The Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross was introduced by Queen Victoria on 29 January 1856 to honour acts of supreme courage during the Crimean War. The highest military honour that can be bestowed on any serviceman, or woman in the British or Commonwealth armed forces, the medal is awarded solely for valour in the face of the enemy.
The First World War remains the conflict during which the greatest number of V.Cs were awarded. 628 medals were given to 627 recipients. Tragically 159 of these awards were posthumous.
The Victoria Cross is not only highly prestigious, it is also the most egalitarian award in the British Honours system and is issued regardless of rank, age or social status. It cuts across class and background – this is certainly true in the case of Merton's First World War V.Cs, who range from a former draper’s assistant and a garden labourer’s son, to an English rugby player, a scoutmaster and sons of the gentry.
Nine men with Merton associations were awarded the Victoria Cross for acts of valour between 1914 and 1918. Some were born here, or chose to live and work in the area during their adult life; others were laid to rest in Merton cemeteries. Despite their different backgrounds and experiences, they all showed quick-thinking, devotion to duty, a will to serve their country and a desire to protect their comrades at arms. In the face of extreme danger, they all responded with valour – ordinary men performing extraordinary feats in difficult circumstances.
To discover more about these heroes of the First World War, click on the links shown below: