Instituted by Queen Victoria in 1856 and made retrospective to 1854. The V.C. is the most prestigious bravery award, recognised for only the greatest feats of valour. Ninety six have been awarded to Australians from the Boer War to the Vietnam War.
The Victoria Cross was originally fashioned from the gun metal of captured cannons in the Crimean War of the 1850’s. When this supply was exhausted the gun metal was taken from later captured Russian cannons.
Of all the orders and decorations open to members of the Australian Defence Force, the Victoria Cross remains the most honoured, the most coveted. It marks its wearer as one possessing supreme courage, a disregard for danger and complete devotion to duty.
The Victoria Cross (VC) was instituted on 29 January 1856 and was made retrospective from 1 August 1854.
Prior to the Crimean War, there was no recognised gallantry medal, but the individual deeds in that war made the creation of such an award, available to officers and men alike, necessary.
The Victoria Cross, according to the instituting Royal Warrant establishing rules and ordinances govering its bestowal, shall only be awarded for the most conspicuous brevery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.
In the Commonwealth of Australia Gazatte No. 525 Monday 4 Feburary 1991, the Victoria Cross took its place as the highest Australian award in the Australian System of Honours and Awards. It may be awarded to members of the Defence Force or other persons determined by the Minister of State for Defence. Bars are awarded for further similar acts of bravery. The Victoria Cross may also be awarded posthumously and recipients are entitled to use the letters VC after their names.
The design remains identical in every way to the British award, a Maltese Cross in bronze adorned by a crown surmounted by a crowned lion, the emblem of the British Royal family, in the centre, with a scroll bearing the inscription, ‘For Valour’. On the reverse is inscribed the date of the action. The name and regiment of the holder are inscribed on the back of the suspension bar. The ribbon is crimson for all Services, although until July 1918, the Royal Navy used the blue ribbon.
When worn, the VC takes precedence over all other awards, and is positioned to the far left of any medal group.
The Cross has, from the first, been made by Messrs. Hancock, London jewellers and is hand fashioned. The metal used is taken from the guns captured from the Russians at Sebastopol during the Crimean War 1854-56.
The first Australian to earn the Victoria Cross was Captain ( later Sir Neville) Howse for rescuring a wounded man on 24 July 1900 while serving as an officer of the NSW Army Medical Corps during the South African War 1899-1902 (Boer War).