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Most Excellent
Order of the British Empire
CBE AEAColl.jpg

Further reading

  • Galloway, Peter (1996). The Order of the British Empire. Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood. ISBN 978-0-907605-65-2.
  • Hood, Frederic (1967). The Chapel of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, with a foreword by Prince Philip.
  • "Knighthood and Chivalry" (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th ed., London: Cambridge University Press.

External linksHowever, since the Second World War, several Commonwealth realms have established their own national system of honours and awards and have created their own unique orders, decorations and medals.

Canada seldom made recommendations for appointments to the Order of the British Empire except for the Second World War and Korea but continued to recommend gallantry awards for both military and civilians until the creation of the Order of Canada in 1967.[18]

Although Commonwealth of Australia recommendations ended with the creation of the Order of Australia in 1975, State governments continued to recommend the Order of the British Empire until the 1989 Queen's Birthday Honours, nearly 15 years later.[19]

The New Zealand Government ceased to recommend the Order after the establishment of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1996, but the Government of the Cook Islands continues to do so.[20]

In 2003, the Sunday Times published a list of the people who had rejected the Order of the British Empire, including David Bowie, John Cleese, Nigella Lawson, Elgar Howarth, L. S. Lowry, George Melly and J. G. Ballard.[21] In addition, Ballard voiced his opposition to the honours system, calling it "a preposterous charade".[21] The Order has attracted some criticism for its naming having connection with the idea of the now-extinct British Empire.[22] Benjamin Zephaniah, a British Jamaican poet, publicly rejected appointment as an Officer in 2003 because, he asserted, it reminded him of "thousands of years of brutality". He also said that "It reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised".[23]

In 2004, a House of Commons Select Committee recommended changing the name of the award to the Order of British Excellence, and changing the rank of Commander to Companion; as the former was said to have a "militaristic ring".[22]House of Commons Select Committee recommended changing the name of the award to the Order of British Excellence, and changing the rank of Commander to Companion; as the former was said to have a "militaristic ring".[22][24]

A notable person to decline the offer of membership was the author C. S. Lewis (1898–1963), who had been named on the last list of honours by George VI in December 1951. Despite being a monarchist, he declined so as to avoid association with any political issues.[25][26]

The Beatles were appointed Members in 1965: John Lennon justified the comparative merits of his investiture by comparing military membership in the Order: "Lots of people who complained about us receiving the MBE [status] received theirs for heroism in the war — for killing people ... We received ours for entertaining other people. I'd say we deserve ours more." Lennon later returned his MBE insignia on 25 November 1969, as part of his ongoing peace protests.[27] Other criticism centres on the claim that many recipients of the Order are being rewarded with honours for simply doing their jobs; critics claim that the Civil Service and Judiciary receive far more orders and honours than leaders of other professions.[22]

Chin Peng, a veteran guerrilla fighter of the Malayan Peoples' Anti-Japanese Army, was appointed as an Officer for his role in fighting against the Japanese occupation of Malaya during World War II, in close co-operation with the British commando Force 136. Several years after World War II his OBE membership was withdrawn by the British government and became undesirable to Chin Peng as well when the Communist leader headed his party's guerrilla insurgency against the British Empire during the Malayan Emergency.[28]