards with the Victoria Cross and the title of Hero of the Soviet Union differs by more than 60 times. After all, there were more than 12 thousand Heroes of the Soviet Union during the Second World War. Posthumously, the Golden Star was awarded to 25,3 percent of the Heroes of the Soviet Union, while the share of posthumous awards was 47 percent among those awarded the Victoria Cross. All Victoria Crosses awarded are soldiers or officers. There was not a single general or admiral among them. Unlike the “Golden Star” of the Hero of the Soviet Union, Victoria’s cross could not be awarded for the leadership of the operations, but only for the heroism shown directly on the battlefield under enemy fire. This award was received by 28 representatives of the Royal Air Force (including 1 - Australian) and 23 representatives of the Royal Navy, including one marine. The remaining 130 awarded were from the ranks of the ground forces, which amounted to 71,8 percent. Here we can note the similarity with Soviet practice, where about 20 percent of the Heroes of the Soviet Union were pilots, representatives of the navy and marine corps - 4,25 percent, and representatives of the ground forces, including partisans, border guards and special police officers — about 76 percent. We only note that in England, sailors were awarded relatively more generously (the tradition of “mistress of the seas” had an effect), and pilots were more sparingly, including due to the ambiguous attitude of the public towards strategic bombing in Germany. Since the Western Allies reigned supreme in the air since 1943, the British fighter pilots aviation it turned out to be much less potential goals than their German counterparts-opponents, which could not but lead to much less effective results than the Luftwaffe aces. And the British used another tactic. They are less active than the Germans, involved the best aces-fighters, limiting the number of sorties to them. This reduced the number of victories, but increased the chance of survival.

"George" from George

George Cross was established by King George VI 24 on September 1940 of the year as the highest civilian award following the value of the Victoria Cross. They are awarded "for the greatest heroism or special courage in extreme danger." As a rule, recipients of the award are civilians or military personnel whose exploits are not directly related to the hostilities. During the war and later for the feats accomplished during the war, 146 awards were made, including one collective — the inhabitants of the island of Malta for courage in the face of the German-Italian bombardment. Of this number, 52 people are awarded posthumously. The closest analogue of the St George Cross in the Soviet award system is the title of Hero of Socialist Labor as the highest civilian award. There were 201 people during the war, which is comparable to the number of those awarded with the Cross of St. George. But the title of Hero of Socialist Labor during the war was not posthumously awarded. And the statute was different. The title of Hero of Socialist Labor was conferred "to persons who, by their particularly distinguished innovative activities in the field of industry, agriculture, transport, trade, scientific discoveries and technical inventions, showed exceptional services to the Soviet state, contributed to the growth of national economy, science, culture, growth of power and glory THE USSR". Thus, it was not about the achievement of the feat in conditions of extreme danger.

And medals are similar

Other British wartime orders have no direct analogues in the Soviet award system. Thus, the Order “For Distinguished Service in the Service”, which was awarded to senior officers, and the cross “For Distinguished Service in the Service” and the Military Cross, intended for junior officers and warrant officers (the Majors could also receive a military cross) to be likened to the Order of the Patriotic War 1 and 2 degrees and the junior degrees of the Soviet military orders. A five-degree Order of the British Empire, which was awarded for both military and civil merit, including many foreigners, can not be compared with any Soviet award. Note that the Marshal of Vasilevsky and Sokolovsky became the honorary knight of the Great Cross of the Order of the British Empire, and Vice Admiral Georgy Kholostyakov became the Commander of the Order of the British Empire. British generals and marshals awarded the Soviet generals much more sparingly than the French and Americans.

But British medals for military campaigns can be likened to Soviet medals for the defense and the capture of certain cities. Only it must be borne in mind that, unlike the Soviet, British medals were divided into stars and the actual medals, which stood a step lower than the stars. The medal “Star 1939 – 1945” was awarded to all combatants of the British forces from September 3 1939 to 2 September 1945, who served in the army for at least six months. Its counterparts are the Soviet medals "For Victory over Germany" and "For Victory over Japan." A step below was the medal "For participation in the 1939 – 1945 war." To get it, it was enough to 28 days of participation in hostilities.

The medal "Atlantic Star" was awarded to soldiers of Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries for participation in military operations in the Atlantic during World War II. The star was awarded six months of service in the fleet in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the coastal waters of Great Britain in the period from September 3 1939 to May 8 1945. This medal was awarded to military personnel of the Royal Air Force who participated in combat operations in this zone, and sailors who took part in hostilities for at least two months. The Air Force Star "For the Fights in Europe" was awarded to pilots who participated in hostilities over occupied Europe from 1939 to 1944 a year for at least two months.

“African star” honored combatants in North Africa from October 23 1942 to 12 May 1943. "Pacific Star" relied for participation in active hostilities in the Pacific theater of operations from December 8 1941 to September 2 1945 year. "Burmese Star" was awarded to participants in the fighting in Burma from December 11 1941 to September 2 1945 of the year. “Italian Star” was intended for participants of fights in Italy in 1943 – 1945, and “French-German Star” - for participants in hostilities in France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia from 6 June 1944 to 8 May 1945 of the year.

The Medal “For the Defense of Norway 1940 – 1945” established by 19 September 1945 was awarded to both British nationals and foreigners who participated in the 1940 campaign of the year and subsequent reconnaissance and sabotage operations, including the destruction of heavy water and production facilities at the Vemork factory February 1943 of the year, which hampered the implementation of the German nuclear project.

The Medal "For Defense", established by 16 August 1945, was intended to award civil defense officers, the royal service of military journalists, the national fire service, the military mail service, the police, the coast guard, etc. Its closest analogue is the Soviet medal "For Valiant labor in the Great Patriotic War 1941 – 1945 years ”, established 6 June 1945 year. However, the circle awarded by it was much wider than those who received the British medal "For Defense". All those Soviet citizens who provided “the victory of the Soviet Union over Germany with their valiant and selfless work,” and not just the employees of auxiliary services, could receive this medal. And today more than 16 million people were awarded with the medal "For Valiant Labor".

In general, the British award system, dating back to the Middle Ages and having a monarchical character, had much less similarity with the young Soviet award system during the Second World War than the award systems of Germany and the USA. These latter were also significantly younger than the British. The American premium system at that time existed less than 80 years. German - historically ascended to the Prussian, which arose in the XVIII century. However, Hitler substantially reformed her, so that in practice she was as young as the Soviet. The British system is the farthest from the Soviet, why only a few orders of the USSR and the United Kingdom are comparable.
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  1. Aleksander
    Aleksander 21 October 2015 09: 11 New
    Thanks to the author, a very interesting article, I read it with pleasure!