Society

What is the Victoria Cross?

Victoria Cross is the highest honorary award for gallantry a British soldier can achieve.

Victoria Cross is the highest honorary award for gallantry a British soldier can achieve. The award is linked to an act of tremendous courage and the original document connected with the medal stipulated that it can only be awarded for the highest order of bravery. Previously this award was given to Commonwealth Nations, but most of them developed their own unique honors system and therefore no longer use the British honors. The Victoria Cross can be given to any serviceman irrespective of his rank and a civilian under the command of the military, although none has received this award since 1879.

Origin of the Victoria Cross

After thirty-nine years of peace, the British found themselves in a war against the Russian Republic in 1854. The Crimean war was the 1st war using modern reporting systems, and according to the dispatches of William H. Russell, many of the British officers who were unrewarded were very brave. Russell described numerous acts of courage and bravery by the military.

Before the war, the British had no official standardized method of recognizing bravery within the military. The officers were only eligible for a medal of the Order of the Bath for soldiers of Field rank and the Bravet Promotions for dispatches in the field under the immediate notice of the British commander. The Mention of Dispatches existed as an award for an act of lesser bravery.

After the war, the royal court and the public felt the need for another award which recognized bravery irrespective of ranks. Therefore the Queen issued a warrant on January 29, 1856, which constituted the Victoria Cross. She dated the order to 1854 to recognize gallantry in the Crimean war.

The Queen instructed the war office to design a medal which will not recognize class or birth, and the award was to have a unique decoration which will be highly valued and therefore adored by the officers. She also suggested that the medal is named the Military Order of Victoria and not the Victoria Cross as earlier suggested. The 1st Victoria award ceremony was held at Hyde Park in London on June 26, 1857, and Queen Victoria awarded sixty-two of the one hundred and eleven Crimean recipients.

How Many Officers Have the Victoria Cross Award?

Since its introduction, the Victoria Cross has been issued about 1,358 times to 1,355 individuals. Only fifteen medals have been awarded since the 2nd World War to eleven British soldiers and four Australian servicemen. Queen Victoria presented the 1st medals to the soldiers in 1857, and since then about two-thirds of the awards have been issued by the British Monarch at the Buckingham Palace.

Who Produces the Victoria Cross?

The Hancocks of London (a jewelers company) has been producing this medal since inception 1856. The metal used to make the Victoria Cross is derived from the Russian cannon which the British captured at the Sevastopol siege. Research confirmed that metal used in the awards issued after 1914 was obtained from the Chinese guns which the British seized from the Russians in 1855 by the Russians. Therefore owing to the rarity of the material used in these medals, the Victoria Cross is highly prized; in fact, one of the awards has fetched over £400,000 at auction.

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