Victoria’s Cross: The untold story of Britain’s highest award for bravery
By Gary Mead
Published by Atlantic Books; Dist. by Allen & Unwin
$49.99 in hardcover
In his introduction to this book, Mead poses the question: how is it that, over more than a century and a half, the VC has mutated from its no doubt flawed but remarkably open and democratic origins, to become the tightly controlled, rather secretive and undemocratic honour it has become today.
He says that the behaviour necessary to gain a VC today is not so much courage as madness and that today’s recipients are carefully scrutinized as to how their story will be judged by the media and generally assessed to determine if they are the ‘right’ character to receive the award.
Born out of the Crimean War in 1856 and the fragility of the monarchy at that time, the VC’s prestige is such that it takes precedence over all other orders and medals in Britain. But while many books have been written about specific aspects of the VC and its recipients, none have asked why so many brave men who deserved the medal were denied it, and why no women have ever been awarded the VC, even though they are entitled.
Gary Mead’s vivid and balanced account of the VC’s life and times explores its role as a barometer for the shifting sands of political and social change during the last 150 years.
Reviewer Allan Mallinson, writing in The Spectator (6/6/15), offers a detailed review of the book that is worth reading – at this link: