The Victoria Cross (VC) was introduced on 29th January 1856 by Queen Victoria. She decided upon the award to reward the bravery shown by soldiers in the Crimean War. It was originally designed to recognise valour in the face of the enemy and was open to all service personnel of the British Empire (and then the Commonwealth). On the 26th June 1857, Queen Victoria personally attended a huge event in Hyde Park, where she invested 62 of the 111 Crimean War recipients of the VC. Official policy at first excluded the award of the VC to soldiers who had died during the action. In 1902, in an exception to this policy, 6 men were awarded the VC posthumously for their actions in the Second Boer War. Finally, in 1907, the policy was reversed and duly VCs were sent to the next of kin of the 6 men who were mentioned in the London Gazette before the policy was reversed as worthy of a VC.
Since 1991, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have created their own gallantry awards for their honours system. These are known as the Canadian Victoria Cross, Victoria Cross for Australia and Victoria Cross for New Zealand.
At the time of going to press (January 2022), there are 5 living recipients of the original VC award, and 4 living recipients of the new VC for Australia and New Zealand. John Cruikshank, Rambahadur Limbu, Keith Payne, Johnson Beharry and Joshua Leakey are the living recipients of the VC, and Willie Apiata, Mark Donaldson, Ben Roberts-Smith and Daniel Keighran are the living recipients of the new VC for Australia or New Zealand. Cameron Baird was awarded a posthumous VCfA in February 2014, In 2020, it was announced that Teddy Sheean would be awarded a posthumous VCfA following a lengthy campaign. He had originally been awarded a Mentioned in Despatches for his actions in World War II.
The largest collection of VC’s held in the world is the Lord Ashcroft Gallery in the Imperial War Museum in London which contains the joint collections of the Museum itself and the 200 VC’s (as of October 2016) owned by Michael Ashcroft. The second largest is the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia which holds a large percentage of all the 101 Australian VC’s and VCFA’s awarded. VC’s demand a high price when they are brought up for auction. The reputed record price paid was for the VC and medal group of Noel Chavasse VC and Bar, which was sold to Michael Ashcroft for a reported £1.5 million. Recently, Gordon Campbell’s impressive VC medal group was sold at auction for well over £700,000.