The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest recognition for valour "in the face of the enemy" that can be awarded to members of the British and Commonwealth armed forces of any rank in any service, and civilians under military command. It is also the highest award in the British Honours system.


The decoration is a cross pattée, 1.375 inches (35 mm) wide, bearing a crown surmounted by a lion, and the inscription "FOR VALOUR". 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. The decoration, suspension bar and link weigh about 0.87 troy ounces (27 g).



Victoria Cross for valour


Victoria Cross



The recipient's name, rank, number and unit are engraved on the back of the suspension bar, and the date of the act for which it was awarded on the back of the cross.


The ribbon is crimson, 1.5 inches (38 mm) wide. The original 1856 specification for the award stated that the ribbon should be red for army recipients and blue for naval ones. However the dark blue ribbon was abolished with the formation of the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918, and living recipients of the naval version were required to exchange their ribbons for red ones.



Historical background


The VC was created by Royal Warrant on 29 January 1856, backdated to 1854 to recognise acts of valour during the Crimean War of 1854-1855. The first award ceremony was on 26 June 1857.


It is widely believed that all VCs are cast from the bronze cascabels of two cannon of Chinese origin that were captured from the Russians at the siege of Sevastopol, except during the First World War when metal from guns captured from the Chinese during the Boxer Rebellion was also used. However, a 2006 book on the VC's history by historian John Glanfield calls the traditional account into question, arguing that it is impossible that the metal used for VCs made before 1914 really does come from the Sevastopol guns. Also, the Sevastopol metal went missing between 1942 and 1945, when another source of metal was used to make five Second World War VCs.


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 358 oz (10 kg), is stored in a vault 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 awarded since its inception.


In 1856 Queen Victoria laid a Victoria Cross beneath the foundation stone of Netley Hospital. When the hospital was demolished in 1966 the VC, known as "The Netley VC", was retrieved and is now on display in the Army Medical Services Museum, Ash, near Aldershot.





A total of 1,355 Victoria Crosses have been awarded since 1856. This figure is made up of 1,351 people who have earned the VC, plus three bars (awarded to people who receive the decoration a second time), and one award in 1921 to the American Unknown Soldier of the First World War. (The British Unknown Warrior was reciprocally awarded the US Medal of Honor.)


Originally, the Victoria Cross could not be awarded posthumously, and could not be awarded to Indian or African troops (although it could be awarded to their European officers). In 1905 it was made available to be awarded posthumously. Not until the 20th century was it made available to all troops in the service of the Crown (the first Indian soldier, Khudadad Khan, received it in 1914).


The largest number of VCs awarded in a single day was 24 on 16 November 1857, at the relief of Lucknow. The largest number awarded in a single action was 11 at Rorke's Drift on 22 January 1879. The largest number of Victoria Crosses awarded in a single conflict was 634 during the First World War.


Since the end of the Second World War the VC has been awarded only 12 times. Four were awarded during the Korean War, one in the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation in 1965, four to Australians in the Vietnam War, two during the Falklands War in 1982, and one in the Second Gulf War in 2004.


Only three people have been awarded the Victoria Cross twice: Noel Chavasse and Arthur Martin-Leake, both members of The Royal Army Medical Corps, and New Zealander Charles Upham. The second award is designated by a bar worn on the suspension ribbon of the original decoration and this is thus known as a "VC and Bar". Since a small cross device is worn on the VC ribbon when worn alone, a recipient of the VC and Bar would wear two such crosses on the ribbon.


Another New Zealander, Flying Officer Lloyd Allan Trigg, has the distinction of being the only serviceman ever awarded a Victoria Cross on evidence solely provided by the enemy, for an action in which there were no surviving Allied witnesses. The recommendation was made by the captain of a German U-boat sunk by Trigg's aircraft.


Lieutenant-Commander Gerard Broadmead Roope was also awarded a Victoria Cross on recommendation of the enemy, the captain of the Admiral Hipper, but there were also numerous surviving Allied witnesses to corroborate his actions.



Victoria Cross Canadian postage stamp


Victoria Cross featured on a Canadian postage stamp



As the VC is awarded for acts of valour "in the face of the enemy", it has been suggested by some that the changing nature of warfare will result in few VCs being awarded. Only one in ten VC recipients in the 20th century is said to have survived the action for which they received the VC. Following the death of Captain Umrao Singh, the last surviving Indian holder of the VC, in November 2005 there are currently only twelve surviving holders of the VC – six British, two Australians, and four Gurkhas – eight of them for exploits during the Second World War.


The corresponding honour for acts of valour that do not qualify as "in the face of the enemy" is the George Cross, which ranks next after the VC in the order of precedence.


Between 1858 and 1881, the Victoria Cross could be awarded for actions taken "under circumstances of extreme danger" not in the face of the enemy. Six such awards were made during this period - five of them for a single incident (a shipwreck off the Andaman Islands in 1867).


In recent years, several Commonwealth countries have introduced their own honours systems, separate from the British Honours System. Australia, Canada and New Zealand 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 Victoria Cross as their highest decoration for valour.


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. 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 Latin "PRO VALORE" (it can be seen on the Canadian postage stamp on this page, along with the Queen's signature creating the Canadian VC).


New Zealand was the third country to create the VC as part of its own honours system. While the New Zealand VC is technically a separate award, the decoration is identical to the British design, including being cast from the same Crimean War gunmetal as the British VC. As of 2006, none of these VCs have been awarded.


Awards of the Victoria Cross are always announced in the pages of the London Gazette.



Victoria Cross after 2000


In March 2002, it was widely reported in the British media that the VC was to be awarded to an unnamed Regimental Sergeant-Major in the 22nd Special Air Service (SAS) Regiment, for his involvement in fighting in the Tora Bora cave complex in November 2001. There was some debate over whether he should be named - a position favoured by the Secretary of State for Defence, Geoff Hoon, but a compromise was reached that his name, and some specific details of the action, would be withheld from the official announcement in the London Gazette. However, this did not happen; the VC award was never confirmed, and he and another member of the SAS, who had also been discussed as a possible VC recipient, were awarded Conspicuous Gallantry Crosses in October 2002 instead.


In April of 2004 the VC awarded to Sergeant Norman Jackson, RAF, in 1944, was sold at auction for £235,250.


In late 2004, Duncan Gordon Boyes VC and nine other recipients were publicly celebrated on posters on the Victoria line of the London Underground. That same year, a national Victoria Cross and George Cross memorial was installed in the Ministry of Defence building on Whitehall in London.


On 18 March 2005, Private Johnson Gideon Beharry of the 1st Battalion, Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment became the first recipient of the VC since the posthumous award to Sgt Ian McKay, 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment in 1982. Beharry was cited for "valour of the highest order" during the Iraq War. He is included in a list of more than 140 British troops awarded honours for roles in Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the United Kingdom and Congo.


In August of 2005, Ernest Alvia ("Smokey") Smith, Canada's last surviving VC recipient, died. In November 2005, Umrao Singh, the last survivor of India's 40 VC recipients, died.



Canadian Silver Dollar Victoria Cross 2006


Canadian Victoria Cross displayed on a Canadian Silver Dollar in 2006



On 24 July 2006, an auction at Bonhams in Sydney of the VC awarded to Captain Alfred Shout fetched a world record hammer price of $A1 million. Captain Alfred Shout was awarded the VC posthumously in 1915 for hand-to-hand combat at the Lone Pine trenches in Gallipoli Turkey. The buyer (Kerry Stokes) has indicated that it will be displayed at the Australian War Memorial with the eight other VCs awarded to Australians at Gallipoli.


On 16 October 2006, it was reported in The Sun newspaper that Corporal Bryan Budd was being considered for the award of a posthumous VC for actions against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The newspaper said that a final decision would not be reached until a citation is made early next year.




Holders of the Victoria Cross or George Cross are entitled to an annuity, the amount of which is determined by the awarding government. Since 2002, the annuity paid by the British government is £1,495 per year. As at January 2005, under the Canadian Gallantry Awards Order, members of the Canadian Armed Forces, or people who joined the British forces before 31 March 1949 while domiciled in Canada or Newfoundland, receive $3,000 per year. The Australian Government provides the two surviving Australian recipients a Victoria Cross Allowance under Subsection 103.4 of the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986. In January 2006 the amount was $A3,230 per year which is indexed annually in line with Australian Consumer Price Index increases.



Forfeited VCs


Until the 1920s, the rules relating to the Victoria Cross allowed for the expulsion of a VC recipient from the list of people receiving the honour, and the forfeiture of their pension, if they committed "discreditable acts". The rules have since been changed to prevent such expulsions, and the eight men who lost their VCs were restored to official lists. This change in policy was insisted upon by King George V and reflected the increasing difficulty in attaining the award. He commented that, should a VC recipient later in his life be convicted for a capital crime, that individual should still be permitted to wear the decoration on the gallows.



Theft of the VC


Given the rarity of the Victoria Cross and the fact they are rarely sold, these decorations are highly prized on the black market by medal collectors. Several VCs have been stolen, and being valuable have been placed on the Interpol watch-list for stolen items.


One was the VC awarded to Milton Fowler Gregg, which was donated to the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum in London, Ontario Canada in 1979. It was stolen on Canada Day, (July 1, 1980), when the museum was overcrowded, and has been missing since. A VC awarded in 1917 to Corporal Filip Konowal, a Canadian soldier who had emigrated from Ukraine in 1913, was stolen from the same museum in 1973, and was not recovered until 2004.



Official collections


The Victoria Cross Gallery in the Australian War Memorial contains most of the VCs awarded to Australians, and 60 VCs in all, the largest such publicly held collection in the world. Following the 2006 purchase and donation by Kerry Stokes of Capt Shout's medal, the Victoria Cross Gallery now has all nine VCs awarded to Australians at Gallipoli.



Unofficial collections


British businessman and politician Michael Ashcroft is reported to have amassed a private collection of over one hundred VCs, which is probably the largest private collection of such medals ever accumulated.



Johnson Beharry VC meets Prince Charles


The Prince meets Private Johnson Beharry VC (left) and Trooper Chris Finney GC (right) before a service to remember holders of the Victoria Cross and George Cross







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.



A bar is awarded for additional acts of bravery. Only 3 have been awarded, none to a Canadian.



A cross pattee, 1.375 inches across, with a dark brown finish. Made from cannons captured from the Russians during the Crimean War.



The obverse displays the Royal Crown surmounted by a lion guardant. Below the crown, a scroll bearing the inscription: FOR VALOUR.



Raised edges with the date of the act engraved within a raised circle.



A straight bar (ornamented with laurels), slotted for the ribbon, has a V-lug below. A small link joins the V-lug to a semi-circular lug on the top of the cross.



The crimson ribbon is 1.5 inches wide and a miniature cross is worn on the ribbon in undress. The ribbon was dark blue for naval recipients until 1918 with Able Seaman William HALL, RN, being the only Canadian VC winner to wear the blue ribbon.



The recipient's rank, name and regiment are engraved on the reverse of the mounting bar.



The medal was instituted on 05 February 1856 with awards retroactive to 1854. The first award to a Canadian was in February 1857, to Lt. Alexander DUNN (Charge of the Light Brigade).



There have been 1,351 Victoria Crosses and 3 Bars awarded worldwide, 94 to Canadians (Canadian-born or serving in the Canadian Army or with a close connection to Canada).







Chronological order of the 23 awards of the VC to airmen of RAF bomber squadrons.

Click on their names to read the official citations in full:




Flying Officer D.E. Garland and Sergeant T. Gray
As Bomber Command’s first winners of the VC, Garland was the pilot and Gray the navigator of a single-engine Battle aircraft leading a vital formation attack on 12th May 1940, against heavy anti-aircraft fire and fighter opposition which cost them their lives.

Flight Lieutenant R.A.B. Learoyd
Despite seeing every preceding aircraft hit, he flew at 150 feet through the fiercest anti-aircraft fire, attacked the target and brought his crew and nearly-wrecked Hampden aircraft back to base.

Sergeant J. Hannah
Badly burned as he fought fires that melted the floor of his Hampden bomber beneath him, his courage ensured the survival of his aircraft which was bombing German invasion barges at the height of the Battle of Britain.

Wing Commander H.I. Edwards, D.F.C.
Although physically handicapped from a previous accident, he led his Blenheim squadron on numerous low-level daylight raids against heavily defended targets at enormous risk.

Sergeant J.A. Ward (Royal New Zealand Air Force)
In an act of breathtaking heroism, he climbed out onto the wing of his Wellington bomber and extinguished a fire, thus saving his aircraft which managed to return safely home.

Squadron Leader J.D. Nettleton
He led one of two formations of Lancasters on a daring and extremely dangerous low-level daylight raid to Augsburg, deep in Southern Germany. Successfully bombing despite appalling losses, his was the only aircraft to return.

Flying Officer L.T. Manser
Determined to save his crew from the enemy, he stayed at the controls of his damaged Manchester aircraft, at the cost of his own life, so his comrades could parachute to safety.

Flight Sergeant R.H. Middleton
(Royal Australian Air Force)

Despite appalling injuries to his face, he flew his Stirling bomber back over the Alps and enabled most of his crew to bale out over England before he crashed into the sea.

Wing Commander H.G. Malcolm
Knowing his raid was vital to army operations, he led his Blenheim squadron without fighter escort on a successful attack – aware they were almost certain to be overwhelmed by enemy fighters.

Wing Commander G.P. Gibson, D.S.O., D.F.C.
One of the most famous squadron commanders of the war, his leadership and courage ensured the success of the legendary Dambusters Raid.

Flight Sergeant A.L. Aaron, D.F.C.
Fatally injured by a fighter attack on his Stirling aircraft, he nevertheless managed to direct his surviving crew to a safe landing.


Flight Lieutenant W. Reid
Badly wounded on the way to the target, with dead and injured crew, he pressed on, bombed accurately and got his aircraft home.

Pilot Officer C.J. Barton
Despite repeated fighter attacks which damaged his Halifax aircraft, he single-handedly bombed the target then brought his wounded crewmen home at the cost of his own life.

Wing Commander G.L. Cheshire, D.S.O., D.F.C.
He had completed 100 missions, personally leading his squadron, pioneering new techniques and always undertaking the most dangerous and difficult tasks. One of the most outstanding and respected airmen of the war.

Flight Sergeant G. Thompson
In a completely selfless act, he rescued two wounded comrades from their gun turrets through flames so intense he later died from his burns.

Squadron Leader R.A.M. Palmer, D.F.C.
After completing 110 missions, he led a formation of Lancasters to Cologne. With two engines ablaze he marked the target perfectly for the following bombers – then spiraled down in flames.

Captain E. Swales, D.F.C. (South African Air Force)
Twice attacked by a fighter and with two engines out, he remained over the target giving instructions to other bombers. Over friendly territory, he held his Lancaster steady whilst his crew baled out - then was killed as the aircraft crashed.

Squadron Leader I.W. Bazalgette, D.F.C.
Struggling to control his burning Lancaster, he accurately marked the target for the main force then died trying to save his wounded crew.

Sergeant N.C. Jackson
Although wounded by a fighter attack, in an act of astonishing bravery he crawled out onto the wing of his burning Lancaster to try to extinguish the flames before being swept into the night.

Squadron L.H. Trent, D.F.C.
(Royal New Zealand Air Force)

Leading 11 Ventura aircraft on a daylight raid, he bombed the target accurately in a display of outstanding leadership, despite intense fighter attack resulting in the loss of every bomber.

Squadron Leader A.S.K. Scarf
In a lone surviving Blenheim bomber he attacked an enemy fighter base – provoking fierce fighter opposition that led to him being mortally wounded, though his skillful airmanship ensured his crew survived.

Pilot Officer A.C. Mynarski (Royal Canadian Air Force)
With his Lancaster bomber ablaze and the order given to abandon the aircraft, he was badly burned trying desperately to rescue the rear gunner and died soon after baling out. The rear gunner survived.







The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.


"It is ordained that the Cross shall only be 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."


There is no barrier of colour, creed, gender or rank to winning a Victoria Cross.

626 VCs were awarded in WW1. 40 were awarded for action at Gallipoli or the Dardanelles.




Soldier/Sailor awarded the VC


Unit he was serving with




BASSETT, Cyril Royston Guyton  

Div Signals NZ Expeditionary Force 

7 Aug 1915

BOYLE, Edward Courtney  

Royal Navy (HM Submarine E14)

27 Apr 1915

BROMLEY, Cuthbert  

1st Bn Lancashire Fusiliers

25 Apr 1915

BURTON, Alexander Stewart posthumous

7th Bn Australian Imperial Force

9 Aug 1915

COSGROVE, William  

1st Bn Royal Munster Fusiliers

26 Apr 1915

DOUGHTY-WYLIE, Charles H M posthumous

Royal Welch Fusiliers

26 Apr 1915

DREWRY, George Leslie   

Royal Naval Reserve; SS River Clyde

25 Apr 1915

DUNSTAN, William 

7th Bn Australian Imperial Force

9 Aug 1915

FORSHAW, William Thomas   

1Bn 9th Manchester Regiment

7/9 Aug  1915

GRIMSHAW, John Elisha   

1st Bn Lancashire Fusiliers

25 Apr 1915

HAMILTON, John Patrick  

3rd Bn Australian Imperial Force

9 Aug 1915

HANSEN, Percy Howard  

6th Bn Lincolnshire Regiment 

9 Aug 1915

HOLBROOK, Norman Douglas  

Royal Navy (HM Submarine B11)

13 Dec 1914

JACKA, Albert   First Aussie VC of WW1

14th Bn Australian Imperial Force

19 May 1915

JAMES, Herbert     

4th Bn Worcestershire Regiment

28 Jun 1915

KENEALY, William  posthumous

1st Bn Lancashire Fusiliers

25 Apr 1915

KEYSOR, Leonard  

1st Bn Australian Imperial Force 

7 Aug 1915

LAUDER, David Ross   

1st Bn 4th Royal Scots Fusiliers

13 Aug 1915

MALLESON, Wilfred St. Aubyn   

Royal Navy; SS River Clyde

25 Apr 1915

MOOR, George Raymond Dallas   

2nd Bn Hampshire Regiment; 

5 Jun 1915

NASMITH, Martin Eric  

Royal Navy (HM Submarine E11)

20 May-8 Jun

O'SULLIVAN, Gerald Robert 

Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

1/2 Jul 1915

PARKER, Walter Richard  

Royal Marines Light Infantry RN Div.

30 Apr 1915

POTTS, Frederick William Owen 

1st Bn 1st Berkshire Yeomanry

21 Aug 1915

ROBINSON, Eric Gascoigne  

Royal Navy HMS Vengeance

26 Feb 1915

RICHARDS, Alfred Joseph  

1st Bn Lancashire Fusiliers

25 Apr 1915

SAMSON, George McKenzie  

Royal Naval Reserve; SS River Clyde

25 Apr 1915

SHOUT, Alfred John  posthumous

1st Bn Australian Imperial Force

9 Aug 1915

SMITH, Alfred Victor  posthumous

1Bn 5th East Lancashire Regiment

23 Dec 1915

SOMERS, James  

1st Bn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

1/2 Jul 1915

STUBBS, Frank Edward  

1st Bn Lancashire Fusiliers

25 Apr 1915

SYMONS, William John 

7th Bn Australian Imperial Force

9 Aug 1915

THROSSELL, Hugo Vivian Hope  

10th LHR Australian Imperial Force 

29 Aug 1915

TISDALL, Arthur Walderne St. Clair


25 Apr 1915

TUBB, Frederick Harold 

7th Bn Australian Imperial Force

9 Aug 1915

UNWIN, Edward  

Royal Navy; SS River Clyde

25 Apr 1915

WALFORD, Garth Neville posthumous

Royal Artillery

26 Apr 1915

WILLIAMS, William Charles  posthumous

Royal Navy; SS River Clyde

25 Apr 1915

WILLIS, Richard Raymond  

1st Bn Lancashire Fusiliers

25 Apr 1915

WHITE, Geoffrey Saxton posthumous

Royal Navy (HM Submarine E14)

28 Jan 1918






Full citations to these awards are recorded in Valiant Men, Canadian War Museum Historical Publications, A.M. Hakkert Ltd.


Prior to the South African War (4)

DUNN, Alexander Robert
HALL, William
READE, Herbert Taylor
DOUGLAS, Campbell Mellis

The South African (Boer) War (4)

COCKBURN, Hampden Z.C.
HOLLAND, Edward J.G.
TURNER, Richard E.W.

First World War (70)

ALGIE, Wallace Lloyd
BARKER, William George
BARRON, Colin Fraser
BELLEW, Edward Donald
BENT, Philip Eric
BISHOP, William Avery
BOURKE, Rowland R.L.
BRERETON, Alexander P.
BROWN, Harry
CAMPBELL, Frederick W.
COMBE, Robert Grierson
COPPINS, Frederick G.
CROAK, John Bernard
De WIND, Edmund
GOOD, Herman James
GREGG, Milton Fowler
HALL, Frederick William
HANNA, Robert
HARVEY, Frederick M.W.
HOBSON, Frederick
HOLMES, Thomas William
HONEY, Samuel Lewis
HUTCHESON, Bellenden S.
KAEBLE, Joseph
KERR, George Fraser
KERR, John Chipman
KINROSS, Cecil John
KNIGHT, Arthur George
LYALL, Graham Thomson
MacDOWELL, Thain W.
McKEAN, George Burdon
McLEOD, Alan Arnett
METCALF, William Henry
MILNE, William Johnstone
MINER, Harry G.B.
MITCHELL, Coulson N.
MULLIN, George Harry
NUNNEY, Claude J.P.
O'KELLY, Christopher P.J.
O'LEARY, Michael
O'ROURKE, Michael James
PATTISON, John George
PEARKES, George Randolph
PECK, Cyrus Wesley
RAYFIELD, Walter Leigh
ROBERTSON, James Peter
SCRIMGER, Francis A.C.
SIFTON, Ellis Wellwood
SPALL, Robert
TAIT, James Edward
YOUNG, Francis
ZENGEL, Raphael Louis

Second World War (16)

COSENS, Aubrey
CURRIE, David Vivian
FOOTE, John Weir
GRAY, Robert Hampton
HOEY, Charles Ferguson
HORNELL, David Ernest
MAHONY, John Keefer
MERRITT, Charles C.I.
OSBORN, John Robert
PETERS, Frederick Thornton
SMITH, Ernest Alvia
TILSTON, Frederick Albert
TOPHAM, Frederick George


Victoria Cross Winners Associated with Canada

BEET, Barry Churchill
CRUICKSHANK, Robert Edward
GEARY, Benjamin Handley
NICKERSON, William Henry Snyder
O'HEA, Timothy
ROBSON, Henry Howey
RYDER, Robert<
STUART, Ronald Neil
TOMBS, Joseph
TRAIN, Charles William
BILKINSON, Thomas Orde Lawder







  • Monuments to Courage (David Harvey, 1999)

  • The Register of the Victoria Cross (This England, 1997) ISBN 0-906324-03-3

  • Scotland's Forgotten Valour (Graham Ross, 1995) ISBN 1-899272-00-3













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