The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest award of the United Kingdom honours system. It is awarded for gallantry “in the face of the enemy” to members of the British armed forces. It may be awarded posthumously. It was previously awarded to Commonwealth countries, most of which have established their own honours systems and no longer recommend British honours. It may be awarded to a person of any military rank in any service and to civilians under military command although no civilian has received the award since 1879. Since the first awards were presented by Queen Victoria in 1857, two thirds of all awards have been personally presented by the British monarch. These investitures are usually held at Buckingham Palace.
The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour acts of valour during the Crimean War. Since then, the medal has been awarded 1,358 times to 1,355 individual recipients. Only 15 medals, 11 to members of the British Army, and four to the Australian Army, have been awarded since the Second World War. The traditional explanation of the source of the metal from which the medals are struck is that it derives from Russian cannon captured at the Siege of Sevastopol. Some research has suggested a variety of origins for the material. Research has established that the metal for most of the medals made since December 1914 came from two Chinese cannons that were captured from the Russians in 1855.