What Is It? April 2015


We had several correct guesses to our April’s What Is It. The medal pictured is the Victoria Cross. It is a British decoration awarded for conspicuous bravery and begun by Queen Victoria in 1856. (Photo courtesy of the British Royal Mint.)

What makes this “military medal” so valuable? To answer that question, we must look at the story behind the creation and evolution of the Victoria Cross award in British history.
In the last year of the Crimean War of 1853-1856, Queen Victoria decided to start giving a special medallic award to British military and naval personnel who showed unusual bravery in that war. The medal became known as the Victoria Cross and is the most desired award for bravery offered by the British government, only presented in exceptional cases of merit.

The Victoria Cross is bronze and was first made from cannon captured from the Russians at Sevastopol in 1855. The Russian naval base at Sevastopol on the Black Sea resisted the assaults of British, French and Turks for eleven months, with heroic casualties on both sides.

Many acts of bravery took place during the Sevastopol seige, and the horrible conditions of the military hospitals caused Florence Nightingale to revolutionize the treatment of wounded veterans and become the founder of modern nursing.

In the beginning, the Victoria Cross was only given to British military and naval personnel, but was extended to soldiers in India in 1911, to air force men during World War I, and to nursing workers in 1920.

Congratulations to Jacque Rutledge of Northglenn, Colorado; Jerry Michals, Aurora, Colorado; Carol Vilkaitis of Loveland, Colorado; Byron Roderick of Broomfield, Colorado and Charles Pheasant of Centennial, CO. They have all correctly identified the April What Is It. You have won a year’s subscription to the Mountain States Collector.

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