The Victoria Cross for Australia is the pre-eminent award for acts of bravery in wartime and Australia's highest honour.
The Victoria Cross for Australia is awarded to a person who, in the presence of the enemy, displays the most conspicuous gallantry, or daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty.
The British or Imperial Victoria Cross was originally created by Queen Victoria in 1856 and made retrospective to include the Crimean War (1854–1856).
One hundred Australians have been awarded the Victoria Cross: 96 were awarded the Victoria Cross under the Imperial honours system (before the Australian Government chose to introduce its own honours system in 1975) and four Australian Army soldiers have been awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia, which was introduced as part of the Australian honours system by Letters Patent on 15 January 1991.
Australians have been awarded the Victoria Cross in the following conflicts:
Australian soldiers were awarded nine Victoria Crosses at Gallipoli, including seven during the Battle of Lone Pine (6–9 August 1915).
The first Australian to be awarded a Victoria Cross was Captain Sir Neville Howse, VC, KCMG, CB, KStJ, during the Boer War. He also served in World War I and, later, as an Australian Government minister responsible (separately) for the health, defence and repatriation portfolios.
Warrant Officer Class Two Keith Payne was the last Australian to be awarded the Imperial Victoria Cross. Invested with the Victoria Cross by Queen Elizabeth II aboard Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia in Brisbane on 13 April 1970, Warrant Officer Payne was awarded the VC for his “sustained and heroic personal efforts” while under heavy enemy fire in Kon Tum Province, Vietnam, on 24 May 1969.
The Victoria Cross for Australia has been awarded four times.
The first VC was awarded to Corporal Mark Donaldson, VC, on 16 January 2009
The second VC awarded to Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, VC, MG, on 23 January 2011.
The third VC was awarded to Corporal Daniel Keighran, VC, on 1 November 2012.
The fourth recipient of the Victoria Cross for Australia and the first to be awarded posthumously. Corporal Baird’s parents, Mr Doug & Mrs Kaye Baird, were presented with the award by the Governor-General at Government House, Canberra, on 18 February 2014.
The Victoria Cross is designed in the form of the Maltese Cross: in the centre of the medal is a lion guardant standing upon Saint Edward's Crown.
The words "For Valour" are inscribed below. The Victoria Cross is suspended from a bar by a crimson ribbon. On the reverse of the cross the date of the act of bravery is inscribed, along with the name, rank and unit of the recipient.
Hancocks Jewellers, London, has manufactured the Victoria Cross since its inception and its jewellers continue to make the Victoria Cross for Australia. The medal itself is cast (not struck like a coin or pressed using a die) and hand-finished by the Hancocks jewellers, who use metal from the bronze cascabels of two captured cannons to make the medals.