Close-up: The Victoria Cross

Last updated at 08:43 18 March 2005


A hero soldier has been awarded the first Victoria Cross since 1982 after he rescued colleagues in two ambush attacks in Iraq.

  • Private Johnson Beharry, 25, becomes the first recipient in 23 years of the Victoria Cross - the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
  • The VC can only be offered for a pre-eminent act of valour "in the presence of the enemy".
  • It was first bestowed in 1856, recognising bravery during the Crimean War of 1854 to 1855.
  • Since then, 1,355 awards have been made, 57 of which have been won by the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment or its forebearers.
  • Each medal has been made by London jewellers Messrs Hancocks from the bronze of Chinese cannons captured from Russian troops at the siege of Sevastopol.
  • A 358oz cascabel of the metal - a large knob at the rear of the cannon that held ropes to man-handle the weapon - is stored at the Army's Central Ordnance Depot at Donnington and it is thought there is enough material left for about 85 more medals.
  • There is now a requirement for at least three witnesses to attest to acts of valour to ensure they are worthy of the Cross.
  • Before today, the VC had been awarded only 11 times since 1945.
  • The last occasions were to Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Jones and Sergeant Ian John McKay, who both received posthumous awards following the Falklands War.
  • It has been estimated that the chance of surviving an action worthy of a Victoria Cross is 10 per cent.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now