The Victoria Cross (VC) was awarded to those officers or men who had served and had performed acts of valour, or for devotion to their country. It was "born" in the carnage of the Crimean War, even though hostilities had ceased twelve months before the first award was made. Previously, the highest award for military prowess in the British Army was the Order of the Bath. This, however, was only awarded to senior officers. Junior officers and Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) may have won promotion in the field, but could also have won distinction by being mentioned in the General's dispatches. These honours were mainly given to staff officers immediately under the General's eye, and rarely to the officers actually engaged in front-line action.
In order to remedy the situation, the Distinguished Conduct Medal was instituted for NCO's and privates in 1854. This medal carried a pension and was highly valued, but there was a growing awareness of the need for a decoration which would be open to all, regardless of rank, and which would more fairly reflect the individual gallantry of men in the front line.
On 29 January 1855, the Duke of Newcastle (Secretary of State for War) announced a new award in a speech in the House of Lords. Within the War Office, an official memorandum on the subject was circulated, and the details of a cross to be awarded for "a single act of valour in the presence of the enemy" were laid out. Unfortunately, events slowed from this point on because the Duke of Newcastle lost his job within a few days of his speech. However, Queen Victoria was actively involved and took a great interest in the design of the cross. She amended the motto, substituting "for valour" where previously the award had stated "for the brave".
Queen Victoria decided that she would bestow her new award in Hyde Park on 26 June 1857. She remained on horseback throughout the ceremony and awarded 62 recipients with the Victoria Cross.
To date, 1355 Victoria Crosses have been awarded, the most recent of these being Private Johnson Beharry, who won his VC in Iraq.
The London Borough of Richmond is extremely proud that there are seven VC holders buried in the Borough cemeteries.
We have listed the names and burial locations of VC holders and information about the deed which led to the award of the Victoria Cross. Further general information on the Victoria Cross can be found on at www.victoriacross.org.uk.