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THE VICTORIA CROSS.
Ir was not until 1856 that an order was established to which all ranks of the army might aspire. This new distinction of valour appropriately bears the name of the "Victoria Cross," and its value is heightened by the fact of the Queen having, on more than one occasion, personally conferred the decoration. As the Right Honourable Benjamin Disraeli happily observed on the occasion of proposing thanks to the Army and Navy for their services in the Crimea, "Every village has its hero, and every fireside has its story."
The following is a copy of the instrument instituting the decoration of the "Victoria Cross," and the accompanying deeds for which it has been bestowed naturally rank as "Curiosities of War."
VICTORIA, by the grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith, etc.,
To all to whom these presents shall come, greeting: Whereas we, taking into our royal consideration that there exists no means of adequately rewarding the individual gallant services either of Officers of the lower grades in our Naval and Military Service, or of Warrant and Petty Officers, Seamen and Marines in our Navy, and Non-commissioned Officers and Soldiers in our Army; and whereas the Third Class of our Most Honorable Order of the Bath is limited, except in very rare cases, to the higher ranks of both Services, and the granting of medals, both in our Navy and Army, is only awarded for long service or
meritorious conduct, rather than for bravery in action or distinction before an enemy, such cases alone excepted where a general medal is granted for a particular action or campaign, or a clasp added to the medal for some special engagement, in both of which cases all share equally in the boon, and those who by their valour have particularly signalized themselves remain undistinguished from their comrades; now, for the purpose of attaining an end so desirable as that of rewarding individual instances of merit and valour, we have instituted and created, and by these presents, for 11s, our heirs and successors, institute and create a new Naval and Military Decoration, which we are desirous should be highly prized and eagerly sought after by the Officers and Men of our Naval and Military Services, and are graciously pleased to make, ordain, and establish the following rules and ordinances for the government of the same, which shall from henceforth be inviolably observed and kept:
Firstly. It is ordained, that the distinction shall be styled and designated "The Victoria Cross," and shall consist of a Maltese Cross of Bronze, with our Royal Crest in the centre, and underneath which an escroll bearing this inscription "For Valour."
Secondly. It is ordained, that the Cross shall be suspended from the left breast, by a blue riband for the Navy, and by a red riband for the Army.
Thirdly. It is ordained, that the names of those upon whom we may be pleased to confer the Decoration shall be published in the London Gazette, and a registry thereof kept in the office of our Secretary of State for War.
Fourthly. It is ordained, that any one who, after having received the Cross, shall again perform an act of bravery, which if he had not received such Cross would have entitled him to it, such further act shall be recorded, by a Bar attached to the riband by which the Cross is suspended, and for every additional act of bravery an additional Bar may be added.
Fifthly. It is ordained, that the Cross shall only be awarded to those Officers or Men who have served us in the presence of the enemy, and shall have then performed some signal act of valour, or devotion to their country.
Sixthly. It is ordained, with a view to place all persons on a perfectly equal footing in relation to eligibility for the Decoration,
that neither rank, nor long service, nor wounds, nor any other circumstance or condition whatsoever, save the merit of conspicuous bravery, shall be held to establish a sufficient claim to the honour.
Seventhly. It is ordained, that the Decoration may be conferred on the spot where the act to be rewarded by the grant of such Decoration has been performed, under the following circum
I. When the Fleet or Army, in which such act has been performed, is under the eye and command of an Admiral or General Officer commanding the Forces.
II. Where the naval or military force is under the eye and command of an Admiral or Commodore commanding a squadron or detached naval force, or of a General commanding a corps, or division, or brigade on a distinct and detached service, when such Admiral, Commodore, or General Officer shall have the power of conferring the Decoration on the spot, subject to confirmation by us.
Eighthly. It is ordained, where such act shall not have been performed in sight of a Commanding Officer as aforesaid, then the claimant for the honour shall prove the act to the satisfaction of the Captain or Officer commanding his ship, or to the Officer commanding the regiment to which the claimant belongs, and such Captain or such commanding Officer shall report the same through the usual channel to the Admiral or Commodore commanding the force employed on the service, or to the Officer commanding the forces in the field, who shall call for such description and attestation of the act as he may think requisite, and on approval shall recommend the grant of the Decoration.
Ninthly. It is ordained, that every person selected for the Cross under rule seven shall be publicly decorated before the naval or military force or body to which he belongs, and with which the act of bravery for which he is to be rewarded shall have been performed, and his name shall be recorded in a General Order, together with the cause of his especial distinction.
Tenthly. It is ordained, that every person selected under rule eight shall receive his Decoration as soon as possible, and his name shall likewise appear in a General Order as above required, such General Order to be issued by the naval or military commander of the forces employed on the service.
Eleventhly. It is ordained, that the General Orders above referred to shall from time to time be transmitted to our Secretary of State for War, to be laid before us, and shall be by him registered.
Twelfthly. It is ordained, that as cases may arise not falling within the rules above specified, or in which a claim, though well founded, may not have been established on the spot, we will, on the joint submission of our Secretary of State for War and of our Commander-in-Chief of our Army, or on that of our Lord High Admiral or Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty in the case of the Navy, confer the Decoration, but never without conclusive proof of the performance of the act of bravery for which the claim is made.
Thirteenthly. It is ordained, that in the event of a gallant and daring act having been performed by a squadron, ship's company, a detached body of seamen and marines, not under fifty in number, or by a brigade, regiment, troop or company, in which the Admiral, General, or other Officer commanding such forces may deem that all are equally brave and distinguished, and that no special selection can be made by them; then in such case the Admiral, General, or other Officer commanding may direct, that for any such body of seamen or marines, or for every troop or company of soldiers, one officer shall be selected by the officers engaged for the Decoration; and in like manner one petty officer or non-commissioned officer shall be selected by the petty officers and non-commissioned officers engaged; and two seamen or private soldiers or marines shall be selected by the seamen or private soldiers or marines engaged respectively for the Decoration; and the names of those selected shall be transmitted by the senior Officer in command of the naval force, brigade, regiment, troop or company, to the Admiral or General Officer commanding, who shall in due manner confer the Decoration as if the acts were done under his own eye.
Fourteenthly. It is ordained, that every warrant officer, petty officer, seaman or marine, or non-commissioned officer or soldier who shall have received the Cross shall, from the date of the act by which the Decoration has been gained, be entitled to a Special Pension of Ten Pounds a-year, and each additional Bar conferred under Rule Four on such warrant or petty officers, or non-com
missioned officers or men, shall carry with it an additional Pension of Five Pounds per annum.
Fifteenthly. In order to make such additional provision as shall effectually preserve pure this most honorable distinction, it is ordained, that if any person on whom such distinction shall be conferred be convicted of treason, cowardice, felony, or of any infamous crime, or if he be accused of any such offence and doth not after a reasonable time surrender himself to be tried for the same, his name shall forthwith be erased from the registry of individuals upon whom the said Decoration shall have been conferred by an especial Warrant under our Royal Sign Manual, and the Pension conferred under Rule Fourteen shall cease and determine from the date of such Warrant. It is hereby further declared that we, our heirs and successors, shall be the sole judges of the circumstance demanding such expulsion; moreover, we shall at all times have power to restore such persons as may at any time have been expelled, both to the enjoyment of the Decoration and Pension.
Given at our Court at Buckingham Palace, this 29th day of January, in the 19th year of our reign, and in the year of our Lord 1856.
By Her Majesty's Command,
To our Principal Secretary
RECIPIENTS OF THE VICTORIA CROSS,
Second Dragoon Guards.
Lieutenant (now Captain) ROBERT BLAIR.-Date of act of bravery, 28th September, 1857.-A most gallant feat was here performed by Lieutenant Blair, who was ordered to take a party of one sergeant and twelve men, and bring in a deserted ammunition waggon. As his party approached, a body of fifty or sixty of the enemy's horse came down upon him from a village, where they had remained unobserved; without a moment's hesitation he formed up his men, and, regardless of the odds, gallantly led them on, dashing through the rebels. He made good his retreat without