The January talk at the Historical Society of Lymington was given by member, Nick Saunders, on the three Victoria Crosses awarded during the First World War to soldiers in the Hampshire Regiment (later the Royal Hampshire Regiment). apshire).
The VC is the pre-eminent award to members of the military and its origins lie with Queen Victoria when, in 1856, she wished to honour those who showed conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. Much discussion ensued between her and Prince Albert about the exact wording to be used and, because she regarded all her armed forces as showing bravery, it was decided that the word ‘valour’ should be the ultimate criterion. The final wording of the Royal Warrant stated that it was an award for ‘the most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.’ The Queen also stipulated that the rank of the recipients should be irrelevant.
The design is a cross pattee and made of bronze, from two cannons seized at the Siege of Sebastopol. Originally the cross was suspended from a red ribbon for army recipients and a blue one for naval personnel but when the RAF was formed from the Royal Flying Corps in 1918 the colour for all awards was changed to red.
As you can imagine Nick had many stories of astonishing bravery under fire especially when the range of the award was extended to include personnel from the Empire. He mentioned the road in Winnipeg where three recipients lived being renamed Valour Road and he told us about the youngest recipient, a fifteen year old hospital orderly named Andrew Fitzgibbon, and the oldest to date, a sixty-one year old, William Raynor. The latest cross was awarded to Joshua Leakey in 2013 for his valour under fire in Helmand province.
The three crosses awarded to the Hampshires in the First World War were to 18 year old Lt George Raymond Dallas Moor of the 2nd Battalion. His action took place in Gallipoli. The second was to Lt Dennis George Hewitt during 3rd Battle of Ypres in 1917. The third VC was awarded to Lt Montague Moore also during the 3rd battle of Ypres. He was the only one of the three to survive the war.
With a wealth of detail culled from many hours in various archives, Nick offered a fascinating look into a world of astonishing acts in many varied theatres of war, from India, to China with the taking of the Taku forts, to World War II and other major conflicts to the present day.
The next meeting of the Society will be on an entirely different though local topic. To be held in the Robert Hole Room at 7.15 p.m. on Friday 23rd February it will be on the medieval nuns of Romsey Abbey.