The official description, eligibility, criteria, and history of the Memorial Cross.
The Memorial Cross is granted by His Majesty’s Canadian Government as a memento of personal loss and sacrifice in respect of military personnel who lay down their lives for their country.
Eligibility and criteria
The Directorate of Honours and Recognition (DH&R) of the Department of National Defence (DND) is responsible for the administration of the Memorial Cross for:
- deaths while in service after 6 October 2001.
The Honours and Awards Section of Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) is the authority responsible for the initial issue and replacement of the Memorial Cross for:
- deaths related to the two World Wars;
- deaths related to the Korean War;
- deaths related to other operations until 6 October 2001; and
- deaths after retirement.
The Honours and Awards Section of Veterans Affairs Canada may be reached at 1-866-522-2122.
CASE 1: For members who retired or transferred to the Supplementary Reserve before 7 October 2001 and died before 12 December 2008 (Administered by VAC).
The Memorial Cross is granted to the mother (if living) and/or the widow (if legally married or common law) of a CF member that either:
- dies in a Special Duty Area (SDA);
- dies while proceeding to or returning from a SDA; or
- dies from causes directly attributable to service in a SDA.
CASE 2: For members who retired or transferred to the Supplementary Reserve before 7 October 2001 and died on or after 12 December 2008 (Administered by VAC).
The Memorial Cross is granted to up to two recipients previously identified by the former member whose death is directly attributable to service in a SDA. The designation may be made using a form available at Veterans Affairs Canada. If a former member dies without having completed the form, the executor or administrator of the estate may designate the two recipients in writing.
CASE 3: For members who served in the Canadian Forces (other than the Supplementary Reserve) on or after 7 October 2001 (administered by DND for those who die in service and by VAC for those who die after retirement).
The Memorial Cross is granted to up to three recipients previously identified by the member whose death is the result of an injury or disease related to military service, regardless of location.
This criteria applies to all CF members who serve in the Regular Force, Primary Reserve, Cadet Instructor Cadre, or Canadian Rangers after 6 October 2001. All concerned members shall identify potential Memorial Cross recipients by completing and signing the form entitled Designation of Memorial Cross Recipients (DND 2105) and having it inserted in their personnel file. The recipients do not have to be family members and may be any living person. It is the member’s responsibility to update this form as their circumstances change. Members who release after 6 October 2001 remain responsible to update their list of recipients; they may do so by communicating with the Honours and Awards Section of Veterans Affairs Canada at 1-866-522-2122.
When the death is clearly attributable to service such as in the case of direct hostile action, accidents while on training, etc., the Crosses will be issued immediately. When the death is not clearly and undeniably attributable to service, such as in the case of natural deaths while at work (heart attack, stroke, etc.), fatal illnesses, suicides, etc., the Crosses will not be issued until the Department of Veterans Affairs has made an official determination regarding the cause of death. In these cases, a delay of several months is to be expected.
Because the regulations apply to persons already deceased who never had a chance to designate their recipients, the executor or the administrator of the estate or the liquidator of the succession of the member will designate the recipients. These cases fall in two categories:
- deaths in a Special Duty Area (such as Afghanistan) between 7 October 2001 and 31 December 2006 for which one or two Crosses were granted under the old rules. These families are now entitled to additional Crosses so the total granted may reach three; and
- deaths outside of a Special Duty Area between 7 October 2001 and 31 December 2006 (such as deaths in Canada or at sea) which were not eligible under the old rules. These families are now entitled to three Crosses.
In these cases, a letter, signed by the executor, administrator, or liquidator, and including the following information shall be forwarded to the Directorate of Honours and Recognition:
- name and address of the executor or the administrator of the estate or the liquidator of the succession;
- null names (including all given names) of the designated recipient(s), their address and link with the deceased (e.g. father, daughter, friend). There can be designated one, two or three recipients depending on how many, if any, Memorial Crosses have already been granted in respect of a service death;
- any special instruction for presentation; and
- name and address of the primary beneficiary of the estate (usually the person who will inherit the deceased’s medals) even if this person has already received a Cross or will not receive one at all.
Presentation of these additional Crosses will be coordinated by the military Chain of command, but the wishes of the recipients will be respected to the greatest possible extent.
A sterling silver cross, 32 mm across, with arms slightly flared at the ends with a wreath of laurel leaves appearing between the arms of the cross.
On the obverse, the Royal Cypher appears in the center of a Greek cross superimposed on the main cross, with the Royal Crown at the end of the upper arm and maple leaves on the three remaining arms.
The reverse of the cross is plain. The service number, substantive rank at time of death, initials, and surname of the person being commemorated are engraved on two lines in the center. There is also a sterling mark on the lower arm.
The Cross is suspended by means of a loose ring linked to a fixed ring at the bottom of a broach, 32 mm wide, in the form of the lateral arms of the Cross.
Any legal recipient may wear the Memorial Cross at any time they deem appropriate. It is worn on the left breast, pinned above any medals the recipient may have been awarded. It should be noted that as medals may only be worn by their original recipient. The medals of a deceased person shall, under no circumstances, be worn by a next of kin or any other person.
A member of the Canadian Forces who is the legal recipient of the Memorial Cross may wear the Cross on the service dress jacket with Nos. 1, 1A, and 3 orders of dress. The Cross is worn 2 cm above the left breast pocket or 2 cm above any ribbons, medals or specialist badge the person may be entitled to wear. The Cross may have to be offset in order not to be obscured by the lapel of the jacket.
The Memorial Cross, often referred to as the Silver Cross for Mothers, was created in 1919 to commemorate the dead of the Great War. The original Cross bore the cypher of King George V (GRI) and was worn around the neck from a 750 mm long, 11 mm wide, purple ribbon. Purple stands for suffering and mystery and traditionally was the stained-glassmaker's color for black, expressing negation, mourning, and death.
The Cross was reinstituted in August 1940 for the Second World War with the cypher of King George VI (GVIR) in the center. It is known however that the first 5,000 Crosses issued for Second World War dead were of the old George V version. It is in January 1945, in consequence of a common practice of the recipients to have the Cross privately mounted on a broach by a jeweller, that the Cross was officially modified to be worn on a broach instead of around the neck.
The Cross was revived again in December 1950 for the Korean conflict and was eventually modified to include our Queen Elizabeth's cypher (EIIR) following Her Majesty’s Accession. A major review of the criteria became effective on 1 January 2007, expanding eligibility to all service-related deaths and allowing the member to select up to three potential recipients of the Cross. On 12 December 2008, these changes were made retroactive to 7 October 2001 (vs 1 January 2007) to ensure all deaths occurring since the beginning of the international campaign against terrorism would be treated in a similar fashion.
In its history, the Memorial Cross has been manufactured by a number of private jewelers, but the Crosses issued since 2008 have been manufactured by the Royal Canadian Mint. The Crosses have always been made of Sterling Silver and are usually so marked on the reverse lower arm. The Crosses have always been engraved with the details of the fallen on the reverse.
During the two World Wars and again since August 2006, the Memorial Cross has been presented in a black leatherette box (of slightly different shapes and sizes) bearing a gold Royal Crown on the lid. The most recent box is housed inside a white cardboard protective box which bears a label with the name of the deceased and that of the recipient on the lid. At other times, the Canadian Forces’ Decoration case has been used for the Memorial Cross. Also since February 2007, a small Memorial Card is inserted in the presentation box. The card is cream-coloured, edged in black, and bears the Royal Arms of Canada in black and the inscription “This Memorial Cross is presented to you on behalf of His Majesty’s Canadian Government in memory of one who died in the service of Canada. Lest We Forget”. The reverse features brief wearing instructions. This card was also directly inspired, in form and text, from similar cards issued during the two World Wars.
Every year, a National Silver Cross Mother is selected by the Royal Canadian Legion and invited to lay a wreath on Remembrance Day at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on behalf of all mothers. The Memorial Cross is depicted in bronze with the three different cyphers, at three of the four corners of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which was unveiled in May 2000. There is also a large replica of the Memorial Cross hanging above the door of the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower of the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings, where the Books of Remembrance are kept.
The Directorate of Honours and Recognition of the Department of National Defence is responsible for the administration of the Memorial Cross for serving members who die after 6 October 2001. Veterans Affairs Canada is the authority responsible for the initial issue and replacement of the Memorial Cross for deaths related to the two World Wars, the Korean War, and other operations until 6 October 2001 as well as when retired members die.
For current deaths, the Directorate of Honours and Recognition is responsible to provide the Memorial Crosses for presentation and, whenever possible, they are prepared and sent to the place of the funeral before the funeral or memorial service. The Crosses are traditionally presented by the most senior officer present, in private, to the entitled recipients in the presence of the immediate family. The presentation takes place before the service, so the Memorial Crosses may be worn during the ceremonies. The presentation may take place at the recipient’s residence, at the funeral home, or at any other suitable location. The wishes of the family regarding the timing, place of the presentation, and who should be present are respected to the greatest possible extent.
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