The Croix de guerre was established on 25 October 1915 as an award for bravery or other military virtue on the battlefield. It was only awarded to individuals. The Croix de guerre was not only awarded for bravery but also for three years or more of service on the front line, or for good conduct on the battlefield. It was also awarded to volunteers older than 40 or younger than 16 after a minimum of 18 months of service, to escaped prisoners of war rejoining the armed forces, and to military personnel who were placed on inactive duty because of injury.
The award was reestablished on 20 July 1940 by the Belgian government in exile for recognition of bravery and military virtue during World War II. The post-1940 decoration could also be awarded to units that were cited. The decoration was again reestablished by royal decree on 3 April 1954 for award during future conflicts.