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    Seals At Blakeney Point

The Victoria Cross Story

Three vc bar

Our Zoom talk on 8 November was a timely one at the start of Remembrance Week. Jeremy Prescott spoke about the history of the Victoria Cross and the other medals for heroism and bravery awarded to the armed forces and related the stories of a few quite remarkable men and women who have sacrificed themselves for the nation. Jeremy himself had a distinguished military career including several tours of duty in combat zones and concluding his service as Lt. Colonel commanding the East Anglian Regiment. After retirement he has committed his time and energy to community work and to remembrance.


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 1358 times to 1355 individuals. Yes, that does mean that three men were awarded the VC twice – as it is known “VC and Bar”. They are pictured below.

Lt. Col Arthur Martin-Leake was awarded his first VC for his actions as a medic in the Boer war: his second for rescuing soldiers in World War 1. He survived the war and died in 1953. Captain Noel Chavasse, also a medic, received his first VC for saving 20 wounded men in the line of fire in no-mans land in France in 1916. One year later he acted again with incredible valour to save and treat wounded soldiers in Belgium. He was wounded in action and died in August 1917. Captain Charles Upham, a New Zealand solider in WWII, got his first VC in Crete in 1941 and his second during the First Battle of Alamein in 1942, when he was captured and sent to Colditz. He was the only man to receive two VC’s in WWII.

One in five VC’s have been awarded posthumously. Only one woman has been awarded a VC, that was Elizabeth Webber Harris who received a replica or honorary medal for her bravery during a cholera outbreak in India in 1869, that affected her husband’s regiment. As women were not eligible for a VC, the regiment, with the permission of the Queen, awarded her a gold replica citing her “indomitable pluck”.

We were also reminded of more recent acts of great valour – Lt Col H Jones at Goose Green in the Falklands, and Private Johnson Beharry in Iraq.

From 1946 to date there have been only 15 VCs awarded. There are only 9 living VC holders. Jeremy posed the question why? Since there has been no shortage of amazing acts of valour, in Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan, why have no more been recognised with the ultimate medal? Could it be bureaucracy? Could it be politics? Jeremy left us pondering.

To support the very many brave members of the forces who are traumatized by their battle experience, Jeremy Prescott donates all his speaking fees to the Veterans Mental Health Charity “Combat Stress”. He encouraged us all to consider an individual donation that can be made via his website HERE