The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award of the British honours system. It is awarded for valour in the presence of the enemy to members of the UK Armed Forces. The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour acts of valour during the Crimean War. The medal has been awarded 1,358 times to 1,355 individual recipients.
About Victoria Cross in brief
The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award of the British honours system. It is awarded for valour in the presence of the enemy to members of the UK Armed Forces. 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. Owing to its rarity, the VC is highly prized and has fetched over £400,000 at auctions. A single company, Hancocks of London, has been responsible for the production of every VC since its inception. The first ceremony was held on 26 June 1857 at which Queen Victoria invested 62 of the 62 recipients in a ceremony in Hyde Park, London. The medal was meant to be a simple decoration that would be highly prized by those in the military. 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. The original warrant stated that the Victoria Cross would only be awarded to officers and had performed some signal act of devotion or valour. It has long been believed that Queen Victoria has been the only person to have awarded the VC since 1857. Since the first awards were presented in 1857, two-thirds of all awards have been personally presented by the British monarch. A number of public and private collections are devoted to the VC. The private collection of Lord Ashcroft, amassed since 1986, contains over one-tenth of all VCs awarded. The Ashcroft collection went on public display alongside the Imperial War Museum’s Victoria and George Cross collection in November 2010.
The Victoria Cross was previously awarded to Commonwealth countries, most of which have established their own honours systems and no longer recommend British Honours. Only 15 medals, of which 11 were to British Army and four were to Australian Army, have been awarded since the Second World War. In 1967, Canada, followed in 1975 by Australia and New Zealand, developed their own nationalHonours systems. The premier award of each system—the Victoria Cross for Australia, the Canadian Victoria Cross and theVictoria Cross for New Zealand—was created and named in honour of the Victoria cross. These are unique awards of each honour system, recommended, assessed, gazetted, and presented by each country. 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. In practice, awards of the Order of the Bath were confined to officers of field rank and brevet promotions or Mentions in Despatches were largely confined to those who were under the immediate notice of the commanders in the field. Other European countries had awards that did not discriminate against class or rank; France awarded the Légion d’honneur and the Netherlands gave the order of William.