The
Naval Victoria Cross

Description:

Cast in bronze in the shape of a cross the obverse of this award bears the Royal Crown of Queen Victoria in the centre upon which stands a proud lion (also wearing a smaller crown) and the inscription 'FOR VALOUR' within a pendant draped around the centre from the left to right arms of the cross.  The reverse of the medal is rather plain with a raised circle border in the centre.  The suspender is a straight simple one decorated with leaves with a 'V' (for Victoria) at the lower centre through which it is attached via a small metal ring to a loop on the top arm of the cross.

Clasps:

A bar for second awards is authorised for this cross.

Ribbon:

Originally the Army had a 1.5" wide dark crimson ribbon and the Royal Navy had a dark blue one.  After 1920 the crimson ribbon was adopted for all services including the recently formed RAF.

Naming:

Naming is engraved on the plain reverse of the suspender while the date of the action which earned the award is engraved in the centre of the circle of the actual cross.

Notes:

The cross was instituted in 1856 and is cast (not struck) from the bronze of a Russian cannon captured during the Crimean War.  The cross is made and hand finished by the well-known jewellers Messrs. Hancocks & Co., of Vigo Street, London who receive the metal from the Ministry of Defence as required.  Strangely the firm does not make any other medal or award.

Because the cross is cast (not struck as with most awards) the size of original awards vary from one another as the length of the cooling process of the metal is different every time one is made.  Most copies of this cross are either struck or made by a cast from an original award (making it even smaller) and collectors are unlikely to be fooled by them.  However some convincing fakes have been seen on the market in recent years but since the whereabouts of most VC's is known it is extremely unlikely that any fake would be sold as an original at auction by mistake.

It is well known that the VC today is the highest of all decorations that can be won by any serviceman or woman (civilians are also eligible under certain conditions), but until 1902 this was not the case.  Prior to Edward VII as King the VC was often worn either after the relevant campaign medal for which it was won or after other decorations such as Royal Victorian Order.

The next of kin of officers and men who would have won the VC but were killed during the act that would have earned the award did not receive the cross as is custom with campaign medals.  However in 1902 Edward VII decreed that posthumous awards should be made for those killed during the Boer War and in 1907 this was made retrospective for others who would have won the award before that date.

When the ribbon is worn without the cross a miniature VC emblem is worn at the centre.  In 1917 it was stipulated that for second awards a second miniature VC could be worn on the ribbon when the actual cross is not worn itself.

Perhaps one of the most valuable VCs of all time would be that awarded to Lieutenant John Chard of the Royal Engineers in 1879.  Chard had been the officer in command of the defence of Rorke's Drift during the Zulu War which is also the battle in which the largest number of VC's (11 in total) have ever been awarded for a single action.  However the whereabouts of Chard's VC is unknown and his family have only a replica.

Further Reading:

Information courtesy of:

 http://www.britishmilitarymedals.co.uk/ and/or http://www.derdienst.com/

 

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Johnathan Prettyjohns