The order was backdated to to recognise acts of valour during the Crimean War. 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. The original warrant stated that the Victoria Cross would only be awarded to officers and men who had served in the presence of the enemy and had performed some signal act of valour or devotion. A single company of jewellers, Hancocks of London, has been responsible for the production of every VC awarded since its inception.
It has long been widely believed that all the VCs were cast from the cascabels of two cannon that were captured from the Russians at the siege of Sevastopol. 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. This is likely to be due to the reuse of material from earlier pourings, casting sprues , defective medals, etc.
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It can only be removed under armed guard. It is estimated that approximately 80 to 85 more VCs could be cast from this source. 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. The original specification for the award stated that the ribbon should be red for army recipients and dark blue for naval recipients.
On 22 May King George V signed a warrant that stated all recipients would now receive a red ribbon and the living recipients of the naval version were required to exchange their ribbons for the new colour. Since a miniature of the Cross has been affixed to the centre of the ribbon bar when worn without the Cross.
In the event of a second award bar, a second replica is worn alongside the first. A recommendation for the VC is normally issued by an officer at regimental level , or equivalent, and has to be supported by three witnesses, although this has been waived on occasion.
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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 London Gazette with the single exception of the award to the American Unknown Soldier in Queen Victoria indicated that she would like to present the medals in person and she presented medals out of the gazetted during her reign. Including the first 62 medals presented at a parade in Hyde Park on 26 June by Queen Victoria, nearly awards have been personally presented to the recipient by the reigning British monarch.
Nearly awards have been presented by a member of the royal family or by a civil or military dignitary. About awards were either forwarded to the recipient or next of kin by registered post or no details of the presentations are known. 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 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.
In an exception to policy for the Boer War, six posthumous Victoria Crosses, three to those mentioned in the notices in and and a further three, were granted on 8 August , the first official posthumous awards. The process and motivations of selecting the medal's recipients has sometimes been interpreted as inconsistent or overly political. The most common observation being that the Victoria Cross may be given more often for engagements that senior military personal would like to publicly promote.
The royal warrant made provision for awards to women serving in the Armed Forces. No woman has been awarded a VC. 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. 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 although three of the awards were not gazetted until The final seven ballot awards were the only naval ballot awards with three awards to two Q-Ships in and four awards for the Zeebrugge Raid in The provision for awards by ballot is still included in the Victoria Cross warrant but there have been no further such awards since Between and the Victoria Cross could be awarded for actions taken "under circumstances of extreme danger" not in the face of the enemy.
A History of the Victoria Cross and the Evolution of British Heroism
The Victoria Cross was extended to colonial troops in The extension was made following a recommendation for gallantry regarding colonial soldier Major Charles Heaphy for action in the New Zealand land wars in 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.
The question of whether awards could be made to colonial troops not serving with British troops was raised in South Africa in Surgeon John McCrea , an officer of the South African forces was recommended for gallantry during hostilities which had not been approved by the 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. Indian troops were not originally eligible for the Victoria Cross since they had been eligible for the Indian Order of Merit since which was the oldest British gallantry award for general issue. When the Victoria Cross was created, Indian troops were still controlled by the Honourable East India Company and did not come under Crown control until European officers and men serving with the Honourable East India Company were not eligible for the Indian Order of Merit and the Victoria Cross was extended to cover them in October It was only at the end of the 19th century that calls for Indian troops to be awarded the Victoria Cross intensified.
Indian troops became eligible for the award in The presentation occurred on 5 December and he is one of a very few soldiers presented with his award before it appeared in the London Gazette. 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 , when the new countries of India and Pakistan introduced their own systems of awards.
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 , introduced its own equivalent, the Parama Weera Vibhushanaya medal. Three Commonwealth realms —Australia, Canada and New Zealand  —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.
With effect from 6 April , when the Union of South Africa instituted its own range of military decorations and medals, these new awards took precedence before all earlier British decorations and medals awarded to South Africans, with the exception of the Victoria Cross, which still took precedence before all other awards.
The other older British awards continued to be worn in the order prescribed by the British Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood. Australia was the first Commonwealth realm to create its own VC, on 15 January Although it is a separate award, its appearance is identical to its British counterpart. Five of the separate VCs have so far been awarded.
The Victoria Cross for Australia has been awarded four times. A Canadian version has been cast that was originally to be awarded to the Unknown Soldier at the rededication of the Vimy Memorial on 7 April This date was chosen as it was the 90th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge but pressure from veterans' organisations caused the plan to be dropped.
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 knighthoods , as was shown at the investiture of Private Johnson Beharry , who received his medal before General Sir Mike Jackson received his knighthood.
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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 senior officers will salute a private awarded a VC or GC. As there was no formal order of wear laid down,  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 gave clear instructions on how to wear it; the VC had to follow the badge of the Order of the Indian Empire. In 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.
Since then this amount has been increased annually in line with the Australian Consumer Price Index.
Cross of Valour
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. King George V felt very strongly that the decoration should never be forfeited and in a letter from his Private Secretary, Lord Stamfordham , on 26 July , his views are forcefully expressed:.
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. The power to cancel and restore awards is still included in the Victoria Cross warrant.
A total of 1, Victoria Crosses have been awarded since to 1, men. The greatest number of Victoria Crosses awarded for a single day was 24 for deeds performed during the Indian Mutiny on 16 November , 23 for deeds at Lucknow and one by Francis David Millet Brown for action at Narnoul, south of Delhi.
In the s, Australia and New Zealand created their own highest award with both named in honour of the British Victoria Cross. 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. 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 , four to Australians in the Vietnam War , two during the Falklands War in , one in the Iraq War in , and three in the War in Afghanistan for actions in , and This VC is not counted in official statistics.
Since , more than 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. Several VCs have been stolen and, being valuable, have been placed on the Interpol watch-list for stolen items.
A VC awarded in to Canadian soldier Corporal Filip Konowal  was stolen from the same museum in and was not recovered until Charles Upham 's VC and Bar was among these. The VC collection of businessman and politician Lord Ashcroft , amassed since , contains medals, over one-tenth of all VCs awarded.
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