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Victoria Cross

Victoria Cross
A bronze cross pattée bearing the crown of Saint Edward surmounted by a lion with the inscription FOR VALOUR. A crimson ribbon is attached

Obverse of the cross. Ribbon: 1½" (38 mm), crimson (blue ribbon for naval awards 1856–1918).
Awarded by

Sovereign of the United Kingdom
Type Military decoration
Eligibility Persons of any rank in the Naval, Military and Air Forces of the United Kingdom, its colonies or territories, and Commonwealth countries that award UK honours; members of the Merchant Navy; and civilians serving under the orders, directions or supervision of any of the above-mentioned forces or services.[1]
Awarded for "... most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy."[2]
Status Currently awarded.
Description Bronze Cross pattée with Crown and Lion Superimposed, and motto: 'For Valour'
Post-nominals VC
Established 29 January 1856
First awarded 1857
Last awarded 26 February 2015
Total awarded 1,358
Order of Wear
Next (higher) None
Next (lower) [3]

The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories.[3] It is first in the order of wear in the United Kingdom honours system, and takes precedence over all other orders, decorations, and medals, including the Order of the Garter. It may be awarded to a person of any military rank in any service and to civilians under military command. The VC is usually presented to the recipient or to their next of kin by the British monarch at an investiture held at Buckingham Palace.

The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour acts of valour during the Crimean War. Since then, the medal has been awarded 1,358 times to 1,355 individual recipients. Only 15 medals, 11 to members of the British Army, and four to the Australian Army, have been awarded since the Second World War. The traditional explanation of the source of the metal from which the medals are struck is that it derives from Russian cannon captured at the Siege of Sevastopol. Some research suggested a variety of origins for the material actually making up the medals themselves.[4] Research has established that the metal for the medals came from two Chinese cannons[5] that were captured from the Russians in 1855.

Owing to its rarity, the VC is highly prized and the medal has fetched over

  • Contains a list of links to obituaries.
  • Victoria Cross Registers online index to Victoria Cross awards at the National Archives site
  • Search UK National Inventory of War Memorial for memorials in the UK commemorating VC winners Select 'War' type of 'VC or GC Winners'

External links

Further reading


  1. ^ Special Army Order 65 of 1961, paragraph 6.
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ a b The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 56878. p. 3351. 17 March 2003.
  4. ^ a b c d
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ Canadian Honours System
  9. ^ Australian Honours System
  10. ^ New Zealand Honours System
  11. ^ a b c Ashcroft, Michael, Preface to Victoria Cross Heroes
  12. ^ Original Warrant Foreword: And, whereas, the third class of Our Most Honourable Order of the Bath is limited, except in very rare cases, to the higher ranks of both services, and the granting of Medals, both in Our Navy and Army, is only awarded for long service or meritorious conduct, rather than for bravery in action or distinction before an enemy,
  13. ^ British Gallantry Awards, p283
  14. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 21846. pp. 410–411. 5 February 1856. Retrieved 12 January 2008. The Gazette publishing the original Royal Warrant
  15. ^ Ashcroft, Michael, p. 7–10
  16. ^ a b c
  17. ^ Original Warrant, Clause 5:Fifthly. It is ordained that the Cross shall only be awarded to those officers and men who have served Us in the presence of the enemy, and shall have then performed some signal act of valour or devotion to their country.
  18. ^ a b c Beharry, Johnson p.359
  19. ^ a b c
  20. ^ a b
  21. ^ a b c d e f
  22. ^ a b
  23. ^
  24. ^ a b Original Warrant, Clause 1: Firstly. It is ordained that the distinction shall be styled and designated "The Victoria Cross", and shall consist of a Maltese cross of bronze, with our Royal crest in the centre, and underneath with an escroll bearing the inscription "For Valour".
  25. ^ Ashcroft, Michael, p.16
  26. ^ Abbott and Tamplin (1981). British Gallantry Awards. Nimrod Dix and Co.. ISBN 0-902633-74-0.
  27. ^ Original warrant, Clause Two: Secondly. It is ordained that the Cross shall be suspended from the left breast by a blue riband for the Navy, and by a red riband for the Army
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ a b Crook, MJ, Chapter 18, p.204
  31. ^ a b c
  32. ^ Pillinger, Dennis; Staunton, A, p.73
  33. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 27462. p. 5085. 8 August 1902. Retrieved January 2015.
  34. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27986. p. 325. 15 January 1907. Retrieved 28 August 2008.
  35. ^ Crook, MJ, Chapter 8 pp.68–90
  36. ^ The London Gazette: no. 31946. p. 6702. 18 June 1920. Retrieved 19 September 2008.
  37. ^
  38. ^ Original Warrant, Clause 13: Thirteenthly. It is ordained that in the event of a gallant and daring act having been performed by a squadron, ship's company, or detached body of seamen and marines not under fifty in number, or by a brigade, regiment, troop or company in which the admiral, general, or other officer commanding such forces may deem that all are equally brave and distinguished, and that no special selection can be made by them, then is such case the admiral, general, or other officer commanding, may direct that for any such body of seamen or marines, or for every troop or company of soldiers, one officer shall be selected by the officers engaged for the Decoration, and in like manner one petty officer or non-commissioned officer shall be selected by the petty officers and non-commissioned officers engaged, and two seamen or private soldiers or marines shall be selected by the seamen, or private soldiers, or marines engaged, respectively for the Decoration, and the names of those selected shall be transmitted by the senior officers in command of the Naval force, brigade, regiment, troop, or company, to the admiral or general officer commanding, who shall in due manner confer the Decoration as if the acts were done under his own eye.
  39. ^ Warrant Amendment dated 10 August 1858: subject to the rules and ordinances already made, on Officers and Men of Her Majesty's Naval and Military Services, who may perform acts of conspicuous courage and bravery under circumstances of extreme danger, such as the occurrence of a fire on board ship, or the foundering of a vessel at sea, or under any of the other circumstance in which, through the courage and devotion displayed, life or public property may be saved.
  40. ^ a b
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^ a b Abbott PE, Tamplin JMA, Chapter 34, 230–236
  44. ^
  45. ^ Crook, MJ, Chapter 19, pp.242–251
  46. ^ Crook, MJ, Chapter 11. pp 117–125
  47. ^ a b
  48. ^ a b The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 56878. pp. 3351–3355. 17 March 2003. Retrieved 28 November 2007. The Gazette containing the most up-to-date Order of Precedence
  49. ^ a b
  50. ^
  51. ^
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^ a b
  57. ^ Sir Ivan de la Bère, The Queen's Orders of Chivalry, 1964
  58. ^ The complete book of Heraldry by Stephen Slater, 2002
  59. ^ Original Warrant, Clause 14: It is ordained that every warrant officer, petty officer, seaman or marine, or non-commissioned officer, or soldier who shall have received the Cross, shall, from the date of the act by which the Decoration has been gained be entitled to a special pension of 10 pounds a year, and each additional bar conferred under Rule 4 on such warrant or petty officers, or non-commissioned officers or men, shall carry with it an additional pension of 5 pounds per annum.
  60. ^ Warrant Amendment 1898-07-1898 ... authorize the increase of the Victoria Cross pension from 10 pounds to 50 pounds per annum, the condition to be satisfied in such cases being inability to earn a livelihood, in consequence of age or infirmity occasioned by causes beyond an Annuitant's control.
  61. ^
  62. ^
  63. ^
  64. ^
  65. ^ Australian Veteran's Entitlement Act 1986, Clause 103, Victoria Cross allowance granted to a veteran under this section is payable at the rate of A$3,230 per year. The amount fixed by this subsection is indexed annually in line with CPI increases., (accessdate=30 June 2007)
  66. ^
  67. ^ Original Warrant Clause 15: Fifteenthly. In order to make such additional provision as shall effectually preserve pure this most honourable distinction, it is ordained that, if any person be convicted of treason, cowardice, felony, or of any infamous crime, or if he be accused of any such offence, and doth not after a reasonable time surrender himself to be tried for the same, his name shall forthwith be erased from the registry of individuals upon whom the said Decoration shall have been conferred, and by an especial Warrant under Our Royal Sign Manual, and the pension conferred under Rule 14 shall cease and determine from the date of such Warrant. It is hereby further declared, that We, Our Heirs and Given Successors, shall be the all judges of the circumstances requiring such expulsion; moreover, We shall at all times have power to restore such persons as may at any time have been expelled, both to the enjoyment of the Decoration and Pension.
  68. ^
  69. ^ For the same action four other VCs were awarded to members of other units.
  70. ^ Arthur, Max; pp.185–371
  71. ^
  72. ^ a b Victoria Cross Register
  73. ^ a b
  74. ^ Ashcroft, Michael, Introduction: A brief History of the VC (p. 14–18)
  75. ^
  76. ^ Ashcroft, Michael, p. 296–298, Information on Flying Officer Lloyd Allan Trigg
  77. ^
  78. ^
  79. ^
  80. ^
  81. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 61154. p. 3466. 26 February 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  82. ^ a b c UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2015), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
  83. ^ Bevis Hillier. "£1,700 world record for a VC" (Arts and Entertainment). The Times (London). Wednesday, 22 January 1969. (57465), col F, p. 12.
  84. ^
  85. ^ Table 3 "UK Sales 1881–2000", Pillinger and Staunton
  86. ^
  87. ^
  88. ^
  89. ^
  90. ^
  91. ^
  92. ^
  93. ^ In Pakistan, too, speculation and controversy has long been afoot regarding the genuineness of the VC awarded to Khudadad Khan which is said to be on display at his native village of Dub, near Chakwal, since it is claimed that the original was stolen from the recipient in 1950 and never recovered and a copy/duplicate issued instead, which is the one now displayed. Whatever the truth may be, in early 2011 a VC for 1914 was advertised 'for confidential sale' on various sites, by a jeweller based in Haripur area, including sale-iid-68882112
  94. ^
  95. ^ a b In May 2014, the AWM website listed 69 medals, including 3 VCs for Australia – see
  96. ^
  97. ^
  98. ^ a b
  99. ^
  100. ^
  101. ^
  102. ^ "Obituary: Canon W. M. Lummis", The Times, 19 November 1985; pg. 18; Issue 62299; col G
  103. ^
  104. ^
  105. ^ See Sally Whipple. (2001). Catalogue of the Series of Historical Pictures by Chevalier L. W. Desanges. (Wantage, 2000). This was the catalogue to an exhibition of photographic reproductions of many of the paintings held in Wantage to honour the Millennium.
  106. ^
  107. ^ Wigmore 1986, p. 15.
  1. ^ On 8 August 1902 as a result of a revision in the policy in the War Office which allowed posthumous awards of the Victoria Cross for officers and men who fallen during the recent operation in the performance of acts of valour which would in the opinion of the Commander in Chief had entitled them to a Victoria Cross were awarded to:[33]


  • The Victoria Cross and George Cross Association
  • Dickin Medal ("the animals' VC")

See also

It is a tradition within the Australian Army for soldiers' recreational clubs on military bases to be named after a particular recipient of the Victoria Cross,[107] usually one with whom the unit is historically associated. Permission for such naming rights is usually obtained not only from the relevant command hierarchy within the military itself, but also from the family of the recipient. Once dedicated, the club and its participants typically take great pride in the deeds of the person with whom they are associated, and often family members will be invited to attend certain functions held by the club as a mark of thanks and respect.

Soldiers' club naming traditions

The subject of soldiers earning the VC has been popular with artists since the medal's inception. In particular are the fifty paintings by Louis William Desanges that were painted in the late 1850s and early 1860s. Many of these were exhibited at the Egyptian Gallery in Piccadilly, but in 1900, they were brought together by Lord Wantage as the Victoria Cross Gallery and exhibited in the town of Wantage, Berkshire. Later the collection was broken up and many of the paintings were sent to the various regiments depicted. Some were damaged or destroyed.[105] A number of the acts were also portrayed in a Second World War propaganda pamphlet, and the images commissioned by the Ministry of Information are presented in an online gallery available on the website of The National Archives.[106]

In art

Australia has a unique means of remembering recipients of the Victoria Cross. Remembrance Drive is a path through city streets and highways linking Sydney and Canberra. Trees were planted in February 1954 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in a park near Sydney Harbour and at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, marking either end of the route, with various plantations along the roadsides in memory of the fallen. Beginning in 1995, 23 rest stop memorials named for Australian recipients of the VC from World War II onwards have been sited along the route, providing picnic facilities and public amenities to encourage drivers to take a break on long drives. 23 of the 26 memorial sites have been dedicated, with a further three reserved for the surviving VC recipients, including two of the newer Victoria Cross for Australia awards. Edward Kenna, VC was honoured with the most recent rest stop on 16 August 2012, having died in 2009.[104]

Canon William Lummis, MC, was a military historian who built up an archive on the service records and final resting places of Victoria Cross holders.[102] This was then summarised into a pamphlet which was taken to be an authoritative source on these matters. However, Lummis was aware of short-comings in his work and encouraged David Harvey to continue it. The result was Harvey's seminal book Monuments to Courage. In 2007 the Royal Mail used material from Lummis' archives to produce a collection of stamps commemorating Victoria Cross recipients.[103]

In 2004 a national Victoria Cross and George Cross memorial was installed in Westminster Abbey close to the tomb of the Unknown Warrior.[100] Westminster Abbey is a living monument to British history in that it contains monuments and memorials to central figures in British History including Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and James VI & I. As such it was a significant honour for the VC to be commemorated in Westminster Abbey.[101]



(note 1 = Many VCs are on loan to the museums and are owned by individuals and not owned by the museums themselves.)[98]

In the UK
Museum Location Number
of VCs
Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum Kennington, London 210
The National Army Museum Chelsea, London 39
The Royal Green Jackets Museum Winchester, Hampshire 34
The Royal Engineers Museum Gillingham, Kent 26
The Army Medical Services Museum Mytchett, Surrey 22
Firepower – The Royal Artillery Museum Woolwich, London 20
The Queen's Own Highlanders Museum Ardersier, Inverness-shire 16
The South Wales Borderers Museum Brecon, Wales 16
The Green Howards Regimental Museum Richmond, Yorkshire 15
The Royal Fusiliers Museum Tower of London 12
The Gordon Highlanders Museum Aberdeen 12
The National Maritime Museum Greenwich, London 11
The National War Museum Edinburgh Castle 11
The RAF Museum Hendon, London 11
The Sherwood Foresters Museum Nottingham 11
The Gurkha Museum Winchester, Hampshire 10
The Royal Marines Museum Portsmouth, Hampshire 10
The Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum Caernarfon Castle, Wales 10
Outside the UK
Australian War Memorial Canberra, Australia ~70[95]
Canadian War Museum Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 33
QEII Army Memorial Museum Waiouru, New Zealand 11

Museums with holdings of ten or more VCs include:[98][99]

List of collections

Prior to November 2010, the largest collection of VCs on public display was held by the Australian War Memorial, whose collection includes all nine VCs awarded to Australians at Gallipoli. Of the 100 medals awarded to Australians (96 VCs, and 4 VCs for Australia), this collection contains around 70 medals, including 3 medals awarded to British soldiers (Grady, 1854; Holbrook, 1914; and Whirlpool, 1858), and 3 of the VCs for Australia (Donaldson, 2008; Keighran, 2010; and Roberts-Smith, 2010).[95][96][97]

Australian War Memorial

The VC collection of businessman and politician Lord Ashcroft, amassed since 1986, contains 162 medals, over one-tenth of all VCs awarded. It is the largest collection of such decorations. In July 2008 it was announced that Ashcroft was to donate £5 million for a permanent gallery at the Imperial War Museum where the 50 VCs held by the museum will be put on display alongside his collection.[94] The Lord Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum opened on 12 November 2010 containing a total of 210 VCs and 31 GCs.[7] It is now the largest collection of VCs on public display.

Ashcroft collection


On 2 December 2007, nine VCs were among 100 medals stolen from locked, reinforced glass cabinets at the QEII Army Memorial Museum in Waiouru, New Zealand with a value of around NZD$20 million. Charles Upham's VC and Bar was among these.[90] A reward of NZ$300,000 was posted for information leading to the recovery of the decorations and conviction of the thieves, although at the time there was much public debate about the need to offer reward money to retrieve the medals.[91] On 16 February 2008 New Zealand Police announced all the medals had been recovered.[92][93]

Several VCs have been stolen and, being valuable, have been placed on the Interpol watch-list for stolen items.[86] The VC awarded to Milton Gregg, which was donated to the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum in London, Ontario Canada in 1979, was stolen on Canada Day, (1 July 1980), when the museum was overcrowded[87] and has been missing since. A VC awarded in 1917 to Canadian soldier Corporal Filip Konowal[88] was stolen from the same museum in 1973 and was not recovered until 2004.[89]


Since 1879, more than 300 Victoria Crosses have been publicly auctioned or advertised. Others have been privately sold. The value of the VC can be seen by the increasing sums that the medals reach at auction. In 1955 the set of medals awarded to Edmund Barron Hartley was bought at Sotheby's for the then record price of £300 (approximately £7000 in present-day terms[82]). In October 1966 the Middlesex Regiment paid a new record figure of £900 (approximately £15000 in present-day terms[82]) for a VC awarded after the Battle of the Somme. In January 1969, the record reached £1700 (£25000[82]) for the medal set of William Rennie.[83] In April 2004 the VC awarded in 1944 to Sergeant Norman Jackson, RAF, was sold at auction for £235,250.[84][85] On 24 July 2006, an auction at Bonhams in Sydney of the VC awarded to Captain Alfred Shout fetched a world record hammer price of A$1 million (approximately £410,000 at then exchange rates).[6]

Public sales

Since the end of the Second World War the original VC has been awarded 15 times: four in the Korean War, one in the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation in 1965, four to Australians in the Vietnam War, two during the Falklands War in 1982, one in the Iraq War in 2004, and three in the War in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2012.[72] On 18 March 2005, Lance Sergeant (then Private) Johnson Beharry of the 1st Battalion, Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment became the first recipient of the VC since Sergeant Ian McKay in 1982.[18] One of the most recent awards of the Victoria Cross to a British service person was the posthumous award on 14 December 2006 to Corporal Bryan Budd of 3 Para. It was awarded for two separate acts of "inspirational leadership and the greatest valour" which led to his death, during actions against the Taliban in Afghanistan in July and August 2006.[79] Another Victoria Cross has been awarded in March 2013 to British Lance Corporal James Ashworth, who showed a courage "beyond words" during a fierce battle with the Taliban in Helmand's Nahr-e Saraj district, Afghanistan, and was fatally wounded as a result.[80] On 26 February 2015 a further award was announced, to Joshua Leakey of the Parachute Regiment for actions in Afghanistan in 2013.[81]

The St Nazaire Raid or Operation Chariot on 28 March 1942, a successful British amphibious attack on the heavily defended Normandie dry dock at St Nazaire in German-occupied France, resulted in the award of five Victoria Crosses.[78]

Three people have been awarded the VC and William Manley, remains the sole recipient of both the Victoria Cross and the Iron Cross. The VC was awarded for his actions during the Waikato-Hauhau Maori War, New Zealand on 29 April 1864 while the Iron Cross was awarded for tending the wounded during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71.[75] New Zealand Flying Officer Lloyd Trigg has the distinction of being the only serviceman ever awarded a VC on evidence solely provided by the enemy, for an action in which there were no surviving Allied witnesses.[76] The recommendation was made by the captain of the German U-boat U-468 sunk by Trigg's aircraft. Lieutenant Commander Gerard Roope was also awarded a VC on recommendation of the enemy, the captain of the Admiral Hipper, but there were also numerous surviving Allied witnesses to corroborate his actions.[77]

In 1921 the Victoria Cross was given to the American Unknown Soldier of the First World War (the British Unknown Warrior was reciprocally awarded the US Medal of Honor).[72] One VC is in existence that is not counted in any official records. In 1856, Queen Victoria laid the first Victoria Cross beneath the foundation stone of Netley Military hospital.[73] When the hospital was demolished in 1966 the VC, known as "The Netley VC", was retrieved and is now on display in the Army Medical Services Museum, Mytchett, near Aldershot.[73]

A total of 1,358 Victoria Crosses have been awarded since 1856 to 1,355 men.[68] There are several statistics related to the greatest number of VCs awarded in individual battles or wars. The greatest number of Victoria Crosses won on a single day is 18, for deeds performed on 16 November 1857, during Second Relief of Lucknow (primarily the assault on and capture of Sikandar Bagh), during the Indian Mutiny; the greatest number won in a single action is 28, for the whole of the Second Relief of Lucknow, 14–22 November 1857. The greatest number won by a single unit during a single action is seven, to the 2nd/24th Foot, for the defence of Rorke's Drift, 22–23 January 1879, during the Zulu War.[69] The greatest number won in a single conflict is 628, being for the First World War.[70] There are only six living holders of the VC—four British, one Australian, one Gurkha—one award for the Second World War and four awards since; in addition one New Zealander holds the Victoria Cross for New Zealand and four Australians hold the Victoria Cross for Australia. Eight of the then-twelve surviving holders of the Victoria Cross attended the 150th Anniversary service of remembrance at Westminster Abbey on 26 June 2006.[71]

The 93rd Highlanders storming Sikandar Bagh. National Army Museum, London (NAM 1987-06-12)


The power to cancel and restore awards is still included in the Victoria Cross warrant but none has been forfeited since 1908.[31]

The King feels so strongly that, no matter the crime committed by anyone on whom the VC has been conferred, the decoration should not be forfeited. Even were a VC to be sentenced to be hanged for murder, he should be allowed to wear his VC on the scaffold.[31]
, on 26 July 1920, his views are forcefully expressed: Lord Stamfordham King George V felt very strongly that the decoration should never be forfeited and in a letter from his Private Secretary, [67] The original Royal Warrant involved an expulsion clause that allowed for a recipient's name to be erased from the official register in certain wholly discreditable circumstances and his pension cancelled.

Forfeited awards

[66][65]3,230 per year. Since then this amount has been increased annually in line with the Australian Consumer Price Index.A$ Until November 2005 the amount was [64] Under Subsection 103.4 of the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986, the Australian Government provides a Victoria Cross Allowance.[63]3,000 per year.Can$ or people who joined the British forces before 31 March 1949 while domiciled in Canada or Newfoundland receive Canadian Forces, members of the Gallantry Awards Order In Canada under the [62] This is exempted from tax for British taxpayers by Section 638 Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003, along with pensions or annuities from other awards for bravery.[61] The original warrant stated that NCOs and private soldiers or seamen on the Victoria Cross Register were entitled to a £10 per annum


The Victoria Cross was at first worn as the recipient fancied. It was popular to pin it on the left side of the chest over the heart, with other decorations grouped around the VC. The Queen's Regulations for the Army of 1881 gave clear instructions on how to wear it; the VC had to follow the badge of the Order of the Indian Empire. In 1900 it was ordained in Dress Regulations for the Army that it should be worn after the cross of a Member of the Royal Victorian Order. It was only in 1902 that King Edward VII gave the cross its present position on a bar brooch.[57] The cross is also worn as a miniature decoration on a brooch or a chain with mess jacket, white tie or black tie. As a bearer of the VC is not a Companion in an Order of Chivalry, the VC has no place in a coat of arms.[58]

There is a widespread though erroneous belief that it is statutory for "all ranks to salute a bearer of the Victoria Cross". There is no official requirement that appears in the official Warrant of the VC, nor in Queen's Regulations and Orders, but tradition dictates that this occurs and as such the Chiefs of Staff will salute a Private awarded a VC or GC.[56]

[56] As the highest award for valour of the United Kingdom, the Victoria Cross is always the first award to be presented at an investiture, even before

Authority and privileges

[55] Five of the separate VCs have so far been awarded.

Australia was the first Commonwealth realm to create its own VC, on 15 January 1991. Although it is a separate award, its appearance is identical to its British counterpart.[49] Canada followed suit when in 1993 Queen Elizabeth signed Letters Patent creating the Canadian VC, which is also similar to the British version, except that the legend has been changed from FOR VALOUR to the Latin PRO VALORE This language was chosen so as to favour neither French nor English, the two official languages of Canada.[50] New Zealand was the third country to adapt the VC into its own honours system. While the New Zealand and Australian VCs are technically separate awards, the decoration is identical to the British design, including being cast from the same Crimean War gunmetal as the British VC.[47][49] The Canadian Victoria Cross also includes metal from the same cannon, along with copper and other metals from all regions of Canada.[51]

Since the Second World War, most but not all Commonwealth countries have created their own honours systems and no longer participate in the British honours system. This began soon after the Partition of India in 1947, when the new countries of India and Pakistan introduced their own systems of awards. The VC was replaced by the Param Vir Chakra (PVC) and Nishan-e-Haider (NH) respectively. Most if not all new honours systems continued to permit recipients of British honours to wear their awards according to the rules of each nation's order of wear. Sri Lanka, whose defence personnel were eligible to receive the Victoria Cross until 1972, introduced its own equivalent, the Parama Weera Vibhushanaya medal. Three Commonwealth realms—Australia, Canada and New Zealand[47]—have each introduced their own decorations for gallantry and bravery, replacing British decorations such as the Victoria Cross with their own. The only Commonwealth countries that still can recommend the VC are the small nations, none of whose forces have ever been awarded the VC, that still participate in the British honours system.[48]

The cross pattée bearing the crown of Saint Edward surmounted by a lion with the inscription FOR VALOUR etched into stone.
Victoria Cross as it appears on Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones.

Separate Commonwealth awards

[46] Indian troops were not originally eligible for the Victoria Cross since they had been eligible for the

The question of whether recommendations could be made for colonial troops not serving with British troops was not asked in New Zealand, but in 1881, the question was asked in South Africa. Surgeon John McCrea, an officer of the South African forces was recommended for gallantry during hostilities which had not been approved by British Government. He was awarded the Victoria Cross and the principle was established that gallant conduct could be rewarded independently of any political consideration of military operations. More recently, four Australian soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross in Vietnam although Britain was not involved in the conflict.[45]

The Victoria Cross was extended to colonial troops in 1867. The extension was made following a recommendation for gallantry regarding colonial soldier Major Charles Heaphy for action in the New Zealand land wars in 1864.[42] He was operating under British command and the VC was gazetted in 1867. Later that year, the Government of New Zealand assumed full responsibility for operations but no further recommendations for the Victoria Cross were raised for local troops who distinguished themselves in action.[43] Following gallant actions by three New Zealand soldiers in November 1868 and January 1869 during the New Zealand land wars, an Order in Council on 10 March 1869 created a "Distinctive Decoration" for members of the local forces without seeking permission from the Secretary of State for the Colonies.[44] Although the governor was chided for exceeding his authority, the Order in Council was ratified by the Queen. The title "Distinctive Decoration" was later replaced by the title New Zealand Cross.[43]

Colonial awards

Between 1858 and 1881 the Victoria Cross could be awarded for actions taken "under circumstances of extreme danger" not in the face of the enemy.[39] Six such awards were made during this period—five of them for a single incident during an Order of Wear.

In the case of a gallant and daring act being performed by a squadron, ship's company or a detached body of men (such as marines) in which all men are deemed equally brave and deserving of the Victoria Cross then a ballot is drawn. The officers select one officer, the NCOs select one individual and the private soldiers or seamen select two individuals.[38] In all 46 awards have been awarded by ballot with 29 of the awards during the Indian Mutiny. Four further awards were granted to Q Battery, Royal Horse Artillery at Korn Spruit on 31 March 1900 during the Second Boer War. The final ballot awards for the army were the six awards to the Lancashire Fusiliers at W Beach during the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 although three of the awards were not gazetted until 1917. The final seven ballot awards were the only naval ballot awards with three awards to two Q-Ships in 1917 and four awards for the Zeebrugge Raid in 1918. The provision for awards by ballot is still included in the Victoria Cross warrant but there have been no further such awards since 1918.[30]

The original Royal Warrant did not contain a specific clause regarding posthumous awards, although official policy was not to award the VC posthumously. Between the Indian Mutiny in 1857 and the beginning of the Second Boer War the names of six officers and men were published in the London Gazette with a memorandum stating they would have been awarded the Victoria Cross had they survived. A further three notices were published in the London Gazette in September 1900 and April 1901 for gallantry in the Second Boer War. In an exception to policy for the South Africa War 1899–1902, six posthumous Victoria Crosses, three to the officers and men mentioned in the notices in 1900 and 1901 and a further three, the first official posthumous awards, were granted on 8 August 1902.[33][1] Five years later in 1907, the posthumous policy was reversed and medals were sent to the next of kin of the six officers and men.[34] The awards were mentioned in notices in the Gazette dating back to the Indian Mutiny. The Victoria Cross warrant was not amended to explicitly allow posthumous awards until 1920, but one quarter of all awards for World War I were posthumous.[35][36] Although the 1920 Royal Warrant made provision for awards to women serving in the Armed Forces, no women have been awarded a VC.[37]

[32] The Victoria Cross warrant makes no specific provision as to who should actually present the medals to the recipients. Queen Victoria indicated that she would like to present the medals in person and she presented 185 medals out of the 472 gazetted during her reign. Including the first 62 medals presented at a parade in Hyde Park on 26 June 1857 by Queen Victoria, nearly 900 awards have been personally presented to the recipient by the reigning British monarch. Nearly 300 awards have been presented by a member of the royal family or by a civil or military dignitary. About 150 awards were either forwarded to the recipient or next of kin by registered post or no details of the presentations are known.[31] in 1921.American Unknown Soldier with the single exception of the award to the London Gazette. The recommendation is then laid before the monarch who approves the award with his or her signature. Victoria Cross awards are always promulgated in the Secretary of State for Defence until it reaches the hierarchy The recommendation is then passed up the military [30], or equivalent, and has to be supported by three witnesses, although this has been waived on occasion.regimental levelA recommendation for the VC is normally issued by an officer at
... most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.[2]
The Victoria Cross is awarded for
The obverse of the bronze cross pattée medal; showing the crown of Saint Edward surmounted by a lion with the inscription FOR VALOUR with a blue ribbon
The obverse of William Johnstone's VC showing the dark blue ribbon for pre-1918 awards to naval personnel.

Award process

[29] Although the army warrants state the colour as being red it is defined by most commentators as being crimson or "wine-red".[28] However the dark blue ribbon was abolished soon after the formation of the [27] The ribbon is crimson, 1 1/2 " (38 mm) wide. The original (1856) specification for the award stated that the ribbon should be red for army recipients and dark blue for naval recipients.

The Original Warrant Clause 1 states that the Victoria Cross "shall consist of a Maltese cross of bronze".[24] Nonetheless, it has always been a cross pattée; the discrepancy with the Warrant has never been corrected.[26]

The cross is suspended by a ring from a seriffed "V" to a bar ornamented with laurel leaves, through which the ribbon passes. The reverse of the suspension bar is engraved with the recipient's name, rank, number and unit.[16] On the reverse of the medal is a circular panel on which the date of the act for which it was awarded is engraved in the centre.[16]

The decoration is a bronze cross pattée, 1 39/64" (41 mm) high, 1 27/64" (36 mm) wide, bearing the crown of Saint Edward surmounted by a lion, and the inscription FOR VALOUR.[24] This was originally to have been FOR THE BRAVE, until it was changed on the recommendation of Queen Victoria, as it implied that not all men in battle were brave.[19] The decoration, suspension bar and link weigh about 0.87 troy ounces (27 g).[25]

The obverse and reverse of the bronze cross pattée medal; obverse showing the crown of Saint Edward surmounted by a lion with the inscription FOR VALOUR with a crimson ribbon; the reverse shows the inscription of the recipient on the bar connecting the ribbon with the regiment in the centre of the medal.
The front and back of Edward Holland's VC.


The barrels of the cannon in question are on display at Firepower - The Royal Artillery Museum at Woolwich. The remaining portion of the only remaining cascabel, weighing 358 oz (10 kg), is stored in a vault maintained by 15 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps at MoD Donnington. It can only be removed under armed guard. It is estimated that approximately 80 to 85 more VCs could be cast from this source. A single company of jewellers, Hancocks of London, has been responsible for the production of every VC awarded since its inception.[23]

It was originally intended that the VCs would be cast from the cascabels of two cannon that were captured from the Russians at the siege of Sevastopol.[18][19][20] In 1990 Creagh and Ashton conducted a metallurgical examination of the VCs in the custody of the Australian War Memorial.[21][22] Later, the historian John Glanfield,[4] wrote that, through the use of x-ray studies of older Victoria Crosses, it was determined that the metal used for VCs is from antique Chinese guns and not of Russian origin.[4][19][20] Theories abound. One theory is that the cannon were originally Chinese weapons but the Russians captured them and deployed them at Sevastopol. They are indeed Chinese cannon: Creagh [21] noted the existence of Chinese inscriptions on the cannon which are now barely legible due to corrosion. It was also thought that some medals made during the First World War were composed of metal captured from different Chinese guns during the Boxer Rebellion. This is not so, however. The VCs examined by Creagh and Ashton [21][22] both in Australia (58) and at the QE II Army Memorial Museum in New Zealand (14) [21] spanned the entire time during which VCs have been issued and no compositional inconsistencies were found.[21] It was also believed that another source of metal was used between 1942 and 1945 to create five Second World War VCs when the Sevastopol metal "went missing".[4] Creagh [21] accessed the Army records at MoD Donnington in 1991 and did not find any gaps in the custodial record. The composition found in the WW2 VCs, amongst them those for Edwards (Australia) and Upham (New Zealand), is similar to that for the early WW1 medals. This is likely to be due to the reuse of material from earlier pourings, casting sprues, defective medals, etc.

Queen Victoria had instructed the War Office to strike a new medal that would not recognise birth or class. The medal was meant to be a simple decoration that would be highly prized and eagerly sought after by those in the military services.[16] To maintain its simplicity, Queen Victoria, under the guidance of Prince Albert, vetoed the suggestion that the award be called The Military Order of Victoria and instead suggested the name Victoria Cross. The original warrant stated that the Victoria Cross would only be awarded to soldiers who have served in the presence of the enemy and had performed some signal act of valour or devotion.[17] The first ceremony was held on 26 June 1857 where Queen Victoria invested 62 of the 111 Crimean recipients in a ceremony in Hyde Park, London.[11]

Other European countries had awards that did not discriminate against class or rank; France awarded the Légion d'honneur (Legion of Honour) and The Netherlands gave the Order of William. There was a growing feeling among the public and in the Royal Court that a new award was needed to recognise incidents of gallantry that were unconnected with a man's lengthy or meritorious service. Queen Victoria issued a Warrant under the Royal sign-manual on 29 January 1856[11][14] (gazetted 5 February 1856)[14] that officially constituted the VC. The order was backdated to 1854 to recognise acts of valour during the Crimean War.[15]

Before the Crimean War, there was no official standardised system for recognition of gallantry within the British armed forces. Officers were eligible for an award of one of the junior grades of the Order of the Bath and brevet promotions while a Mention in Despatches existed as an alternative award for acts of lesser gallantry. This structure was very limited; in practice awards of the Order of the Bath were confined to officers of field rank.[12] Brevet promotions or Mentions in Despatches were largely confined to those who were under the immediate notice of the commanders in the field, generally members of the commander's own staff.[13]

In 1854, after 39 years of peace, Britain found itself fighting a major war against Russia. The Crimean War was one of the first wars with modern reporting, and the dispatches of William Howard Russell described many acts of bravery and valour by British servicemen that went unrewarded.[11]



  • Origin 1
  • Appearance 2
  • Award process 3
    • Colonial awards 3.1
    • Separate Commonwealth awards 3.2
  • Authority and privileges 4
    • Annuity 4.1
    • Forfeited awards 4.2
  • Recipients 5
  • Public sales 6
  • Thefts 7
  • Collections 8
    • Ashcroft collection 8.1
    • Australian War Memorial 8.2
    • List of collections 8.3
  • Other 9
    • Memorials 9.1
    • In art 9.2
    • Soldiers' club naming traditions 9.3
  • See also 10
  • Notes 11
  • References 12
  • Further reading 13
  • External links 14

Beginning with the Centennial of Confederation in 1967, Canada[8] followed in 1975 by Australia[9] and New Zealand[10] developed their own national honours systems, separate and independent of the British or Imperial honours system. As each country's system evolved, operational gallantry awards were developed with the premier award of each system, the VC for Australia, the Canadian VC and the VC for New Zealand being created and named in honour of the Victoria Cross. These are unique awards of each honours system, recommended, assessed, gazetted and presented by each country.


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