Victoria Cross Heroes Volume II is the new bravery book from Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC (Michael Ashcroft). It is the follow-up to his best-seller Victoria Cross Heroes, first published in November 2006.
Victoria Cross Heroes Volume II, which was published by Biteback Publishing on November 8 2016, tells the true, action-packed stories behind nearly 60 awards of the VC, Britain and the Commonwealth’s most prestigious gallantry medal for courage in the face of the enemy. All the VCs are part of Lord Ashcroft’s collection, the biggest of its kind in the world.
Victoria Cross Heroes Volume II provides extraordinary accounts of the bravery behind the newest additions to Lord Ashcroft’s VC collection – those purchased in the last decade. It is the follow-up to Victoria Cross Heroes, first published in 2006 to mark the 150th anniversary of the VC.
Courageous soldiers, sailors and airmen all feature in the new book. Lord Ashcroft now owns 200 VCs and his latest book tells of the real-life courage behind many of these decorations.
A Short History of the VC
The VC is Britain and the Commonwealth’s most prestigious gallantry award for bravery in the face of the enemy. It was founded by a Royal Warrant issued on January 29 1856. The warrant announced the creation of a single decoration available to the Army and Royal Navy which was intended to reward “individual instances of merit and valour” and which “we are desirous should be highly prized and eagerly sought after”. The warrant laid down fifteen “rules and ordinances”. Essentially, however, the award was intended for extreme bravery in the presence of the enemy. It was also decided that the cross should be made from metal of little intrinsic value. It was intended that it should be bronze and cast from metal melted down from two cannon supposedly captured from the Russians at Sebastopol in the Crimean War.
It was more than a year after the Royal Warrant was signed that the first awards of the VC were published in The London Gazette – on February 24 1857. The Queen had told her senior ministers that she wished to bestow as many of the awards as possible. So in June 1857 the Queen invested 62 of the 111 Crimean recipients at a ceremony in Hyde Park in front of more than 4,000 troops and 12,000 spectators.
Over the years, there have been several significant amendments to the rules relating to the VC. The first changes to the regulations came little more than a year after the announcement that the VC had been awarded for the first time. A Royal Warrant of August 10 1858 extended the VC to “non-military persons”. Under this new clause, four civilians received the VC for their voluntary service in the Indian Mutiny. Many further changes followed but the core principles of the VC remain to this day.
To date (and not including separate awards that can now be made from Australia, New Zealand and Canada), 1,358 VCs have been awarded for bravery to 1,355 men. The awards include three Bars – the equivalent of a second VC – and a special award to the American Unknown Warrior. The youngest recipient of the VC was just 15 years old and three months, the oldest was two months short of his 62nd birthday.
About the Book:
The stories span from the Crimean War, which led to the creation of the VC in 1856, to the Second World War. Other major wars and conflicts covered in the book include the First World War (1914-18), the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) and the Indian Mutiny (1857-58).
Those brave men featured in the book include:
- Captain Noel Chavasse is one of only three men to be awarded a VC and Bar: the equivalent to two VCs. Chavasse, who was one of twins, served with the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was thrice decorated during the Great War: he was awarded his first VC for great courage on August 9 1916 at the Battle of Guillemont when it was estimated that he saved the lives of some 20 seriously-wounded men by repeatedly going into no-man’s land under a heavy fire. The Bar to his VC was a posthumous award for his bravery from July 31 to August 2 1917 during the Third Battle of Ypres. Once again, Chavasse went into no-man’s land to search for and attend the wounded. However, he received several serious injuries during the three days and he died from his battlefield wounds on August 4 1917, aged 32.
- Sepoy (later Subadar) Khudadad Khan was the first Muslim and the first Indian to be awarded the VC. His award was for outstanding bravery on October 31 1914 during the first Battle of Ypres when, aged 26, he manned a Maxim gun despite serious wounds. As the German shells reined down on six Allied soldiers, Khan continued to fight on. Eventually, Khan’s five comrades were all killed but he managed to put his machine-gun out of action and feign death, before escaping. Badly injured, he crawled back in order to receive medical aid. Khan spent several weeks in hospital but he received his VC from George V at an investiture at Buckingham Palace in January 1915. Khan survived the war and eventually died in Pakistan in 1971, aged 82. Lord Ashcroft believes the contribution of Muslims to the war effort and to other global conflicts must never be forgotten.
- Commander Loftus Jones was awarded arguably the finest Royal Navy VC of the First World War. He received his award for remarkable bravery during the Battle of Jutland when his ship, the destroyer Shark, came under a heavy and sustained enemy attack. Jones led his men courageously despite receiving critical wounds in battle: at one point a German shell blew off his right leg above the knee. Yet, despite being weakened by his own loss of blood and in great pain, he continued to rally his men. Jones died on May 31 1916, aged 36: he was not one of the six rescued survivors from Shark’s 91-strong complement. Jones’s VC was awarded posthumously after his widow, Margaret, carried out extensive research into her husband’s bravery. His VC was presented to Margaret Jones by George V at an investiture at Buckingham Palace in March 1917.
The Man Behind the Book:
Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC is an international businessman, philanthropist, author and pollster. His numerous roles include being the founder and chairman of the board of Crimestoppers, a trustee of the Imperial War Museum, chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University and treasurer of the International Democrat Union. From 2005 to 2010, he was deputy chairman of the Conservative Party. His political research is published in full at www.LordAshcroftPolls.com.
Lord Ashcroft, who has had a lifelong interest in bravery, has written five previous books on courage, together with several books and pamphlets on politics and polling. Along with Isabel Oakeshott, he is the author of Call Me Dave, an unauthorised biography of David Cameron.
Lord Ashcroft’s VC and GC collection is on public display at the Imperial War Museum, London. For more information, visit www.iwm.org.uk/heroes.
The Lord Ashcroft VC Collection
Lord Ashcroft’s fascination with bravery goes back to his childhood. Over the years, this interest in courage turned into a passion for gallantry medals, particularly the VC.
The long-term loan of Lord Ashcroft’s collection of VCs, and a generous donation of £5 million to the Imperial War Museum, made possible a new gallery which has helped visitors of all ages discover the background to some of the most courageous men and women in history.
Lord Ashcroft started collecting VCs in 1986 and now stands at 200 VCs. The collection is estimated to be worth up to £50 million and is the largest of its kind in the world. It can be viewed, free of charge, at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum, London. The IWM is unrivalled in helping people understand the experience of modern conflicts and provides a natural home for the collection.
- For more information about Victoria Cross Heroes Volume II, please visit: victoriacrossheroes2.com
- To buy the book, please visit: https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/victoria-cross-heroes-volume-ii