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A medal in the shape of a cross hanging from a crimson red ribbon.

The Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross (VC) is a military decoration that may be bestowed upon members of the British or Commonwealth armed forces for acts of valour or gallantry performed in the face of the enemy. Within the British honours system and those of many Commonwealth nations it is the highest award a soldier can receive for actions in combat. It was established in 1856 and since then has been awarded 1,356 times, including three service personnel who were awarded the VC twice.[1]

The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to reward acts of valour during the Crimean War. The traditional explanation of the source of the gunmetal from which the medals are struck is that it derives from Russian cannon captured at the siege of Sevastopol. Recent research has thrown doubt on this story, suggesting a variety of origins.[2] The original Royal Warrant did not contain a specific clause regarding posthumous awards, although official policy was to not award the VC posthumously. Between 1897 and 1901, several notices were issued in the London Gazette regarding soldiers who would have been awarded the VC had they survived. In a partial reversal of policy in 1902, six of the soldiers mentioned were granted the VC, but not "officially" awarded the medal. In 1907, the posthumous policy was completely reversed and medals were sent to the next of kin of the six officers and men.[3] The Victoria Cross warrant was not officially amended to explicitly allow posthumous awards until 1920 but one quarter of all awards for the First World War were posthumous.[4][5]

Due to its rarity, the VC is highly prized and the medal has fetched over £400,000 at auction.[6] A number of public and private collections are devoted to the Victoria Cross. The private collection of Lord Ashcroft, amassed since 1986, contains over one-tenth of all VCs awarded. Following a 2008 donation to the Imperial War Museum, the Ashcroft collection went on public display alongside the museum's Victoria and George Cross collection in November 2010.[7] Since 1990, three Commonwealth countries that retain the Queen as head of state have instituted their own versions of the VC. As a result, the original Victoria Cross is sometimes referred to as the "Commonwealth Victoria Cross" or the "Imperial Victoria Cross", to distinguish it from the newer awards.[8][9]

The Corps of Royal Engineers can trace its origins back 900 years, during which time they have been involved in every major conflict the British Army has fought in. The Royal Flying Corps – the forerunner of the Royal Air Force – and the present day Royal Signals were originally part of the Corps.[10] Their first recipient of the Victoria Cross received the award for actions performed during the Crimean War, while the last came during the Second World War. In total, thirty-six Royal Engineers have been awarded the Victoria Cross, across ten different conflicts or campaigns.[10]

Royal Engineer recipients

Name Date Conflict Location
Adam Archibald 4 November 1918 First World War Sambre–Oise Canal[11]
Fenton Aylmer 2 December 1891 Hunza-Nagar Campaign Nilt[12]
Mark Sever Bell 4 February 1874 Third Anglo-Ashanti War Ordashu[13]
John Chard 22–23 January 1879 Anglo-Zulu War Rorke's Drift[14]
Brett Cloutman 6 November 1918 First World War Pont-sur-Sambre[15]
Clifford Coffin 31 July 1917 First World War Westhoek[16]
James Morris Colquhoun Colvin 16–17 September 1897 First Mohmand Campaign Mohmand Valley[17]
James Lennox Dawson 13 October 1915 First World War Hohenzollern Redoubt[18]
Robert James Thomas Digby-Jones 6 January 1900 Second Boer War Ladysmith[19]
Thomas Frank Durrant 28 March 1942 Second World War St Nazaire[20][nb 1]
Howard Craufurd Elphinstone 18 June 1855 Crimean War Sevastopol[21]
George de Cardonnel Elmsall Findlay 4 November 1918 First World War Sambre–Oise Canal[22]
Gerald Graham 18 June 1855 Crimean War Sevastopol[23]
William Hackett 22–23 June 1916 First World War Givenchy-lès-la-Bassée[24]
Reginald Clare Hart 31 January 1879 Second Anglo-Afghan War Bazar Valley[25]
Lanoe Hawker 25 July 1915 First World War Passendale[26][nb 2]
Charles Jarvis 23 August 1914 First World War Jemappes[27]
Frederick Henry Johnson 25 September 1915 First World War Hill 70[28]
William Henry Johnston 14 September 1914 First World War Missy-sur-Aisne[29]
Frank Howard Kirby 2 June 1900 Second Boer War Delagoa Bay[30]
Cecil Leonard Knox 22 March 1918 First World War Tugny[31]
Edward Pemberton Leach 17 March 1879 Second Anglo-Afghan War Maidanah[32]
Peter Leitch 18 June 1855 Crimean War Sevastopol[21]
William James Lendrim 14 February 1855 Crimean War Sevastopol[23]
Wilbraham Lennox 20 November 1854 Crimean War Sevastopol[23]
Henry MacDonald 19 April 1855 Crimean War Sevastopol[21]
Edward Mannock 17 June 1918
7 July 1918
14 July 1918
19 July 1918
20 July 1918
22 July 1918
First World War Western Front[33][nb 3]
Cyril Gordon Martin 12 March 1915 First World War Spanbroek Molen[34]
James McPhie 14 October 1918 First World War Sensée Canal[35]
Philip Neame 19 December 1914 First World War Neuve-Chapelle[36]
John Perie 18 June 1855 Crimean War Sevastopol[23]
Claud Raymond 21 March 1945 Second World War Talaku[37]
John Ross 21 July 1855 Crimean War Sevastopol[23]
Michael Sleavon 3 April 1858 Indian Mutiny Jhansi[38]
Thomas Colclough Watson 16 September 1897 First Mohmand Campaign Mohmand Valley[17]
Arnold Horace Santo Waters 4 November 1918 First World War Sambre–Oise Canal[39]
Theodore Wright 23 August 1914 First World War Jemappes[40]

References

Footnotes
  1. Attached to No. 2 Commando.
  2. Attached to the Royal Flying Corps.
  3. Attached to the Royal Flying Corps.
Citations
  1. "Victoria Cross: The Premier Award for Gallantry". Ministry of Defence (UK). http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceFor/Veterans/Medals/VictoriaCross.htm. Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  2. Davies, Catronia (2005-12-28). "Author explodes myth of the gunmetal VC". The Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1506463/Author-explodes-myth-of-the-gunmetal-VC.html. Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  3. "No. 27986". 15 January 1907. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/27986/page/ 
  4. Crook, MJ, Chapter 8 pp.68–90
  5. "No. 31946". 18 June 1920. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31946/page/ 
  6. "The Victoria Cross ... awarded to Captain Alfred Shout have been sold at auction". Iain Stewart, Victoria Cross.org. http://www.victoriacross.org.uk/bbshout.htm. Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  7. "Press Release: The Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Extraordinary Heroes". Imperial War Museum. 9 November 2010. http://www.iwm.org.uk/exhibitions/iwm-london/the-lord-ashcroft-gallery-extraordinary-heroes. Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  8. "Pro Valore: Canada's Victoria Cross". National Defence; Government of Canada. http://archive.gg.ca/honours/pdf/Victoria_Cross_e.pdf. Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  9. "Victoria Cross for Australia" (PDF). Australian Government. Archived from the original on 19 August 2006. http://web.archive.org/web/20060819214646/http://www.itsanhonour.gov.au/publications/honours/factsheets/victorian_cross_%20for_australia.pdf. Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "History of the Royal Engineers". Ministry of Defence (UK). http://www.army.mod.uk/royalengineers/history/default.aspx. Retrieved 20 October 2012. 
  11. "No. 31108". 6 January 1919. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31108/page/ 
  12. "No. 29423". 1 January 1916. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29423/page/ 
  13. "No. 27958". 16 October 1896. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/27958/page/ 
  14. "No. 24717". 2 May 1879. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/24717/page/ 
  15. "No. 31155". 28 January 1919. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31155/supplement/ 
  16. "No. 30284". 14 September 1917. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30284/supplement/ 
  17. 17.0 17.1 "No. 26968". 20 May 1898. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/26968/page/ 
  18. "No. 29394". 7 December 1915. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29394/page/ 
  19. "No. 27462". 8 August 1902. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/27462/page/ 
  20. "No. 37134". 15 June 1945. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/37134/page/ 
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 "No. 22149". 4 June 1858. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/22149/page/ 
  22. "No. 31872". 20 April 1920. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31872/supplement/ 
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 "No. 21971". 24 February 1857. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/21971/page/ 
  24. "No. 29695". 4 August 1916. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29695/supplement/ 
  25. "No. 24732". 10 June 1879. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/24732/page/ 
  26. "No. 29157". 7 May 1915. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29157/page/ 
  27. "People of Angus". Angus Government. http://www.angus.gov.uk/history/features/people/charlesjarvis.htm. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  28. "No. 29371". 16 November 1915. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29371/supplement/ 
  29. "No. 29371". 16 November 1915. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29371/supplement/ 
  30. "No. 27235". 5 October 1900. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/27235/page/ 
  31. "Grave Locations for Holders of the Victoria Cross Leicestershire". Victoria Cross. http://www.victoriacross.org.uk/leiceste.htm. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  32. "No. 24790". 9 December 1879. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/24790/page/ 
  33. "No. 31463". 18 July 1919. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31463/page/ 
  34. "Grave Locations for the Holders of the Victoria Cross South East London". Victoria Cross. http://www.victoriacross.org.uk/lonseast.htm. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  35. "No. 31155". 28 January 1919. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31155/supplement/ 
  36. "No. 29074". 16 February 1916. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29074/page/ 
  37. "No. 37151". 26 June 1945. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/37151/page/ 
  38. "No. 22324". 19 June 1860. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/22324/page/ 
  39. "No. 41503". 23 September 1958. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/41503/supplement/ 
  40. "Theodore Wright". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/578649/WRIGHT,%20THEODORE. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  • Crook, M.J. (1975). The Evolution of the Victoria Cross. Midas Books. ISBN 0-85936-041-5. 


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