Early casting of a Victoria Cross, 1856
Legend has it that along with the first 111 crosses awarded, this example was cast from the bronze of Russian guns captured in the Crimea. There is, however, a possibility that the bronze cannon used was Chinese, having been captured during the 1st Opium War (1839-1842) and then stored at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. The Queen presented the first VCs to Crimean War (1854-1856) veterans in June 1857 at Hyde Park.
Unlike its predecessors, the new award was open to all ranks and would only be presented for acts of supreme gallantry in the face of the enemy. As well as being the most democratic of awards, the VC is also the highest gallantry award for soldiers. It was not approached in status until 1940 when the George Cross was created for acts of gallantry not in the face of the enemy.
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National Army Museum, Study collection
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