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The coveted Victoria Cross is the highest British military decoration that is awarded for: “Most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or per-eminent single act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy." The prestigious award was instituted on the 29 January 1856 and gazetted on the 5 February 1856, being made retrospective in order to include recipients in the Crimean War (1854-1856).
It was allegedly created on the suggestion of Prince Albert, the Prince Consort. Of the 1 357 awards made since the medals inception in 1856, a total of 835 have been awarded to the Army, 107 to the Navy, 31 to members of the Air Force, 10 to the Royal Marines and 4 to civilians. Second award bars have been awarded on three occasions.
The facility for posthumous awards, made retrospective to 1856, began in 1902 and was confirmed in 1907, while the early practice of forfeitures (eight between 1863 and 1908) was discontinued after the First World War.In more modern times, two posthumous awards were made to members of the Parachute Regiment during the Falklands War. In 2005 Private Johnson Beharry was awarded the VC for Valour in Iraq, while Corporal Bryan Budd received a posthumous award for Valour in Afghanistan in 2006. The most recent award was gazetted in July 2007. In 2002 the British Government increased the annuity paid to winners of the VC to £1,500 per year, tax free.
Date Instituted: January 1856
Ribbon: Crimson. Originally, the Crosses awarded to Navy recipients were suspended from a blue ribbon but since 1918, the crimson (Army) ribbon has been used for all awards. A miniature cross emblem is worn on the ribbon when the ribbon bar is worn with Dress No 2.
Metal: The Crosses are cast from bronze that originally came from the Russian guns captured in the Crimea. Modern research however has revealed that bronze from various captured guns, such as those captured during the China Expeditions, has also been used at various periods during the manufacture of these Crosses.
Size: Height 41mm; max width 36mm
Description: A Cross Pattée with the Obverse having a lion statant gardant on the Royal Crown with the words FOR VALOUR on a semi-circular scroll. On the Reverse is a circular panel on which is engraved the date of the act for which the decoration was awarded. The Cross is suspended by a ring from a seriffed “V” attached to a suspension bar decorated with laurel leaves. The reverse of the suspension bar is engraved with the Name, Rank and Ship/Regiment or Squadron of the recipient.