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Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross is a British Empire and Commonwealth military decoration. The medal was instituted in January 1856 during the Crimea War and is awarded to a person of any rank in any service and to civilians under military command who have served in the presence of the enemy and had performed some signal act of: ‘…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’.
The Victoria Cross is usually presented to the recipient or to their next of kin by the British monarch at an investiture held at Buckingham Palace. 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.
It is the highest military decoration awarded for valour ‘…in the face of the enemy…’ and takes precedence over all other orders, decorations and medals. It is traditionally stated that the source of the gunmetal from which the medals are struck are from Russian cannon captured at the Siege of Sevastopol.
Recent research has thrown doubt on this story, suggesting a variety of origins for the material actually making up the medals themselves. Research has established that the gunmetal for many of the medals came from Chinese cannons that may have been captured from the Russians in 1855 and reused at 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 but the original metal was used after the war. It is 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.
In 1967, Canada followed in 1975 by Australia and New Zealand 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.
Recipients of the Victoria Cross are entitled to use the post-nominal letters ‘VC’.
The medal is of a cross pattée design, 41mm wide and 41mm in height and is struck in bronze. The obverse of this medal depicts the Royal crown on which stands a proud lion while the inscription; 'FOR VALOUR' hangs on a scroll below.
The reverse is plain with the exception of a circular panel containing the date on which the action for which the award was granted took place.
The medal is suspended by a metal loop which passes through a 'V' on the bottom of suspender bar. The suspender bar itself is decorated with laurel wreaths on the obverse but plain on the reverse except for the recipient’s details.
The ribbon is 38mm wide and crimson in colour. Originally, those issued to the Royal Navy were dark blue in colour, however, with the formation of the Royal Air Force in April 1918, the crimson ribbon used by the Army was adopted by all three services.
Naval recipients with the dark blue ribbon were allowed to exchange them for crimson ribbons at that time.
In undress uniform or on occasions when the medal ribbon is worn alone, a miniature silver cross emblem is attached to the ribbon.
Bars awarded to the Victoria Cross in recognition of the performance of further acts of gallantry meriting the award are worn on the ribbon.
Further relevant historical context can be found at the foot of this entry.
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Victoria Cross from
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Further Historical Context
This section contains information on the following:-
- The British Honours System.
- The London Gazette.
- A List Of V.C. Recipients.
The British Honours System - The British honours system is a means of rewarding individuals' personal bravery, achievement, or service to the United Kingdom and the British Overseas Territories. The system consists of three types of award: honours, decorations and medals:
Honours are used to recognise merit in terms of achievement and service, decorations tend to be used to recognise specific deeds and medals are used to recognise bravery, long and or valuable service and or good conduct.
Although the Anglo-Saxon monarchs are known to have rewarded their loyal subjects with rings and other symbols of favour, it was the Normans who introduced knighthoods as part of their feudal government.
The first English order of chivalry, the Order of the Garter, was created in 1348 by Edward III. Since then the system has evolved to address the changing need to recognise other forms of service to the United Kingdom.
As the head of state, the Sovereign remains the 'fount of honour', but the system for identifying and recognising candidates to honour has changed considerably over time.
Various orders of knighthood have been created (see below) as well as awards for military service, bravery, merit, and achievement which take the form of decorations or medals.
Most medals are not graded. Each one recognises specific service and as such there are normally set criteria which must be met. These criteria may include a period of time and will often delimit a particular geographic region. Medals are not normally presented by the Sovereign.
A full list is printed in the 'order of wear', published infrequently by the London Gazette.
A complete list of approximately 1350 names is published twice a year, at New Year and on the date of the Sovereign's (official) birthday. Since their decisions are inevitably subjective, the twice-yearly honours lists often provoke criticism from those who feel strongly about particular cases.
Candidates are identified by public or private bodies, by government departments or are nominated by members of the public. Depending on their roles, those people selected by committee are submitted either to the Prime Minister, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, or Secretary of State for Defence for their approval before being sent to the Sovereign for final approval.
Certain honours are awarded solely at the Sovereign's discretion, such as the Order of the Garter, the Order of the Thistle, the Royal Victorian Order, the Order of Merit and the Royal Family Order.
The awards are then presented by the Sovereign or her designated representative. The Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and the Princess Royal have deputised for the Queen at investiture ceremonies at Buckingham Palace.
This information was taken from ‘Wikipedia’. The original article and details of the authors can be found here. It is reproduced on this web-site under the ‘creative commons’ licence which can be found here.
The London Gazette - The London Gazette is one of the official journals of record of the British government, and the most important among such official journals in the United Kingdom, in which certain statutory notices are required to be published. The London Gazette claims to be the oldest surviving English newspaper and the oldest continuously published newspaper in the UK, having been first published on 7 November 1665 as The Oxford Gazette.
This title is also claimed by the Stamford Mercury and Berrow's Worcester Journal, because the Gazette is not a conventional newspaper offering general news coverage. It does not have a large circulation.
Other official newspapers of the UK government are the Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes, which, apart from reproducing certain materials of nationwide interest published in The London Gazette, also contain publications specific to Scotland and Northern Ireland, respectively.
In turn, The London Gazette not only carries notices of UK-wide interest, but those relating specifically to entities or people in England and Wales. However, certain notices that are only of specific interest to Scotland or Northern Ireland are also required to be published in The London Gazette.
The London, Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes are published by TSO on behalf of Her Majesty's Stationery Office. They are subject to Crown Copyright.
In the British Armed Forces, the despatch is published in the London Gazette.
This information was taken from ‘Wikipedia’. The original article and details of the authors can be found here. It is reproduced on this web-site under the ‘creative commons’ licence which can be found here.
A List Of V.C. Recipients  - A list of those who have been awarded the V.C. can be found here. This information was taken from ‘Wikipedia’. It is reproduced on this web-site under the ‘creative commons’ licence which can be found here.