The Victoria Cross Awards for the Italian Campaign.



The Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest and most prestigious award of the British honours system. It is awarded for valour “in the presence of the enemy” to members of the British Armed Forces. It may be awarded posthumously.

The first awards were presented by Queen Victoria in 1857. The London jewellers, Hancocks, have been responsible for the production of every VC awarded since its inception. When the Victoria Cross was awarded to a Royal Navy recipient prior to 1918 the medal ribbon was dark blue. Recipients were entitled to use the letters V.C. after their name. The award of this medal is announced in the London Gazette. Although not instituted until 1854 it was made retrospective to include the Crimean War. The front of the bronze cross carries the words ‘For Valour’. The reverse of the medal is inscribed with the date of the deed for which the award was made along with the recipient’s name rank and regiment.

The Victoria Cross awarded to Charles Davis Lucas.

The original medal ribbon was red for issue to the Army recipient’s and dark blue for Navy recipients. the use of the dark blue ribbon was abolished just after the formation of the Royal Air Force on 1st April 1918. A warrant signed by King George V stating that all recipients would now receive the medal with the red ribbon and that all living recipients of the Naval version were required to exchange the dark blue ribbon for the red one. Although the warrant states that the ribbon is red colour most would agree that it is crimson or wine red.

The first person to be awarded the Victoria Cross was awarded to at the age of 13 Who had joined the Royal Navy in 1848 at the age of 13 and   saw action during the second Anglo- Burmese War of 1852 -1853. By the age of 20 he had been promoted to the rank of Mate.

On the 21st June 1854 at the Battle of Bomarsund during the Crimean War he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions the details of which are:

On 21 June 1854 in the Baltic, HMS Hecla, with two other ships, was bombarding Bomarsund, a fort in the Åland Islands off Finland. The fire was returned from the fort, and at the height of the action a live shell landed on Hecla’s upper deck, with its fuse still hissing. All hands were ordered to fling themselves flat on the deck, but Lucas with great presence of mind ran forward and hurled the shell into the sea, where it exploded with a tremendous roar before it hit the water. Thanks to Lucas’s action no one on board was killed or seriously wounded by the shell, and accordingly he was immediately promoted to lieutenant by his commanding officer.

The first investiture took place in Hyde Park during the summer of 1857 when Queen Victoria presented 62 VC’s in front of a crowd of over 100,000 spectators. On that day Charles Lucas was the 4th man to be presented with his VC by Queen Victoria.

Charles Lucas spent the rest of a long career in the Royal Navy retiring with the rank of Rear Admiral. He died at the age of 80 at Tunbridge Wells in 1914 and in buried in the churchyard of Saint Lawrence’s Church at Mereworth, Kent. If you visit St Lawrence’s Church yard the grave of Charles Lucas lies to the south of the church.

The use of the Imperial War Graves Commission headstones started after their foundation in May 1917.The IWGC became the Commonwealth War Grave Commission in 1960 reflecting the changes it the world since its conception.

Since 1917 when a Victoria Cross is awarded posthumously the CWGC headstone carries an image of the Victoria Cross in addition to the regiment or service badge. In the rare case of Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse, VC & Bar, MC one of only three men to be awarded the Victoria Cross twice the headstone contains that engraving twice. His headstone is shown to the below.

Photograph by Robin Hollamby

During the Italian campaign, the Victoria Cross was awarded to twenty individual service men for their actions. Eight paid the ultimate price, one man has no known grave but is remembered in the Cassino War Cemetery while the other seven are buried in cemeteries near the spot they fell.

The citations that are presented along with the award outline the action and bravery of each of these remarkable men. They must have been a real inspiration to their colleagues at the time, and for the twelve who survived their actions on that day instilled a new sense of pride and determination amongst their fellow soldiers.

The recipients are listed below in order of the date of the deed for which the award was made.

CSM P H Wright VC, 3rd Bn Coldstream Guards.

 

Awarded for his actions at Salerno on 25th Sept 1943 at the age of 23.

He died 5th April 1990 aged 73.

 
Capt P Triquet VC, Le Royal 22e Regiment.

 

Awarded for his actions at Casa Berardi on 14th December 1943 at the aged 43.

He died 8th August 1980 aged 70.

 
Pte G A Mitchell VC, 1st Bn London Scottish Regiment, Gordon Highlanders.

 

Awarded for his actions at Damiano Ridge on 23rd/24th January 1944.

He was killed in action on 24th January 1944 aged 32.

He is buried in the CWGC Minturno Cemetery Italy,

(Plot 3, Row H, Grave 19).

 
T/M W P Sidney VC, 5th Bn Grenadier Guards.

 

Awarded for his actions at Anzio on 7th/ 8th February 1944.

He died 5th April 1991 aged 81.

 
Sepoy Kamal Ram VC, 8th Punjab Regiment.

 

Awarded for his actions at the River Gari on 12th May 1944.

He died 1st July 1982 aged 57.

 
T/Capt R Wakeford VC, 2nd/4th Bn Hampshire Regiment.

 

Awarded for his actions near Cassino on 13th May 1944.

He died 22nd August 1972 aged 51.

 
Fusilier F A Jefferson VC, 2nd Bn Lancashire Fusiliers.

 

Awarded for his actions at Monte Cassino on 16th May 1944.

He died 4th May 1982 aged 61.

 
Major J K Mahony VC, Westminster Rifles, Canadian Infantry Corps.

 

Awarded for his actions at Melfa River on 24th May 1944.

He died 15th December 1990 aged 79.

 
Sgt M A W Rogers VC MM, 2nd Bn Wiltshire Regiment.

 

Awarded for his actions at Anzio on 3rd June 1944.

He was killed in action on 3rd June 1944 aged 25.

He is buried in the CWGC Beach Head War Cemetery, Anzio, Italy

(Plot 10, Row D, Grave 8).

 
Naik Yashwant Ghatge VC, 5th Mahratta Light Infantry.

 

Awarded for his actions in the Upper Tiber Valley on 10th July 1944.

He was killed in action on 10th July 1944 aged 22.

He has no known grave but is remembered on the Cassino Memorial panel 17 in the CWGC Cassino War Cemetery, Italy.

 
Lieut G R Norton VC MM, 1st/4th Bn Hampshire Regiment.

 

Awarded for his actions at Monte Gidolfo on 31st August 1944.

He died on 29th October 2004 aged 89.

 
Rfn Sher Bahadur Thapa VC, 9th Gurkha Rifles.

 

Awarded for his actions at San Marino 18th/19th September 1944.

He was killed in action on 19th September aged 22.

He is buried in the CWGC Rimimi Gurkha War Cemetery, Italy

(Plot 6, Row E, Grave 7).

 
Pte R H Burton VC, 1st Duke of Wellingtons Regiment.

 

Awarded for his actions at Monte Ceco on 8th October 1944.

He died on 11th July 1993 aged 70.

 
Pte E A Smith VC, Seaforth Highlanders of Canada.

 

Awarded for his actions at the River Savio on 21st/22nd October 1944.

He died on 3rd August 2005 aged 91.

 
Rfn Thaman Gurung VC, 1st Bn 5th Gurkha Rifles.

 

Awarded for his actions at Monte San Bartolo on 10th November 1944.

He was killed in action on 11th November aged 20.

He is buried in the CWGC Rimimi Gurkha War Cemetery, Italy

(Plot 3, Row B, Grave 5).

 
Capt J H C Brunt VC MC, The Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment) attached to the 6th Btn Lincolnshire Regiment.

 

Awarded for his actions near Faenza on 9th December 1944.

He was killed in action on 10th December 1944 aged 22.

He is buried in the CWGC Faenza War Cemetery, Italy

(Plot 3, Row A, Grave 8).

 
T/Cpl T P Hunter VC, 43 RM Commando.

 

Awarded for his actions at Lake Comacchio on 2nd February 1945.

He died on 3rd April 1945 aged 21.

He is buried in the CWGC Argenta Gap War Cemetery, Italy

(Plot 3, Row G, Grave 20).

 
T/Major A F E V S Lassen VC MC and 2 Bars, No1 SAS Regiment.

 

Awarded for his actions at Lake Comacchio on 8th /9th April 1945.

He died on 9th April 1945 aged 22.

He is buried in the CWGC Argenta Gap War Cemetery, Italy

(Plot 2, Row E, Grave 11).

 
Sepoy Ali Haidar VC, 13th Frontier Force Rifles.

 

Awarded for his actions at Fusignano on 9th April 1945.

He died on 15th July 1999 aged 85.

 
Sepoy Namedo Jadav VC, 5th Mahratta Light Infantry.

 

Awarded for his actions during the crossing of the Senio River on 9th April 1945.

He died on 2nd August 1984 aged 62.

Sadly there are no longer any of these brave men left alive, of those that survived the war the last man to die was Pte E A Smith VC. A Canadian known as Smokey Smith, he died at his home in Vancouver on August 3, 2005 at the age of 91. His body was placed in the foyer of the House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada to lie in state on August 9, 2005, making him only the ninth person to be accorded this honour; government flags flew at half-mast on that day. He lay in repose at Vancouver’s Seaforth Armoury on August 12, with a full military funeral in Vancouver on August 13. His ashes were scattered at sea in the Gulf of Georgia.

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