Being awarded the Victoria Cross is amongst the highest of achievements for a British soldier - it holds joint status with the George Cross. Only those who have shown extreme gallantry in the presence of an enemy are eligible to receive the medal; considered heroes with their impressive tales of bravery left to inspire soldiers of future generations. 

British Medals: The History of the Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross was introduced on the 29th January 1856, so that Queen Victoria could honour extreme acts of bravery which took place during the Crimean War. It was different, as any deserving member of the Armed Forces could receive the award; rank, race or gender did not matter. 

The medal is struck from bronze, with the metal once said to be taken from a gun captured in the Crimean War. You may wonder why such a prestigious medal is not made from a more valuable material. The value lies in the sentiment, the significance of the award, and how our soldiers put their lives on the line to protect their country during extreme danger.

As the name suggests, the medal is in the shape of a cross. The front displays a lion standing upon a crown, with the inscription “For Valour”. View our museum-quality replica of the Victoria Cross Medal.

Initially, the medal ribbons were in different colours depending on a soldier's area of service - crimson for the Army and navy blue for the Royal Navy. However, during the reign of King George V, the crimson ribbon was allocated to all services. 

To be eligible for the medal, the act has to be seen by a number of witnesses before it is considered and sent to the current Monarch for approval. 

How many Victoria Cross Medals have been awarded?

Queen Victoria presented the first cohort of medals, 62 in total, to servicemen during a ceremony in Hyde Park in the Summer of 1857. 

Since it was established, 1,358 Victoria Cross medals have been awarded to soldiers from across the Commonwealth and the British Empire. 

According to the National Army Museum, 626 medals were awarded during World War I and 181 in World War II. 

A single person can be awarded multiple Victoria Cross medals during their service for their significant contributions to battle. To date, three people have received the medal twice; Surgeon Captain Arthur Martin-Leake, Captain Noel Chavasse and Captain Charles Upham.

Of course, many heroic acts sadly ended in loss of life. In 1902, the Victoria Cross began to be awarded posthumously. This change has resulted in 295 soldiers being recognised for their honourable bravery.

It is worth noting that there have been a number of Royal Warrants that changed the eligibility criteria for the Victoria Cross in order to recognise other deserving individuals in a range of circumstances.

Since World War II, only 13 people have received this medal, with the last occurring in 2004 to Private Johnson Beharry to recognise gallantry during the war in Iraq.

Medal Yearbook 2024

The softback edition features all official British and Empire medals awarded and sanctioned for wear. In addition, the Deluxe Hardback edition includes Life Saving medals, unofficial medals, foreign medals found in British groups and the modern up-to-date medals of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.

British Medals available on our website

We are proud to offer a wide selection of replacement and replica Campaign Medals for the British Armed Forces, Allied Forces and Civilians participating in specified military campaigns - all of which have been licenced by the Ministry of Defence and die-struck in the UK to the precise standard. 

We also have a range of Commemorative Medals available to purchase. The majority of these have been produced in conjunction with a veteran group or charity.