Cymdeithas Hanes Resolfen History Society

A web log for the Resolven History Society which publishes articles and stories related to Resolven and the immediate surroundings.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

The Victoria Cross

“For Valour”

The History Society brought down the curtain on a successful season of lectures by welcoming Janet John of Neath Abbey to speak on the topic of the Victoria Cross. She began her talk by stating that the Victoria Cross was the inspiration of the monarch herself. Until then, military honours tended to be given to the leaders involved in a victory as against the common soldier in the ranks. The Victoria Cross however could be won by anyone showing exceptional bravery in battle.

The material for the medals comes from Russian guns captured at Sebastopol during the Crimean war in the 1850s. So far some 1400 have been struck and the supply of metal is depleting quickly and it is unclear what will happen when it eventually runs out. It was first presented during the Crimean campaign when some 62 officers and men received the VC. The number of VCs would be substantially higher had not the criteria for the awarding of not been changed prior to 1920. During the First World War, with millions of men serving for the first time, the combatant had to survive the action to receive the medal, later this was allowed to be presented posthumously.

Interestingly, no women have been awarded the VC, because until recent changes in the rules of engagement women did not take part in combat roles. However, the MC was awarded to a woman in the second Iraq war and inevitably a VC will be awarded in time. Another interesting fact was that three people have actually won the Victoria Cross twice. Two were medics and the other a soft spoken New Zealander Charles Upham who won his decoration during the Second World War. Incidentally Australia, New Zealand  and  Canada have their own version of the VC with the Canadian inscription being in Latin.

In more recent times (thankfully Ed.) the number of VCs awarded has slowed. Two were awarded posthumously in the Falklands Conflict, with Colonel H Jones famously amongst them. One was awarded in Iraq and two in the more recent war in Afghanistan. The greatest number awarded for one war was the Indian mutiny and the the eleven VCs awarded at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, involving the South Wales Borderers  was the most for a single skirmish.

Mr Gwyn Thomas thanked Janet John for a very informative talk.

The Society will now take a break until September, though members and supporters are reminded that the annual trip to Bath will take place on Saturday June 10th.


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