07/03/2021

The VC and GC awards for heroism

The Victoria Cross (VC), named after Queen Victoria (1819-1901), was instituted in 1856. It is a decoration given to military personnel who have exhibited extreme bravery in the face of a wartime enemy. The first awards went to British soldiers in the Crimean War.The youngest awardee was aged 15, the oldest 69.

The George Cross (GC), named after King George VI (1895-1952), was introduced in 1940 to recognise unbelievably heroic deeds by both civilians and the military during WW2, “away from the heat of the battle”. It is also reserved for peacetime acts of courage “when facing the perils of ordinary life”. Again, the youngest recipient was aged 15; this time a civilian, for a house-fire rescue. The oldest was a 57-year-old railwayman for averting a catastrophic train crash.

VCs and GCs are rarely given and they rank equally at the very top of the list of gallantry decorations. The VC & GC Association maintain records of all recipients, of whom there are currently only 27 alive. Both Crosses can be awarded posthumously and have been on many occasions, as in the case of the 57-year-old train driver. The GC has also been presented to the island of Malta (1942) and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (1999), each as a whole.

(Images (L to R): VC by zaphod1 at Flickr.com / CC BY 2.0; GC by Defence Images at Flickr.com / CC BY-SA 2.0)