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DeltaWhisky58
04-30-2007, 11:47 AM
Victoria and George Cross holders: the world's most exclusive club

30 Apr 07

With just 12 Victoria Cross and 21 George Cross holders still alive, the VC and GC Association is arguably the world's most exclusive club. But what are they really like, these men who have stared death in the face and done their duty regardless? Report by Lorraine McBride.

http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/HistoryAndHonour/GenerateThumbnail.aspx?imageURL=/NR/rdonlyres/DCF4D3EE-39A2-41C1-9075-6E04E5B6880E/0/VCwinners.jpg&maxSize=210 (http://www.mod.uk/NR/rdonlyres/DCF4D3EE-39A2-41C1-9075-6E04E5B6880E/0/VCwinners.jpg)
Bridging the generations: Lieutenant Eric Wilson and Private Johnson Beharry, both holders of the VC
[Picture: Steve Houlton]



The more Didy Grahame, the Secretary to the VC and GC Association, talks about her beloved Victoria Cross and George Cross holders, the more conventional they sound. Although they are all bona-fide heroes, Didy says:
"They are like a family. Courage is a given, but they are very humble people.They admire each other, but they think of themselves as unworthy."

Interviewed recently for a television documentary, Korean War veteran Bill Speakman VC said:
"The idea was to do the job you're trained to do as a soldier. You just can't bugger up, you know."Private Johnson Beharry VC, who saved the lives of his colleagues on two occasions, might agree. The only time he felt daunted was when preparing to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace.



Some recipients have felt the need to sell their medals, often to avoid rows between their children:
"By selling the medal they're taking the problem away," says Didy. "Now that they sell for such a huge sum, it is very difficult for someone to leave their medal to a regiment. The most important thing is that it is on display somewhere to serve as a future inspiration."Didy began her job in 1970, introduced to it through a friend of her father, Rear Admiral Godfrey Place, VC. During committee meetings, she sat among heroes, such as Group Captain Leonard Cheshire.

http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/HistoryAndHonour/GenerateThumbnail.aspx?imageURL=/NR/rdonlyres/FFAB4F3C-8A44-4E22-93F9-223777064B41/0/VictoriaandGeorgeCross.jpg&maxSize=210 (http://www.mod.uk/NR/rdonlyres/FFAB4F3C-8A44-4E22-93F9-223777064B41/0/VictoriaandGeorgeCross.jpg)
Badges of honour: The Victoria Cross (left) and the George Cross
[Picture: MOD]

The VC is 150 years old but only 1,352 men have received it.Queen Victoria introduced it during the Crimean War to recognise outstanding acts of bravery among servicemen. At first military leaders scorned the idea, fearing troops could become madly brave and breach discipline. The Queen was resolute however, and the medal was introduced in 1856. The GC followed in 1940, recognising courage in action but not under direct enemy fire.

The VC and GC Association was formed in 1956, following a series of stories about VC heroes who died in penury. Ex-Admiralty Secretary Duncan Sandys vowed that no hardup recipient should be prevented from attending the biennial three-day reunion. Always held in London, this starts with a remembrance service, and is followed by a party at St James's Palace.

Didy runs the association with a committee chaired by Jim Beaton GC, the Royal Protection Officer who was shot during an attempt to kidnap Princess Anne in 1974.



Didy says nothing really prepares medal-holders for the avalanche of attention that comes their way:
"They've gone through the experience of nearly losing their lives, and it will have been horrific. Suddenly, they're in the spotlight, and their lives are never the same again.The number of VC survivors from the Second World War dwindles every year. Which is one good reason why this remarkable band of brothers should be treasured.



When the Queen marked her 80th birthday with a parade down The Mall, she led the Royal Family to their feet applauding the open-top jeep carrying VC and GC holders. Millions of viewers were moved. This did not surprise Didy:
"Courage of that level is the finest human quality," she says. "If we cease to recognise that, we have fallen down as a civilization. We should treasure and respect them."All about George and Victorial Crosses

VCs are split roughly equally between officers and other ranks
Gurkhas and Royal Green Jackets are the most heavily decorated regiments
It is a myth that the VC outranks the GC. The latter is just newer
Chiefs of Staff will salute a private soldier awarded a VC or GC
The VC awarded to Australian Captain Alfred Shout sold for around £400,000 at auction in 2006Honours & Awards for galantry (http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceFor/Veterans/Medals/HonoursAndGallantryAwards.htm)

Honours and Gallantry Awards

Honours and Gallantry Summary (http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceFor/Veterans/Medals/HonoursAndGallantryAwards.htm)
Victoria Cross (http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceFor/Veterans/Medals/VictoriaCross.htm)
Distinguished Service Order (http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceFor/Veterans/Medals/DistinguishedServiceOrder.htm)
Conspicuous Gallantry Cross (http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceFor/Veterans/Medals/ConspicuousGallantryCross.htm)
Distinguished Service Cross (http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceFor/Veterans/Medals/DistinguishedServiceCross.htm)
Military Cross (http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceFor/Veterans/Medals/MilitaryCrossmc.htm)
Distinguished Flying Cross (http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceFor/Veterans/Medals/DistinguishedFlyingCross.htm)
George Cross (http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceFor/Veterans/Medals/GeorgeCross.htm) George Medal (http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceFor/Veterans/Medals/GeorgeMedal.htm)
Queen's Gallantry Medal (http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceFor/Veterans/Medals/QueensGallantryMedal.htm)
Air Force Cross (http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceFor/Veterans/Medals/AirForceCross.htm)
Other Medals (http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceFor/Veterans/Medals/BritishMedals.htm)

Factsheet: The Victoria Cross (http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/FactSheets/TheVictoriaCross.htm)
The George Cross Database (http://www.gc-database.co.uk/)

Source Defence Internet News (http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/HistoryAndHonour/VictoriaAndGeorgeCrossHoldersTheWorldsMostExclusiveClub.htm)

AROUETLJ
04-30-2007, 01:05 PM
Chiefs of Staff will salute a private soldier awarded a VC or GC

That's interesting. Does that mean they salute the Maltese flag, or the insignia of the (ex-) RUC?

DeltaWhisky58
04-30-2007, 01:18 PM
That's interesting. Does that mean they salute the Maltese flag, or the insignia of the (ex-) RUC?

I think not - neither the RUC or The Island of Malta are serving soldiers - you answered your own question.

Ordie
04-30-2007, 03:59 PM
Some RM / RN personnel on Diego Garcia had a double look on me from a distance as I wore my USN Good Conduct Medal at a ceremony. Its the same color ribbon and medal varnish as the VC. Except the medal is circular and you earn it by not getting caught doing something bad within four years of service.

Good read !!

indigo_prime
04-30-2007, 05:16 PM
Some RM / RN personnel on Diego Garcia had a double look on me from a distance as I wore my USN Good Conduct Medal at a ceremony. Its the same color ribbon and medal varnish as the VC. Except the medal is circular and you earn it by not getting caught doing something bad within four years of service.

Good read !!



FOUR years!!!! Our Long Service and Good Conduct medal is only awarde for 15 years of exemplary Service (or undetected crime!).

I got called into the Admin Officers office and told to write up a summary of my service. I asked what it was for and was told my LS&GC. I told the Admin Office 'With all due respect Sir, before I start writing, you may want to ask the Discipline Sergeant to take a look at my conduct sheets'.

Ten minutes later the Admin Officer returned and said 'Bloody hell Jones*, what on earth were you doing to end up in so much trouble?'.

Lets just say the scores on the doors were: 7 weeks total in Military Prison, 14 days Restrictions of Privileges, 150 quid in fines and one admonished charge :)

Needless to say, I didnt have to do the write up!!!

Ordie
04-30-2007, 06:05 PM
Needless to say, I didnt have to do the write up!!!

For us any medal or evaluation points goes towards advancement. Most of us put together 'brag sheets' for any little thing that we do as a means to get a bigger paycheck.

In the US they rather give medals than pay for compensation or big raises.

Back to the topic.

What other countries awards the VC?
Does India or Pakistan issue the VC or do they have thier own equivilant?

DeltaWhisky58
04-30-2007, 06:17 PM
For us any medal or evaluation points goes towards advancement. Most of us put together 'brag sheets' for any little thing that we do as a means to get a bigger paycheck.

In the US they rather give medals than pay for compensation or big raises.

Back to the topic.

What other countries awards the VC?
Does India or Pakistan issue the VC or do they have thier own equivilant?

No other country awards the VC per se, however it is a British award applicable to Commonwealth forces on recommendation from their own chain of command. VCs were awarded to Australian troops fighting in Vietnam, and it would be similarly applicable to for example New Zealand or Canadian troops operational in Iraq or Afghanistan. I'm really not sure about whether Indian/Pakistani troops would qualify these days - technically yes, but certainly not when operating under certain particular circumstances.

Kilgor
04-30-2007, 06:56 PM
William Reid (VC)

He was 21 years old, and an Acting Flight Lieutenant in 61 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve during the Second World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

On 3 November 1943 on the way to Düsseldorf, Germany, Flight Lieutenant Reid's windscreen was shattered by fire from a Messerschmitt and the gun turrets and cockpit badly damaged. Saying nothing of his multiple injuries, he continued on his mission and soon afterwards was attacked again, his navigator being killed and the wireless operator fatally wounded. He was wounded again, and also the flight engineer, while the Lancaster received more serious damage. Pressing on to his target, Flight Lieutenant Reid released his bombs, then set course for home and in spite of growing weakness from loss of blood, managed to land his crippled aircraft safely.

baboon6
05-02-2007, 04:43 PM
For us any medal or evaluation points goes towards advancement. Most of us put together 'brag sheets' for any little thing that we do as a means to get a bigger paycheck.

In the US they rather give medals than pay for compensation or big raises.

Back to the topic.

What other countries awards the VC?
Does India or Pakistan issue the VC or do they have thier own equivilant?

Canada has its own version of the VC now, with the inscription "Pro Valore" instead of "For Valour". It has not been awarded yet. Canada and Australia have their own honours systems now, both military and civilian, but both retain the VC as their highest medal for bravery in battle. So does New Zealand I believe. India has its own series of medals and does not award the VC, remember it is a republic unlike the three other countries I mentioned, which still have the Queen as head of state.

AROUETLJ
05-03-2007, 06:41 PM
No other country awards the VC per se, however it is a British award applicable to Commonwealth forces on recommendation from their own chain of command.

There's some confusion about the term "Commonwealth" on this forum (it's partly the Brits' fault. They could have found a different name for the organisation...). The Commonwealth, as an organisation, includes countries which have the British Sovereign as the head of state, and others which do not. I take it you're referring to the former. In that case, British titles and honours can still be awarded to citizens of these countries.

digrar
05-04-2007, 05:12 AM
We haven't given an Australian VC yet, but when it does happen I believe we will be giving an Australian VC, not a British one. I think the Kiwis and Canadians are in the same boat.

danielc
05-04-2007, 12:32 PM
Every country in Europe has a military award equivalent to the Victoria Cross.

The Victoria Cross is no more exclusive than the Iron Cross, or the Avis Cross, or the Croix de Guerre, or any of the other crosses awarded by governments to recognize outstanding military valour.

DeltaWhisky58
05-04-2007, 12:35 PM
Every country in Europe has a military award equivalent to the Victoria Cross.

The Victoria Cross is no more exclusive than the Iron Cross, or the Avis Cross, or the Croix de Guerre, or any of the other crosses awarded by governments to recognize outstanding military valour.

Absolute rubbish - clearly you have no idea what you are talking about. The VC has been around for over 150 years and only 1300-odd have been awarded.

Before you make such an ill-informed post again, look at just how difficult it is to win a VC. Three out of the past four awards have been posthumous, and only a handful have been awarded since the end of WW2 despite many and varied conflicts. Check you facts.

danielc
05-04-2007, 12:50 PM
Absolute rubbish - clearly you have no idea what you are talking about. The VC has been around for over 150 years and only 1300-odd have been awarded.

Before you make such an ill-informed post again, look at just how difficult it is to win a VC. Three out of the past four awards have been posthumous, and only a handful have been awarded since the end of WW2 despite many and varied conflicts. Check you facts.

I'm not contesting the value of earning a VC. I've read some of the stories of the men that have earned it, and they are terrific. I'm just pointing out the fact that it is not a "World Exclusive Club" award, but rather a British/Commonwealth exclusive award. Other countries likewise have their own awards for recognizing military valour, and do not call it "World Exclusive".

Robbee
05-04-2007, 12:58 PM
I'm not contesting the value of earning a VC. I've read some of the stories of the men that have earned it, and they are terrific. I'm just pointing out the fact that it is not a "World Exclusive Club" award, but rather a British/Commonwealth exclusive award. Other countries likewise have their own awards for recognizing military valour, and do not call it "World Exclusive".

You misunderstand the English usage of "The world's most exclusive club" in this article.
Don't read it literally - It's a figure of speech to show how rare the award is.

DeltaWhisky58
05-04-2007, 01:03 PM
Read the report again - not World Exclusive Club, but World's Most Exclusive Club, there is a difference.

For example, you compared the VC to the Iron Cross and the Croix de Guerre, they were given out in the tens of thousands. I'm not getting into a p!ssing contest with you, but I would ask you not to make such ill-informed and sweeping statements.

Noting where you are posting from, I doubt any of the Canadian VC recipients, their families or their Regiments etc. would agree with your contention.

There are only 12 living VC recipients - that's pretty damned exclusive from where I'm standing, and that was the point being made in the article I posted.

danielc
05-04-2007, 01:06 PM
You misunderstand the English usage of "The world's most exclusive club" in this article.
Don't read it literally - It's a figure of speech to show how rare the award is.

I see...thank you! I did in fact read it like that.

danielc
05-04-2007, 01:10 PM
Read the report again - not World Exclusive Club, but World's Most Exclusive Club, there is a difference.

For example, you compared the VC to the Iron Cross and the Croix de Guerre, they were given out in the tens of thousands. I'm not getting into a p!ssing contest with you, but I would ask you not to make such ill-informed and sweeping statements.

Noting where you are posting from, I doubt any of the Canadian VC recipients, their families or their Regiments etc. would agree with your contention.

There are only 12 living VC recipients - that's pretty damned exclusive from where I'm standing, and that was the point being made in the article I posted.

No problem. I understand it now.

DeltaWhisky58
05-04-2007, 01:14 PM
Thank you.

capixaba
05-09-2007, 06:53 PM
Here's is a link to an interesting VC website - http://www.victoriacross.org.uk/vcross.htm


In Memory Of
Serg't. John Meikle V.C. M.M. Late Clerk at Nitshill Station,who enlisted in H.M.Forces( Seaforth Highlanders ) 8th.February 1915 during the Great War and was killed in action on 20th. July 1918 (aged 19).

His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the Victoria Cross to Sergeant John Meikle late of the Seaforth Highlanders, a native of Kirkintilloch, for most conspicuous bravery and initiative when, his company having been held up by machine - gun fire, he rushed single-handed a machine - gun nest. He emptied his revolver into the crews of the two guns and put the remainder out of action with a heavy stick. Then, standing up, he waved his comrades on. Very shortly afterwards another hostile machine - gun checked progress, and threatened also the success of the company on the right. Most of his platoon having become casualties, Sergeant Meikle seized the rifle and bayonet of a fallen comrade, and again rushed forward against the gun crew, but was killed almost on the gun position. His bravery allowed two other men who followed him to put this gun out of action.
(London Gazette.)

Eoin666
05-10-2007, 09:10 AM
Excellent thread this, some amazing tales of heroism...


Every country in Europe has a military award equivalent to the Victoria Cross.

The Victoria Cross is no more exclusive than the Iron Cross, or the Avis Cross, or the Croix de Guerre, or any of the other crosses awarded by governments to recognize outstanding military valour.

5 million iron cross second class were issued, 750,000 iron cross first class in WWII. The higher order which you may have been thinking of is the Knights Cross of which 7313 were issued, 883 with oakleaves, 159 with oakleaves and swords, and 27 with diamonds, only ONE with golden oakleaves to Hans Ulrich Rudel.
However, as far as I am aware these were usually issued to generals, u-boat commanders etc for outstanding leadership and the like not for actual gallantry (please correct me if I'm wrong here) and not to soldiers as such UNLIKE the VC which I think is a big distinction. Also there were 12750 Heroes of the Soviet Union, and 3444 Congressional Medals of Honor, so the VC with only 1356 in 150 yrs is certainly the most exclusive.

One thing about the VC though is the issue of award to ship's captains for example, I think it detracts from the awards for individual acts of gallantry, and while I understand it may be issued to the whole ship's company for example, it's the individual commander who will bear the title of VC.