Encyclopedia - Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross The Victoria Cross was - and remains to the present day - the highest British military award for gallantry, awarded for "most conspicuous bravery, a daring or pre-eminent act of valour, self sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy".

Established during Queen Victoria's reign in February 1856 some 633 Victoria Crosses (known as the V.C.) were awarded during the First World War.  Two of these comprised Bars - that is, an award of a second Victoria Cross to a current holder: to Arthur Martin-Leake in 1914 and Noel Chavasse in 1917 respectively.  Of these Chavasse earned both V.C.s during the First World War, although the second was posthumously awarded.

Of the 633 V.C.s awarded during the First World War 187 were issued posthumously to men killed during their act of heroism.  Prior to the outbreak of war in 1914 522 V.C.s had been awarded; by contrast just 182 were issued during the Second World War.

There are two instances of the Victoria Cross being awarded to father and son (although never during the same conflict).  No woman has ever been awarded the V.C.

In 1921 the Victoria Cross was awarded to America's Unknown Warrior, laid on the tomb in Arlington Cemetery by Admiral Sir David Beatty on Armistice Day 1921.

A recommendation for the V.C. was issued at regimental level and had to be backed by three separate witnesses.  From there the recommendation was passed up the military hierarchy until it reached first the Secretary of State for War and then King George V (who personally presented the award).  A full 12 V.C.s were awarded for outstanding acts of bravery rendered during the Allied landings at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.

The obverse of the medal featured the royal crown surmounted by a lion with a ribbon underneath bearing the legend 'For Valour'.  The reverse of the medal was engraved with the name of the recipient, together with the name of his regiment and the date of the action for which the award was presented.

The award of a Victoria Cross - each of which was produced by Hancocks and Co of London - was published in the London Gazette, accompanied by the relevant citation.

Around one million Indian troops served in WW1, of which some 100,000 were either killed or wounded.

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