Glossary & Explanations
Victoria Cross (VC)
Established on 5 February 1856 by Queen Victoria, the Victoria Cross is Britain’s highest award for military valor. The VC is awarded for preeminent acts of valor, self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy and can be awarded to any serving officer of man of the British and Commonwealth armed forces.
During the First World War, the VC was awarded more than 600 times, with 19 of the recipients being airmen of the RFC and the RNAS. During the Second World War, twenty-three VCs were awarded to Bomber command, three to Coastal Command, two to overseas commands, while Fighter command got only one.
This decoration is possibly the most famous in the world, its simplicity cloaking the unequal acts of bravery required to attain it. From its inception in 1856, it has become progressively more difficult to win and some 1354 Crosses and only three bars have been awarded upto 1987. Such is the case that the VC is almost seen as a posthumous award. Queen Victoria’s Prince consort Albert is said to have suggested the medal in the absence of such an award for highest acts of valor, but the VC was designed by H.H. Armstead, although Prince Albert had a great hand in its development.
The medal itself is cast from bronze, reputed by legend to be melted down from Russian guns captured at Sevastopol during the Crimean War 1854-56. But in fact, the medals came from two 18-pounder Chinese cannons that had been at Woolwich Barracks long before the Crimean war. The Chinese metal was so hard that its was decided to cast the crosses rather than stamp them – leading to a more detailed medal than was originally intended.
Made by Hancocks & Co Jewellers, who have made every VC since 1857, the company holds the metal in ingots, each capable of making six crosses. Every medal is hand cast and then bronzed to a uniform finish – giving certain uniqueness to each medal in terms of color and weight. The simply inscription ‘For Valour’ adorned each VC.
Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
The DSO was established in 1886 to reward officers for meritious or distinguished service in war.
Athough the medal was to be awarded for service under fire or in actual combat with the enemy, from 1914 to 1916 it was awarded in for service in non-combat duties. This changed on 1 January 1917, when commanders were ordered to recommend the award only for those serviving under fire. A further change came in 1943, when the old requirement that the medal be awarded to someone who had only been mentioned in dispatches was dissolved.
The DSO is generally given to officers above the rank of Wing Commander for superior work. Awards to ranks below these are usually in recongnition of gallantry that is just short of deserving the Victoria Cross.
Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)
The DFC was created on April 1, 1918. The DFC was formed after the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval air service, and was created to replace the army Military Cross and the Naval medals presented to pilots and airmen.
The DFC was awarded to officers and warrant officers for acts of valor and courage, while flying operations against the enemy. During the First World War, 48 DFC’s were awarded.
Originally established on the birthday of King George V, June 3, 1918, the medal is of a straight silver bar with an eagle in the center. If the medal is awarded a subsequent time, it is presented as a "bar." In the example below the medal, two "bars" are shown.
During the Second World War, 20,354 DFCs were presented, plus 1,550 first bars, and 42 second bars. Out of these 927 DGC were presented to airmen of from non-commonwealth air forces, as were 34 first bars and three second bars.
A total of 4,018 DFC's were awarded to RCAF personnel, plus 213 first bars and 6 second bars.
New Zealand RNZAF personnel received 1,032 DFCs, 84 first bars and four second bars. A total of 44 Dutch airmen received the DFC.
Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM)
The DFM was established on 3 June 1918. The medal was awarded to non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and enlisted men for an act or acts of valor, courage of devotion to duty performed whilst flying in active operations against the enemy.
The Medal has the reigning monarch on the front face, but on the reverse, the Greek Goddess Athena Nike is present, holding an eagle in her right hand. Above Athena are the words ‘For Courage’.
During the Second World War, a total of 6,637 DFMs were awarded, with 60 second award bars. A unique second bar, representing a third award, was awarded to Flight Sergeant Donald Kingaby, a fighter pilot and ace, on 7 November 1941.