The question being asked of me was... what ribbon should Rowland Bourke, whom you have read about in this space several times, been using. The Royal Air Force was formed in 1918. He got his Victoria Cross in 1918.
I wondered what a sailor was to do when the blue were phased out. Could he keep it and continue to use it? Did he have to exchange it for a red ribbon? Or could he apply for a red ribbon and use either one at his choice?
So I wrote to Hancocks, the original makers of the VC and asked these questions.
They wrote back to say that the matter was dealt with clause #12 of a law called .. "The 1920 Warrant Effecting a General Revision and
Recodification of the Conditions of Award of the Victoria Cross.'
I then wrote to Iain Stewart at the well credentialed web site ... http://www.victoriacross.org.uk/vcross.htm a site I always go when I have a question about the Victoria Cross and to a fellow that seems to be able to get the answers to my many questions over several years of research on the topic. Check out his most detailed site.
He sent me the actual copy of the law, and suggested that it would not be very wise for A VC recipient to disregard the orders of the King of England, and the Prime Minister of the day (Churchill) when the new law was passed.
Before getting this advise I was of the opinion that the change was effective on the creation of the Air Force. Thus the date being 1 April 1918, when the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Navy Air Service were amalgamating into the Royal Air Force. But that's not what the law says!
While referred to clause 12 of the law by Hancocks, I noted they had the section wrong and that it is actually at clause 2 that I should be reading to start answering the questions I had... and here is clause 2...
But this did not answer the questions regarding effective dates. At the end of the above law it gives the date it was passed. But the law was not formalized till published and that was a year later. According to Hancocks the War office directed that the effective date shall be the date the law was first passed and by the later had no doubt communicated to all needing that information. Here are the end paragraphs with dates...
Lt. Rowland Bourke (later Lt Commander and still later Commander) had his Victoria Cross pinned on his chest at Buckingham Palace by none other than HRH King George V, on 11 September 1918. This is the very man who later changed the law to remove the blue ribbons and have only one colour. (rather than creating a third for the air force) At this earlier date Bourke's VC would have no doubt been issued with a blue ribbon. And blue it ought to have stayed until about 6 months later when the red became the only ribbon.
So, Bourke's VC should have been with a blue ribbon for almost six months, and then only the red was authorized.
Of the 1,357 Victoria Crosses awarded since 1857, Only four would come to North America with blue ribbons. These were William H Seeley, a US citizen, in 1854, William Hall from NS in 1857, Doctor Campbell M. Douglas of Quebec in 1867, and the last being Lt. Rowland Bourke, born in Britain, but living much of his pre and all of his post war life in Canada and with an award in 1918.
Back on March 27th I brought you the first of 3 blogs in this place about the famous Andrews Raiders of Civil War days. Well folks, its been over 150 years since that historic raid took place and the folks in the US government have yet to sort out who ought to get Medals of Honor for their bravery and who not to get same.
On April 26 of this year descendants were still trying to get the government to do the obvious. Two of the heroes who were hung as spies, though they were not, ought to have been awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously, like their compatriots were. Back in 2007 the Congress FINALLY approved the awards for 2 who seemed to have slipped under the rug... actually many rugs according to the time line.
In 2007 the Congress ordered the Medals to be issues to the late Private George Wilson and the late Private Philipp Shadrach, the only participants still due, and yet to be so awarded. But then the President did not act during that term to make the final approval.
On the 26th of April relatives of the two above mentioned were quoted in the press having to set off to see Congressmen in DC yet again to get this terrible error fixed.
Hopefully I will still be doing this blog when it gets fixed.
On a different matter, The US Defence Department is quoted in a news story of 16 May wanted to amend the laws with regards to how many actual Medals of Honor you can be awarded. Some time ago the law was changed to say that you can only get one medal. Once you could actually get 2, and arguable one fellow actually got three. But the rules got changed and said one is enough. If similar bravery were later to be awarded you would be entitled to a small symbol on the shape of the letter... "V" for valor. this would be attached to the ribbon supporting the medal.
Well, if the media got the story right, the new plan of the department will hopefully allow a recipient to now actually get two medals instead on just the one with a V attached. The news clip then goes on to say that if the member's bravery is so high that he or she is entitled to another medal... then award it to them... don't be so cheap. But then it quickly adds that it is OK to be cheap enough to leave the currently monthly allowance at $1,000 per month, and that that ought not to be doubled.
Lucky they put that in to the equation.
Folks, the US economy would no doubt be seriously hampered financially if yet another hero would get a 2nd Medal of Honor AND a second bonus. I mean in happens almost daily. OOOOPs I think I got that wrong.
The last time a second MOH was awarded was for bravery recognized from actions on 3 October 1918. Almost 100 years ago.
This is no doubt a very pressing problem for the Defence Department. Sure hope they have lots of time to spend on it.