About George Cross Heroes and author, Michael Ashcroft

The Book
On 23 September 1940, as a response to the changing nature of war that the Second World War had brought about, George VI announced the creation of the George Cross. Ranking alongside the Victoria Cross, it would recognise supreme gallantry away from the heat of battle - behind the front line and in civilian situations.

From the beginning, those who risked or lost their lives in bomb disposal were at the forefront of the minds of those issuing the award - and amongst the very first awarded were those to Robert Davies and George Wylie for their bravery removing an unexploded bomb close to St Paul's Cathedral. Today it is still these bomb disposal men, who face the possibility of death on a daily basis, who are so often the recipients of the award, with Olaf 'Oz' Schmid the most recent recipient. Schmid spent five months in Helmand Province and defused over seventy improvised explosive devices. He lost his life in October 2009.

Since its inception, 161 awards have been made across the Commonwealth and, of these, 110 have been to service personnel and 51 have been to civilians. Those civilians have come from walks of life as diverse as police officers, train drivers, journalists and teachers, and have included four women as well as two collective groups - the people of Malta in 1942 and the Royal Ulster Constabulary in 1999. The very first recipient Thomas Alderson typified the bravery that George VI wanted to commemorate an ARP leader in the Blitz, he led a series of dangerous below-ground searches, while the air-raids were still continuing, in his home town of Bridlington, with little concern for his own safety.

Many of us share the author's fascination with the bravery of others, and these amazing stories allow us to remember and honour those who have risked, and often lost, their own lives for the sake of others.

Lord Ashcroft believes that great courage should be widely acclaimed and must never be forgotten.

The Author
Lord Ashcroft, KCMG, is an international businessman, author and philanthropist. He was Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party in the UK from December 2005 to September 2010 and is Treasurer of the International Democratic Union. He is also the founder and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Crimestoppers, the only UK charity dedicated to solving crimes, Vice-Patron of the Intelligence Corps Museum, a Trustee of the Imperial War Museum Foundation, Chairman of the Trustees of Ashcroft Technology Academy and Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University.

Lord Ashcroft has a life-long interest in bravery and gallantry medals. In 1986, he started collecting Victoria Crosses. There are now more than 160 in his collection, estimated to be worth some £30 million, making it the largest collection of VCs in the world. In the autumn of 2010, the collection is due to go on public display for the first time at the Imperial War Museum in London. The new Lord Ashcroft Gallery, paid for by his £5 million donation, will also exhibit Victoria Crosses and George Crosses already belonging to or in the care of the IWM. Lord Ashcroft continues a close association with the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association, to whom he has donated his royalties from this book.

Lord Ashcroft has now written three books on gallantry. His first book, Victoria Cross Heroes, was published in 2006 to mark the 150th anniversary of the VC. His second book, Special Forces Heroes, was published in 2008

George Cross Heroes by Michael Ashcroft is published in hardback by Headline Review in October 2010.

*Those wanting to know more about Lord Ashcroft should visit LordAshcroft.com.