War Office: Correspondence and Papers Concerning the Victoria Cross
This series comprises correspondence and papers concerning the Victoria Cross. These include the original royal warrant signed by Queen Victoria on 29 January 1856 instituting the award; drafts of conditions, etc; correspondence between the Military Secretary, commanding officers and others about the award; and registers of awards, 1856 to 1953.
The Victoria Cross was instituted by royal warrant dated 29 January 1856 for award to both officers and non-commissioned ranks of the Royal Navy and the Army who, in the presence of the enemy 'shall have performed some signal act of valour...'.
Prior to the Crimean War there was no recognised gallantry medal, but the individual deeds of heroism in this war made such an award necessary. It was deemed by Queen Victoria that the cross should be simple in design and was to be made from the bronze cannon captured during the Crimean War. The Queen's interest in the award was such that she personally invested 62 of the 111 Crimean recipients at a parade held in Hyde Park, London.
The first awards were announced in the London Gazette of 24 February 1857, with the earliest award backdated to 21 June 1854. It is a requirement of the royal warrant that awards are announced in the London Gazette and a full citation normally published.
The terms of the award have been altered from time to time, for example, to make provision for posthumous awards, the extend the award to the forces of the Empire and Commonwealth, etc.
The Victoria Cross has retained its position as Britain's premier award for gallantry in battle and is worn before all other orders, decorations and medals. A 'bar' to the Victoria Cross may be awarded in recognition of a second act of gallantry meriting the decoration. Up to July 1998, a total of 1351 Victoria Crosses and three bars have been awarded.
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