Well, it wasn't always that way. It probably began back in the days of the Crimean War and the stories that came home told of the great battles... and also the great blunders. People were no longer insulated against the true horrors of war. With that war, they could actually be sitting down in their living rooms and reading stories from a reporter about what did... or did not happen at the battle front. And that was because he was right there, and did not have to sift through pages of what someone else thought happened that day. And the blood and guts were no longer way off in another country.
The more the public became informed about the horrors the troops were facing...not just from weapons, but from disease, and the stories of the lack of equipment and thousands of needless deaths for all sorts of reasons having nothing to do with the enemy's gun that they demanding improvements. One of these would be the recognition finally that it was not just the most senior of officers that ought to get promotions and medals and awards for their bravery. It was obviously high time the front line troops... regardless of rank, got their due recognition as well.
Back home in England the politicians of the day started to advance the cause for a medal that would recognize that bravery is not only posessed by the higher-ups, and that a medal for all those deserving would help to motivate and reward... and promote heroism at those front lines. Soon calls for "an Award of Merit" using these concepts would be advocated. Then a proposal for a "Military Order of Victoria." But it would be HRH Prince Albert, The Queen's husband that would finally put his pencil to paper and cross out all except the words..."Victoria Cross" and the rest... as they say... is history!
About 111 heroes had been selected for this high honor but some were off in far distant lands when the date for the parade and investiture arrived. But that aside, 62 men in their best uniforms would march before HRH Queen Victoria and she would then bend down from her horse and pin the Victoria Cross on each man's chest. A story has it that one was pinned TO a man's chest by accident, but he took it in stride and waited till he got off parade to say a few words I guess.
There are three men who claim to have been the first recipient in the history of the British Empire's most covetted medal. Each has a point. Like the Medal of Honor, there is the date that the medal was presented. A date when the medal was approved and came out in a General Order (in the US,) or in the Royal Gazette in London, and of course the date of the action that resulted in the award.
The Illustrated London News had an artist hired to depict battle scenes in that war, and to the left is one of the artist's paintings. The recipient depicted may well have been Raby.
Lucas joined the navy at the tender age of 14. he would serve on a few ships and six years into his service he found himself in the midst of a battle that ought not to have even happened. His vessel and two others were in Russian waters and were only on a reconnasance mission. between the three warships they had 38 guns. But the three forts they were checking out had a total of 100 guns and were not in the mood to be messed with.
One of these guns sent them a present... A cannon ball that was about to explode. It landed on the very deck of his shipmates and was still sizzling and about to blow up when Lucas did they most unusual thing. While others dived for cover he dived for the cannon ball...picked it up and tossed it over board and within minutes it exploded. But his ship was saved. And thus, years later he was being awarded his Victoria Cross. He is wearing it in this picture it is the medal on the far left as you view the image.
In Canada there are a very few blue ribboned VC's. When they all became red, a recipient was required to change ribbons.
At the above ceremony, after the navy medals were issued, the army stood in line for theirs. The third in this category went to Lt Alexander Dunn of Toronto Ontario, the ONLY officer in the Charge of the Light Brigade to be so awarded. More of him in a future blog.
There have been 1356 awards of the VC, including three being double recipients.
It was less than three months ago that Australia's Cpl. Daniel Keighran was awarded the last VC issued to date. In a horrible fire fight in Afghanistan his troops were badly outnumbered and pinned down with intensive fire coming at them. The Cpl. set out not once or twice or three times but four times to deliberately expose himself to enemy fire so that he could properly determine their locations, the best points to take up to take them out and also in one of these his taking the enemy off other targets helped some of his troops gain time to work on and secure a wounded comrade. He somehow managed to come out of all of this and still be alive.
http://www.britishpathe.com/video/making-vcs you can see a really interesting but brief video during WW11 of the very men who make the Victoria Cross.
Shown to the right is a medal already made and an ingot of bronze capable of making about 150 more medals.
On 29 Jan 1856 the Victoria Cross was born and duly noted in the London Gazette, and that was exactly 157 years ago tomorrow. And your job tomorrow is tell five people about this important date, and why not give them the URL to this site so that they can also read about it.