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The Victoria Cross

Yesterday vanished with more alacrity than usual, and I failed to mention a date remembered by many: On January 29, 1856, Royal Warrant created the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest recognition for valour in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to members of the British and Commonwealth armed forces of any rank in any service, and civilians under military command.

A total of 1,355 Victoria Crosses have been awarded since 1856 to British, Irish, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, Indian, and African recipients. Only three people have been awarded the Victoria Cross twice: Noel Chavasse and Arthur Martin-Leake, both members of The Royal Army Medical Corps, and New Zealander Charles Upham. Irishman, Surgeon General William Manley, remains the sole recipient of both the Victoria Cross and the Iron Cross, which he received for tending the wounded during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. There are currently only twelve surviving holders of the VC – six British, two Australians, and four Gurkhas – eight of them for exploits during the Second World War. (Brits called Gurkhas “the bravest of the brave.”)

They all displayed conspicuous bravery, some pre-eminent act of daring, self-sacrifice, and extreme devotion to duty. Here are some of their stories.