All soldiers are brave but there some who have gone above and beyond in their service, and quite rightly their efforts have been commended with the Victoria Cross.
What Is The Victoria Cross?
The Victoria Cross is the highest accolade of the British Honours System.
It is awarded to members of the British Armed Forces who show unparalleled bravery in the face of the enemy.
The medal was introduced on January 29, 1856, by Queen Victoria, to reward the bravery shown by soldiers during the Crimean War. At first, the policy excluded the award being given to soldiers who had died in action. In 1902 an exception was made and six soldiers received the award posthumously for their efforts in the Second Boer War. Eventually, five years later in 1907, the policy was changed to reflect the bravery of those that had died in fighting for the country.
How Many Victoria Crosses Have Been Awarded?
A total of 1,360 Victoria Crosses have been given since the first one in 1856. This does not include the second VCs received by three soldiers.
On June 26, 1857, Queen Victoria attended an event in Hyde Park, London, to invest 62 of the 111 Crimean War recipients of the Victoria Cross.
Who Was The First Recipient Of The Victoria Cross?
The first recipient of the Victoria Cross was Rear Admiral Charles Davis Lucas at just 20 years old, having joined the Royal Navy aged 13 in 1847. He was serving onboard HMS Hecla which was part of an Anglo-French fleet in the Baltic, attacking the Russian Fortress of Bomarsund during the Crimean War.
The fortress had 80 guns. A live shell from a gun landed on the deck of the ship about to go off, Charles picked it up and threw it overboard where it exploded, saving countless lives and the ship.
Who Was The Most Recent Recipient Of The Victoria Cross?
The most recent recipient of the Victoria Cross was Corporal Joshua Leakey in 2015. He joined the British Army in 2007, where he was posted to 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment. While serving out in Afghanistan in 2013, the routine joint patrol he was on came under fire. Over his radio, he heard that someone had been injured and came up with a plan of action.
He lead his section to where the injured soldier was. With his group under attack, Leakey gave first aid treatment before returning (still under fire) to his machine gun to start a counter-attack. With another soldier manning his gun he ran over to a second machine gun, fighting ceased when air support arrived and Leakey returned to the injured soldier to oversee the medical evacuation.
After being presented the Victoria Cross by Her Majesty The Queen Cpl Leakey said:
"It's great for my family, my friends, my regiment, but it does for me highlight the sacrifice everyone made in Afghan - not just in terms of the loss of life and limbs but people going away for months on end."
WATCH as HM The Queen presents Cpl Leakey with his Victoria Cross
Has Anyone Been Awarded More Than One Victoria Cross?
There are only three people who have received the Victoria Cross twice in its 163-year history. Captain Arthur Martin-Leake received his first medal for his heroics during the Boer War in 1902 and his second in 1915 for rescuing wounded men under heavy fire during the First Battle of Ypres.
Captain Noel Chavasse tended to the wounded at night under fire during fighting at Guillemont in World War One and for this, he received his first Victoria Cross in February 1917. In July 1917, Capt Chavasse was at the Battle of Passchendaele, having received a head wound early on in the fight he refused to leave and continued to look after the other wounded soldiers.
He died on August 4, 1917, having been hit by a blast from a shell two days previously. His second Victoria Cross was awarded posthumously.
Captain Charles Upham served with the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force during the Second World War. While fighting German forces in Crete in 1941, he carried a wounded soldier to safety, despite himself also being wounded. His second Victoria Cross was awarded in 1942 when in North Africa he helped capture a German position, destroying tanks and vehicles despite being injured.
His arm had been shattered by machine-gun fire, his wounds were dressed and he carried on fighting with his men even though he suffered from further injuries. He served out the rest of the Second World War in Colditz Castle after being captured by the Germans.