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150th anniversary of the Victoria Cross.

John Glanfield. Bravest of the Brave: The Story of the Victoria Cross, Sutton publishing, hardback, ISBN 0750936959, 182 pp, 14.99 [pounds sterling].

A number of books have been published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the institution of the Victoria Cross on 29 January 2006. I was delighted with Max Arthur's 686 page tome, Symbol of courage, that lists every recipient with details of the deeds that resulted in an award. General Sir Peter De la Billere was recently in Australia with his book Supreme courage that told in detail the stories of the some of the Victoria Cross recipients. And of course, I was pleased to be the author of Victoria Cross: Australia's finest and the battles they fought. Released in Britain before Christmas was John Glanfield's, Bravest of the Brave, which at 182 pages is the smallest of the four but certainly punches above it weight.

The book includes a detailed account of how the Victoria Cross was instituted. The Duke of Newcastle had raised the issue of a gallantry award for all ranks with Prince Albert but nothing came of the proposal. On 19 December 1854, Captain George Scobell MP raised the issue in the House of Commons and this was followed up by the Duke of Newcastle on 20 January 1855. Two days later Prince Albert enthusiastically replied supporting a new decoration. The Duke informed the House of Lords on 29 January that Her Majesty would institute a "Cross of Merit" open to all ranks. Although the Government fell the next day and the Duke lost office, the "Cross of Merit" evolved into the Victoria Cross. However, it was not until exactly a year after the House of Lords announcement that the Royal Warrant instituting the Victoria Cross was signed by Queen Victoria.

New light is cast on the origins of the metal used in the production of the Victoria Cross. The author has reviewed all the published material on the metal used and I think his conclusions are well founded and will be regarded as authoritative until more information comes available. Other issues looked at the blank Victoria Cross under the foundation stone of the Netley Hospital and it is correctly noted that the Victoria Cross annuity is now 1495 [pounds sterling] The annuity was increased from 1300 [pounds sterling] to 1495 [pounds sterling] in 2002 but since there was no public statement about the increase most references and websites still quote 1300 [pounds sterling]. The two Australian surviving recipients are paid a Victoria Cross Allowance under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986.

Bravest of the Brave includes many stories of recipients and their deeds with a brief background outlining the wider engagement from the Crimean War to the present involvement in Iraq. The book is well illustrated with many personal accounts, colourful anecdotes and tales of the later fortunes of those who survived. I hope the book gets to Australia in the near future but I had the fortune to read and comment on a draft. I was pleased to endorse the book as "packed with revealing details'.
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Title Annotation:Bravest of the Brave: The Story of the Victoria Cross
Author:Staunton, Anthony
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 1, 2006
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