THE VICTORIA CROSS
The Victoria Cross, founded by Queen Victoria was created in 1854. The first recipient was in 1857 for bravery in the Crimea War against Russia.
Since its inception, only 1358 Victoria Cross medals have been struck. A single company of jewelers, Hancock of London, has been responsible for the production of every Victoria Cross. Because of its rarity, the VC (Victoria Cross) is highly prized and the medal has fetched over 400,000 UK pounds at auction.
Since 1987, the private collection of UK Lord Ashcroft amassed more than one-tenth of all VC medals issued. He recently donated his entire collection to London’s Imperial War Museum. It is reported that Lord Ashcroft paid 1.5 million for the VC of Captain Noel Chavasse, Medical Corps, a medical doctor. He is only one of three people who were awarded the VC medal twice for bravery on the battlefield.
Of the 1358 VC medals issued, only one has been awarded to a woman. This was Elizabeth Webber Harris. Her bravery astounded the entire regiment. She remains the only woman to receive the Victoria Cross. It was given to her for her work in India. In 1869 a cholera epidemic broke out. Hundreds died. Elizabeth, a nurse, was credited with saving many of the British and Indian soldiers that she was assigned to, risking her own life with this very infectious disease.
A Canadian Story: Andrew Mynarski VC RCAF:
Mynarski, born in Winnipeg, was 27 years old when he flew with 419 Squadron, based in England. On the night of June 12th 1944 he was on a mission over France when the Lancaster he was in, was lit up by German searchlights and heavily damaged by German ground fire as well as German fighter aircraft. On orders from the captain to bail out, the crew abandoned the aircraft.
As Mynarski made his way to the rear escape hatch, he noticed the rear gunner was trapped in his turret. Without hesitation Mynarski made his way through the flames to help, but to no avail; the turret was jammed. The gunner waved him away and Mynarski saluted his friend and bailed out, not knowing that his parachute pack was on fire. His descent was rapid due to the burning parachute, resulting in a heavy impact. He was alive when he landed but because of the terrible burns and impact injuries, he died a short time later.
When the aircraft finally crashed into a field, the aircraft broke up, the tail section broke away and the Gunner, Pat Brophy, although injured, was rescued by some French farmers.
W.O Andrew Mynarski is buried in grave 20, War Graves Plot, Maricourt Community Cemetery near Ariems, France.
You might also be interested in viewing this video.
This photo is of Robert Hampton Gray, VC. His story is highlighted in our Museum’s Main Gallery. He was credited with sinking a Japanese destroyer. He was the last Canadian to receive the honour of a Victoria Cross.