History Goes On
Manufactured Tradition? - The Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy, is
commonly believed to be cast from the bronze of Russian cannon captured at Sebastopol during the Crimean War. There is no corroboration for this belief beyond an entry in The Times in 1857. Historical sources suggest that neither the Queen nor her Prime Minister would have favoured an association of the medal with Sebastopol. From 1914, however, it is likely that many Victoria Crosses were indeed sourced from captured ordnance, but probably using Chinese guns. Some may even have been have been cast from entirely unprovenanced metal. Recent examination of VCs and putative sources of their metal by X-ray fluorescence suggest multiple sources of material, presenting medals variously of bronze, brass and copper.
Andrew Marriott is a former army officer with operational experience from multiple conflict zones. He subsequently took a degree and masters in archaeology at the University of York. In 2018 he was awarded a doctorate by Newcastle University for a thesis examining the material culture of conflict. His research into the Victoria Cross formed part of his doctoral research.
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