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Victoria Cross for New Zealand
File:Victoria Cross Medal Ribbon & Bar.jpg
Victoria Cross (UK) ribbon.png
Obverse of the medal, bar, and ribbon. Ribbon: 32 millimetres, crimson.
Awarded by New Zealand
Type Military decoration
Eligibility New Zealand military personnel
Awarded for "... 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."[1]
Status Currently awarded
Established 20 September 1999
First awarded 2 July 2007
Last awarded 2007
Total awarded 1
Next (higher) Highest
Equivalent New Zealand Cross
Next (lower) New Zealand Gallantry Star

The Victoria Cross for New Zealand (VC) is a military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the New Zealand Armed Forces. It may be awarded to a person of any rank in any service and civilians under military command, and is presented to the recipient by the Governor-General of New Zealand during an investiture held at Government House, Wellington. As the highest award for gallantry in New Zealand it takes precedence over all other postnominals and medals.[2]

The Victoria Cross for New Zealand was established in 1999 when New Zealand created a new award system that replaced several Commonwealth honours with New Zealand awards. It has been awarded once, on 2 July 2007 to Corporal Willie Apiata for actions in 2004.

The original Victoria Cross was introduced in 1856 by Queen Victoria to reward acts of valour during the Crimean War. That medal had been awarded 25 times to 24 individual military personnel from New Zealand; Captain Charles Upham receiving a bar. Only 14 medals have been awarded since the end of the Second World War. The medal is made from the gunmetal of a weapon supposedly captured at the siege of Sevastopol, but several historians have since questioned the true origin of the gunmetal.[3] Originally all Commonwealth recipients were issued with the same award, but over the last 50 years, Commonwealth countries have introduced separate award systems; three of these retain "Victoria Cross" as part of the name of the highest award for gallantry.


Victoria Cross

The original Victoria Cross was created by Queen Victoria in 1856 to recognise incidents of gallantry that were unconnected with a man's lengthy or meritorious service. She signed a Royal Warrant on 29 January 1856 that officially instituted the VC.[4] The order was retroactive to 1854 to recognise acts of valour during the Crimean War.[5] The Australian and New Zealand Victoria Crosses are made from the same gunmetal as the originals.[6] It was originally intended that the VCs would be cast from the bronze cascabels of two cannon that were captured from the Russians at the siege of Sevastopol.[7][8][9] The historian John Glanfield has since shown that the metal used for VCs is in fact from Chinese cannon not Russian, and their origin is a mystery.[3][8][9]

The barrels of the cannon in question are stationed outside the Officers' Mess at the Royal Artillery Barracks at Woolwich. The remaining portion of the only remaining cascabel, weighing 10 kilograms (385 oz), is stored in a vault maintained by 15 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps at Donnington, Telford. It can only be removed under armed guard. It is estimated that approximately 80 to 85 more VCs could be cast from this source. A single company of jewellers, Hancocks of London, has been responsible for the production of every VC.[10]

Separate Commonwealth awards

In the last 60 years several Commonwealth countries have introduced their own honours systems, separate from the British Honours System. Australia, Canada and New Zealand[6] have each introduced their own decorations for gallantry and bravery, replacing British decorations such as the Military Cross with their own awards. Most Commonwealth countries, however, still recognise some form of the VC as their highest decoration for valour.[11]

Australia was the first Commonwealth nation to create its own VC, on 15 January 1991. Although it is a separate award, its appearance is identical to its British counterpart.[12] Canada followed suit when in 1993 Queen Elizabeth signed Letters Patent creating the Canadian VC, which is also similar to the British version, except that the legend has been changed from FOR VALOUR to the Latin PRO VALORE.[13] The New Zealand and Australian[12] awards are still made by the jewellers Hancocks from the gunmetal used for the originals. The Canadian Victoria Cross also includes metal from the same cannon, along with copper and other metals from all regions of Canada.[14]

New Zealand was the third country to create the VC as part of its own honours system.[6] On 21 September 1999, Prime Minister Jenny Shipley announced that the Queen had approved the formal institution of a new range of Royal awards to recognise acts of gallantry and bravery performed by New Zealanders. The awards were designed to be the final major element in the development of a distinct New Zealand Royal honours system.

I am confident that the new system will serve us well and enable New Zealand to recognise the various acts of heroism performed in our community. The redevelopment of the awards for gallantry and bravery now means that we have a full range of awards and honours which are distinctly New Zealand.

—Jenny Shipley, Prime Minister of New Zealand, [15]

The start of the process came with proposals released in 1995 by the Honours Advisory Committee that reviewed the honours system. Until May 1996, New Zealand made recommendations for various British awards for acts of gallantry performed during military operations and acts of bravery by civilians including the Victoria Cross and George Cross. However, the British Government's review and simplification of their awards system provided an ideal opportunity for New Zealand to also develop a unique and simplified system.[15]


The Victoria Cross for New Zealand is identical to the original design. The decoration is a cross pattée, 41 millimetres high, 36 millimetres wide, bearing a crown surmounted by a lion, and the inscription FOR VALOUR.[16] This was originally to have been FOR BRAVERY, until it was changed on the recommendation of Queen Victoria, who thought some might erroneously consider that only the recipients of the VC were brave in battle.[8] The decoration, suspension bar and link weigh about 27 grams (0.87 troy ounces).[17]

The cross is suspended by a ring from a seriffed "V" to a bar ornamented with laurel leaves, through which the ribbon passes. The reverse of the suspension bar is engraved with the recipient's name, rank, number and unit. On the reverse of the medal is a circular panel on which the date of the act for which it was awarded is engraved in the centre.[18] The ribbon is crimson, 38 millimetres (1.5 inches) wide. Although the warrants state the colour as being red it is described by most commentators as being crimson or "wine-red".[19]


The Victoria Cross for New Zealand is awarded for

"... most conspicuous gallantry, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy or belligerents."[20]

The power of awarding the medal officially resides with the Queen of New Zealand. The Royal Warrant states that the "Awards of a New Zealand Gallantry Award and of a Bar to an Award shall be made by Us, Our Heirs and Successors, only on a recommendation by Our Prime Minister of New Zealand or a Minister of the Crown acting for Our Prime Minister."[21] As with the original Victoria Cross any recommendations pass through the New Zealand Defence Force chain of command to the Minister of Defence.[20]

The original Victoria Cross had been awarded to 24 New Zealanders.[22] Thirteen of these awards were for action in the First World War. The Victoria Cross for New Zealand has been awarded once. It was officially announced on 2 July 2007[23] that Corporal Willie Apiata of the NZ SAS was awarded the Victoria Cross for New Zealand for his actions in saving the life of a "comrade under heavy fire from opposing forces" during the Afghanistan conflict in 2004.[20][24] Apiata received his medal from Governor-General Anand Satyanand at a ceremony held at Government House, Wellington on 26 July 2007.[25]


  1. "Military Honours and Awards". Defence Internet. UK Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 2007-01-30. 
  2. "The world's most exclusive club". Ministry of Defence. 30 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Davies, Catronia (28 December 2005). "Author explodes myth of the gunmetal VC". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  4. VCH, Ashcroft, Introduction
  5. Ashcroft, Michael, pp.7–10
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "New Zealand Honours". Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Archived from the original on 7 December 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-30. 
  7. Beharry, p.359
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "150 years of the Victoria Cross". Royal Naval Museum. Archived from the original on 19 May 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Hancocks of London History of VC". Hancocks of London. Archived from the original on 27 August 2008. Retrieved 24 June 2007. 
  10. "Hancocks Jewellers". Hancocks of London. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  11. "No. 56878". 17 March 2003.  The Gazette containing the most up-to-date Order of Precedence
  12. 12.0 12.1 "The Victoria Cross for Australia". The Government of Australia. Retrieved 2007-06-30. 
  13., News staff (3 March 2007). "Top military honour now cast in Canada". CTV news. Retrieved 2007-06-24. 
  14. "Pro Valore: Canada's Victoria Cross" (PDF). National Defence; Government of Canada. Retrieved 30 August 2011. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 "New NZ gallantry awards approved". New Zealand Defence Force. 21 September 1999. Retrieved 2007-07-07. 
  16. Original Warrant, Clause 1: Firstly. It is ordained that the distinction shall be styled and designated "The Victoria Cross", and shall consist of a Maltese cross of bronze, with our Royal crest in the centre, and underneath with an escroll bearing the inscription "For Valour".
  17. Ashcroft, Michael, p.16
  18. "The Victoria Cross". Vietnam Veterans Of Australia. Retrieved 2007-06-15. 
  19. "The Victoria Cross". Imperial War Museum Exhibits and Firearms Collections. Retrieved 2006-09-30. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 "Press kit related to july 2007 gallantry awards (NZ)" (PDF). NZ Government through news agency. Retrieved 2007-07-01. 
  21. "Royal Warrant". NZDF. Retrieved 2007-08-02. 
  22. Some recipients were serving with purely British units at the time of their award.
  23. "Full citation for Bill Apiata" (PDF). NZDF. 2 July 2007. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-02. 
  24. "Gallantry in Afghanistan". NZ Government through news agency. Retrieved 2007-07-01. 
  25. "Willie Apiata receives his VC". The New Zealand Herald. 26 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-03. 


Further reading

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