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Victoria Cross. The highest award for conspicuous gallantry, instituted in 1856 during the Crimean War. Unlike most previous honours, it was open to all ranks and unclassified. The ribbon is crimson and the inscription ‘For Valour’ was Queen Victoria's suggestion. But her wish that the abbreviation should be BVC (Bearer of the Victoria Cross), lest the recipient be confused with vice-chancellors, was not followed. The original crosses were made from metal of Russian guns captured at Sebastopol. The first award went to Lieutenant Charles Lucas for gallantry in the Baltic on 21 June 1854 in seizing a live shell which had landed on the deck of HMS Hecla and throwing it overboard. In June 1857 the queen made awards to 62 persons in a Hyde Park ceremony. The VC is given sparingly and in 1994 there were fewer than 40 survivors.
J. A. Cannon