Just finished a fascinating book called Symbol of Courage by Max Arthur, its about the men behind the Victoria Cross medal and while their stories are very interesting it’s the following information that I found to be worthy of note.
The origins of the VC
Queen Victoria was perhaps the first monarch to recognise the fact that the ordinary soldier or seaman where the backbone of her empire and that their acts of bravery had up until then gone mostly unnoticed. She therefore wanted a new medal struck for all ranks who conducted themselves with extraordinary bravery. The initial royal warrant of 1856 stated that the “cross shall only be rewarded for most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour, self sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy” and was made retrospective to June 1854 to cover the recent war against Russia.
The VC is in the shape of a Cross Patte, it measures 1.375 inches across and with the suspender bar and link weighs around 0.87 ounces, its dull in colour as its made from gunmetal – specifically at first from the cascabels of two cannon captured at Sebastopol in the Crimea. Its rumoured that from the 1st world war other metals where added (for those who don’t know a cascabel is the large knob at the rear of cannon which holds the rope for transporting it). The two cannon themselves stand outside the officer’s mess in Woolwich.
On the front of the cross is simply inscribed For Valour with all the other details of the recipient being on the reverse, the suspender bar is decorated with laurel wreaths and on the reverse is inscribed name, rank and regiment.
Here are some facts about the VC
1)First Presentation of the award was made in Hyde Park, London on the 26th of June 1857 when Queen Victoria decorated 62 officers and men for their actions in the Crimea.
2) Only in 1920 an amendment was made to award the VC Posthumously as the original warrant made no mention of posthumous awards.
3)298 VC’s have been awarded posthumously
4)No woman has ever won a VC , although they are eligible
5) Fourteen men not born in the UK have won the VC, 5 Americans, One Belgian, two Germans, three Danes, one Swiss, one Swede and one Ukrainian.
6)The most VC’s won in one day was 24 (second relief of Lucknow on 16th November 1857, during the Indian mutiny)
7)The highest tally for a single action was 11 , for the defence of Rorkes Drift during the Zulu war of 1879
8)In 2005 there where only 14 living VC holders
9)Army unit with the most VC’s is the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment with 56 recipients, Royal artillery with 51, Royal engineers with 41 and the Royal Army medical corps as well as the Rifle brigade with 27 each.
10) Only 3 men have won the VC and bar
11) Four pairs of brothers have won the VC and on two occasions the award has been made to a man saving the life of his brother
12) Three father and sons have been awarded the VC
13) One family of father son and uncle have received the VC
14) 5 civilians acting under military orders have been awarded the VC
15) Youngest winner is 15
16) Oldest winner is 61
17) Three men in one street (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada – Pine street) have been awarded the VC (the street was later re-named Valour road)
18) First man to receive award was Henry Raby
19) First ever nomination however was to Charles Lucas
20) First gazetted VC was for Cecil Buckley
21) First airman to receive the VC was William Rhodes-Moorhouse
22) One VC winner William McBean held every rank in the army from Private to major in his career
23) Of the different services
A) Naval services hold 119
B) British army hold 838 (including 2 x bars)
C) Air services (except the Fleet air arm) hold 32
D) Indian army (including Honourable East India company) 137
24) Only ungazetted award was made to the American unknown soldier of the First World War, buries at Arlington National cemetery.
25) Since the end of World war Two on 12 VC’s have been awarded (Korea – 4, Malaysia – Indonesia - 1, Vietnam - 4, Falklands 2 with the last being awarded in 2005 to Johnson Gideon Beharry during the Iraq war.
26) All in all 1355 VC’s have been awarded from 1857 – today (some 152 years).
Hope you enjoyed the info as much as I did
The Village Idiot