The VC - Too difficult to win??

#1
The recent award of the (Aussie) VC has got me thinking about our own honours and awards system. In particular, why there have been so few UK VCs in recent years.

While it must, of course, remain the absolute pinnacle of achievement, are we really saying there have only been 2 occasions in all the fighting we have been conducting in Iraq and Afghanistan that have merited the award?

Having commanded an Inf Coy on Herrick recently, and therefore been intimately involved in writing citations for some pretty outstanding acts, I know all too well how hard it is to get anything (let alone something like an MC) so my question to the Arrse masses is: has the system swung too far and is the VC just too (politically?) unpalatable to award in the UK more often??
 

the_boy_syrup

LE
Book Reviewer
#2
I'm sure alot of people will come flying along to shout me down but:
I can't help agreeing with what you say but that also L/Cpl Beharry's actions for which he was awarded his V.C. would probably [only] merit an M.C. now
I personally doubt that we will see another living V.C. recipient when you read some of the citations for M.C.'s and what was carried out for that to be awarded
 
#4
The reason there are so few (outside of World Wars) is the Criteria needed to win one..

Victoria Cross - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest military decoration which is, or has been, awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories.
See the wiki page for the award process. Quite convoluted and usually 3 witnesses of the event are required.

'In the Face of the Enemy' is the operative part. Since 1945 there have only been a handful of events which would qualify given hand to hand combat (in the face of the enemy) for the award. The Falklands, Iraq and today Afghanistan clearly qualify. Nown and again there are much smaller operations which may qualify. I seem to recall consideration was given to a member of those we do not mention for operations in Oman and lesser awards for given for the mission in Sierra Leone.

Anyway many Congrats to Cpl Benjamin Roberts-Smith everyone in Australia should be very proud of him as we are of British Awards.

I am sure
 
#5
The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour acts of valour during the Crimean War. Since then, the medal has been awarded 1,356 times to 1,353 individual recipients. Only 13 medals, nine to members of the British Army, and four to the Australian Army, have been awarded since the Second World War. The traditional explanation of the source of the gunmetal from which the medals are struck is that it derives from Russian cannon captured at the siege of Sevastopol.

A recommendation for the VC is normally issued by an officer at regimental level, or equivalent, and has to be supported by three witnesses, although this has been waived on occasion. The recommendation is then passed up the military hierarchy until it reaches the Secretary of State for Defence. The recommendation is then laid before the monarch who approves the award with his or her signature.

Victoria Cross - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
#6
I know the criteria and history of the award well enough, my question is why haven't been more of them awarded? There is plenty of fighting in the face of the enemy, quite often bayonets fixed....
 
#8
So - that's an average of roughly 15 a year up to 1945, and one every five years since then. Clearly, WW1 and WW2 were larger and more intense conflicts, but one can't help wondering whether there is more reluctance to award now? I wonder what proportion of the total were awarded in the 2 World Wars?
 
#9
Off on a tangent but who/how does it benefit anyone to hand out VC's? Maybe the prestige/publicity is too great to bear (didn't Bill Speakman-Pitt say as much?) Prehaps it's time to retire the award and ue the CGC.
 

the_boy_syrup

LE
Book Reviewer
#10
So - that's an average of roughly 15 a year up to 1945, and one every five years since then. Clearly, WW1 and WW2 were larger and more intense conflicts, but one can't help wondering whether there is more reluctance to award now? I wonder what proportion of the total were awarded in the 2 World Wars?
Don't forget during WW1 and parts of WW2 theer was no G.C.
So awards of the V.C. where made then would would be covered by the G.C. today
L/Cpl Croucher G.C. R.M. would be a case in point a similer act in WW1 saw the awarding of a V.C.
 
#12
Remember the lad who threw himself on top of a grenade about a year ago?

He should have been awarded one, not sure if he was awarded a medal, but he knowingly sacrificed his life to save his comrades.

The fact that he survived with scratches doesn't take away his selflessness, and that's probably just one of many similar stories.
 

RP578

LE
Book Reviewer
#13
I know the criteria and history of the award well enough, my question is why haven't been more of them awarded? There is plenty of fighting in the face of the enemy, quite often bayonets fixed....
I think you've touched on two separate. but interlinked themes, Firstly, the perceived stinginess by the Armed Forces (well certainly the British Army) to hand out gallantry awards in general; and secondly, the awarding of the VC itself.

Taking the latter first, there now seems to be many more situations in combat that seem to warrant a GC rather than a VC when compared with previous conflicts. Contrast 2Lt Premindra Singh Bhagat VC's actions with a modern day EOD type or Mark Wright GC. Would LCpl Croucher and Tpr Finney have received a VC in WW2 instead of their GCs?

As for the general paucity of awards, it does seem that way to me. There were so many blokes in my Coy who deserved a MC, but didn't even receive a MiD. When I asked about what happened to all the recommendations that we made, our OC said that was something of a quota in place. I have no idea if this is true, but if so it would seem to defeat the whole point of recognising bravery.
 
#14
Vinnie, the guy you are on about was awarded the GC (not in the face of the enemy).

I think crazy has something, if you look at the troop commitment the British has had in various combat environments continuously for the last ten years, then compare to the Aussies, we must have had more that should/would have qualified.

Not taking away anything the two Aussie Blades have done...NINJA! But if in the British Army would they have benn awarded it??? I think we need a review of our awards system to bring it in to line with the present fighting we are experiencing in afghanistan.
 
#15
Off on a tangent but who/how does it benefit anyone to hand out VC's? Maybe the prestige/publicity is too great to bear (didn't Bill Speakman-Pitt say as much?) Prehaps it's time to retire the award and ue the CGC.
This is exactly my point. If you are going to have it, award it!
 
#16
Remember the lad who threw himself on top of a grenade about a year ago?

He should have been awarded one, not sure if he was awarded a medal, but he knowingly sacrificed his life to save his comrades.

The fact that he survived with scratches doesn't take away his selflessness, and that's probably just one of many similar stories.
Previous citations tend to emphasise repeated acts of gallantry over a period of time, or pre-meditated acts, in either case with the individual being fully aware of the likelihood of death.

Not to take away from the act you mention, or similar ones, but perhaps one-off acts of spontaneity are judged to fall outside some measure of the deliberate comprehension of the risk?
 
#17
Surely it comes down to the recommendations made with regards to the acts of bravery performed, if the recommendations made are not good enough etc then no award will be given.
I took part in op telic, an MC was awarded to somebody whilst over there and to be honest i doubt if his actions would even get an MiD now and there were other acts of bravery in the same operation which resulted in nothing.
I think its the failure of the reporting of acts of bravery/gallantry which means there are less rewards or maybe all the lads and lasses over there dont think what they have seen is any different from another so are more blasa (spelling mong) about it and not reporting anything
 
#19
I read an article recently in which a US preacher castigated that country's army for a bias in the awarding of Medals of Honor to those soldiers whose acts had saved lives, rather than taken them. Could it be the case, given the number of awarded GC's compared to awarded VC's, that there is a similar reluctance among both military and political hierarchy in the UK to recognise, at the highest level, an individual soldier's valour in killing the enemy, when it is much less contentious, politically, to recognise valour which does not involve the nasty business of killing?
 
#20
It's always seemed a little strange to me that we award medals for bravery. Not that I don't see the point - just that the system will never be good enough to reward even a sizeable percentage of those who are deserving. It seems even stranger that somebody in an office should read through a pile of citations, and decide which ones were braver than others.
 

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