The George Cross
) is the highest award bestowed by the British government for non-operational gallantry or gallantry not in the presence of an enemy. In the UK honours system, the George Cross is equal in stature to the Victoria Cross, the highest military gallantry award. This has been the case since the introduction of the award in 1940. It is awarded "for acts of the greatest heroism or for most conspicuous courage in circumstance of extreme danger", not in the presence of the enemy, to members of the British armed forces and to British civilians. Posthumous awards have been allowed since it was instituted. It was previously awarded to residents of Commonwealth countries, most of which have since established their own honours systems and no longer recommend British honours. It may be awarded to a person of any military rank in any service and to civilians including police, emergency services and merchant seamen. Many of the awards have been personally presented by the British monarch to recipients or, in the case of posthumous awards, to next of kin. These investitures are usually held at Buckingham Palace.