The Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross is Canada’s highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy.

The Canadian Victoria Cross is awarded for “the most conspicuous bravery, a daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty, in the presence of the enemy”.  As of January 1st, 1993, it may be presented after death, and it also may be revoked. The biggest difference between the Victoria Cross and the Cross of Valour is the reference to “the enemy”.  Which essentially means that the government does not have to officially declare war to award the medal.

It has precedence over any other of the Sovereign’s awards. The medal was founded by Royal Warrant on January 29, 1856 to recognize the bravery of those who were then fighting the Crimean War. The award was available to soldiers of all ranks and “neither rank, nor long service, nor wounds, nor any other circumstance or condition whatsoever, save the merit of conspicuous bravery” could make one eligible.

Canada Victoria Cross Medal

Victoria Cross Medal

The Cross itself is cast from the bronze of cannons captured at Sevastopol during the Crimean War. The design, chosen by Queen Victoria, consists of a cross patee ensigned with the Royal Crest, resting upon a scroll bearing the words “For Valour”. The reverse of the suspender bar is engraved with the recipient’s name, rank, and unit. The reverse of the Cross itself, bears the date of the deed for which the recipient was honoured.

Since its inception, the Victoria Cross has been awarded 1,351 times. The youngest recipient was 15 years old (Newfoundland’s Tommy Ricketts) and the eldest was 69 years in age. Three cases exist where both father and son have won the medal.  Four pairs of brothers have been recipients. One Victoria Cross was awarded for action in Canada to Private T. O’Hea of the Rifle Brigade (Irish) for extinguishing a fire in the ammunition car of a train. Four Victoria Crosses have been awarded to civilians.  No woman has been awarded the Victoria Cross, but a gold representation of the decoration was awarded to Mrs. W. Harris for her efforts in nursing cholera victims. Three men have been awarded the medal twice.  Read more about Canada’s Victoria Cross Medal at Wikipedia.

The Canadian Victoria Cross Medal
Article Name
The Canadian Victoria Cross Medal
The Victoria Cross is the realm's highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy. It has precedence over any other of the Sovereign's awards.
Publisher Name
Mysteries of Canada

Written by

Author of Mysteries of Canada

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3 Responses to “The Victoria Cross”

By WRLO56 - 8 March 2015 Reply

No woman has ever been awarded the Victoria Cross. I personally believe that Violette Szabo, who won the George Cross posthumously while serving with the SOE in France, should have been awarded the VC, because she engaged German troops in a rearguard action to allow her French Resistance colleague to escape, before she was captured. It seems that when it came to women in the SOE, the phrase “in the face of the enemy” was conveniently re-interpreted to exclude spies. But be that as it may, no woman has ever been awarded the VC.

By Dan Spurrill - 11 November 2014 Reply

Have any women ever been awarded the Victoria Cross? Edith Cavell comes to mind, and Nicolas Goddard.

By Shane Houser - 21 January 2015 Reply

From what I could find Edith Cavell was not awarded the Victoria Cross and in the lists of Canadian Victoria Cross recipients No women were awarded it either although William Edward Hall was the First African American that was awarded this medal and the third Canadian to receive it