The Victoria Cross
Ballad of the Victoria Cross
I am the
pride of the valiant Brave:
The Bravest of the Brave
The story of the Victoria Cross starts with the Crimean War, the first war to be covered by proper war correspondents, men whose despatches not only told a horrified nation of the conditions in which the wounded and sick suffered, but also the stories of the heroes. Enthralled by these stories - as indeed were her subjects - Queen Victoria decided that acts of heroism should be rewarded. She wanted a medal which was available to every man whatever his rank, and so it was ordained that:
“With a view to place all persons on a perfectly equal footing in relation to eligibility for the decoration, neither rank, nor long service, nor wounds, nor any other circumstances or condition whatsoever, save the merit of conspicuous bravery shall be held to establish a sufficient claim to the honour”.
And in the somewhat pedantic wording of that ordination lies the key to the awe in which the Victoria Cross is held: any man can win it as long as he is brave in the presence of the enemy. The first investiture was held in 1857 in Hyde Park, the Queen pinning the medal on the proud chests of 62 out of the 111 men who won a Victoria Cross in the Crimea.
The George Cross
The George Cross was instituted by King George VI in 1940 as a decoration for supreme gallantry not actually on the field of battle.
Primarily a civilian award, comparable to the Armed Forces Victoria Cross, it can nevertheless be awarded to members of the services in certain circumstances.
At the date of its institution it was decreed that winners of the Empire Gallantry Medal still living should have their medals exchanged for the George Cross and it was by means of this proviso that Lance Corporal Henshaw and Private Brooks of The Queen’s Royal Regiment were awarded theirs. In 1971, by further provision of a Royal Warrant, holders of the Albert Medal and Edward Medal became deemed to be holders of the George Cross.
As a decoration the George Cross is worn before all other medals and orders except the Victoria Cross.
In addition to the gallantry awards to Lance Corporal Henshaw and Private Brooks, the Viceroy of India’s Certificates were awarded to Sergeant Chapple, Lance Corporals Dakin and Gowman and Private Rainsbury. As a collective form of appreciation the 1st Battalion The Queen’s Royal Regiment also received an illuminated message from the Viceroy in recognition of their gallant and devoted conduct.
SOURCES : The Register of The George Cross