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Medal for the bravest of the brave

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Auteur Bericht

Geregistreerd op: 2-2-2005
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BerichtGeplaatst: 28 Jun 2006 16:03    Onderwerp: Medal for the bravest of the brave Reageer met quote

The warrant for the introduction of the Victoria Cross in 1856 is explicitly democratic.

The sixth paragraph of the warrant states: "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."

It also specific in terms of where and how the honour should be worn: "the Cross shall be suspended from the left breast by a blue riband for the navy, and by a red riband for the army".

No mention, of course of those new fangled flying machines which wouldn't appear for another 50 years or so.

Indeed, according to the website , only one fighter pilot was awarded the VC during the whole of the Second World War, Flight Lieutenant Eric James Brindley, who was killed in action over the Bay of Bengal in May 1945.

The author of the site, the late Alf Askin, explained it with this footnote: "Many considered that other pilots were also worthy of such an honour. However, the general view is that the purpose of a fighter pilot is to shoot down the enemy, and as such is only doing his normal job."

Alf's site is clearly a labour of love. He began it in 2000 and continued the work until his death in July last year.

In the end, his family says in a note on the home page, he was too ill to realise his ambition of naming all holders of the VC on the website.

And unfortunately time has taken its toll on some of the information on the site. The front page talks of 1,352 VCs, whereas another website, written by Ian 'Scoop' Stewart, puts the figure at 1,355.

At the time of Alf's death, there were 14 living VCs, today, Ian Stewart's site puts the figure at 12 following the recent deaths of Rifleman Lachiman Gurung, who was awarded his VC in July 1945 and Canadian Ernest A Smith, who was awarded his in December 1944.

That's not to say, however, that all the information on Alf's site has been overtaken by anno domini.

His legacy is a fascinating insight into many things VC - including the medal's history and many links to information about its holders.

Among them are a couple of unexpected items.

One is called The Sinnott Mystery, which details the loss and rediscovery of the VC awarded to Lance-Corporal John Sinnott, which it appears had been stolen from the family home in London during the First World War.

Now it appears there are two Sinnott medals. One in the possession of his great, great-grand-daughter, Heather Crew-Gee in Winnipeg, Canada and the other in the York and Lancaster Regimental Museum. At the time of his death, Alf hadn't discovered which one was the replica, however.

Another section of the site details those who have, for one reason or another, lost their VC, not through theft or negligence, but by dint of what might be called "behaviour unbecoming".

Article 15 of the Royal Warrant says that a VC convicted of a criminal offence should lose the decoration.

Searjeant James McGuire threw a burning box of ammunition into a canal saving many lives to earn his VC in 1857 and lost it for stealing a cow, while Gunner James Collis of the Royal Horse Artillery in the Afghan War won his for bravery under fire in 1890 and lost it for bigamy in 1895.

Not even royalty agreed with that, however. On Collis's death, his sister made a plea to King George to have the decoration restored.

His Private Secretary wrote back that the King felt: "even were a VC to be sentenced to be hanged for murder, he should be allowed to wear his VC on the scaffold."
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