Victoria Cross

Significance

The Victoria Cross is the pre-eminent award for acts of bravery in wartime and Australia's highest military honour.

It is awarded to persons who, in the presence of the enemy, display the most conspicuous gallantry; a daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice; or extreme devotion to duty.

History

The Victoria Cross was created by Queen Victoria in 1856 and made retrospective to 1854 to cover the period of the Crimean War.

Australians were eligible for the Victoria Cross and other awards under the Imperial system of honours, until the Victoria Cross was instituted in the Australian honours system by Letters Patent on 15 January 1991.

The Victoria Cross has been awarded to 100 Australians, including five Australians serving with South African and British units.

Australians have been awarded the Victoria Cross in the following conflicts:

  • 6 in the Boer War 1899-1902
  • 64 in World War I 1914-1918 (9 at Gallipoli)
  • 2 in North Russia 1919
  • 20 in World War II 1939-1945
  • 4 in Vietnam 1962-1972
  • 4 in Afghanistan 2001-2013

Past recipients

The first Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross was Captain Sir Neville Howse VC KCMG CB KStJ during the Boer War (1900). He also served in World War I and later as Commonwealth Minister for Health, Defence and Repatriation.

Warrant Officer Keith Payne VC OAM was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry during the Vietnam War (24 May 1969). Under heavy enemy fire Payne instigated a daring rescue of more than forty men, many of them wounded, and led the party back to the battalion base.

The Victoria Cross was awarded to Trooper Mark Donaldson VC, to Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith VC MG, to Corporal Daniel Keighran VC and Corporal Cameron Stewart Baird VC MG for action in Afghanistan.

Search the Australian Honours List for recipients of the Victoria Cross.

How it is awarded

The Governor-General awards the Victoria Cross, with the approval of the Sovereign, on the recommendation of the Minister for Defence.

The Victoria Cross may be awarded posthumously.

The post-nominal entitlement for the Victoria Cross is VC.

A subsequent award of the Victoria Cross to the same person is made as a bar to the Cross. They are also entitled to the post-nominal VC and Bar.

Medal design

Victoria Cross

Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross is a Maltese Cross, cast in bronze from cannons captured during the Crimean War (1854-1856). There is sufficient metal for a number of new medals to be cast from these cannons. They are each handmade by Hancocks and Company (Jewellers) of London.

The obverse of the Victoria Cross bears a crowned lion standing on a royal crown. The words 'FOR VALOUR' are inscribed on a semi-circular scroll beneath the crown.

The reverse of the cross is engraved with the date of the act of bravery and the name, rank and unit of the recipient.

The suspension bar is decorated with laurel leaves and bears a 'V' from which the cross hangs.

Medal ribbon

The medal ribbon of the Victoria Cross is crimson.

Print fact sheet

The information on this page is available as a printable fact sheet.

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Last Updated: 30 June, 2014