you are currently viewing: Discussion Forum


The Rorke's Drift VC Discussion Forum
(View Discussion Rules)


PLEASE NOTE: This forum is now inactive and is provided for reference purposes only. The live forum is available at

(Back To Topic List)

DateOriginal Topic
5th April 2004VC nominations
By Richard
I watched Jeremy Clarksons excellent documentary on the VC last night, but there are a couple of questions about VC nominations that I hope some of you might be able to answer.
1. If someone is nominated for a VC does there have to be a commissoned officer witness?
2. Has there ever been a rule that says you CANT be nominated by a member of the enemy? Precendent here is Flt Lt Trigg in wwii who was nominated by the captain of the uboat he sunk, he and all his crew were killed but he was awarded VC posthumusly. But in the Falklands an SAS officer was reccomended by an Argentine officer, but he got MC instead.
3.When I was in the RAF we were always told we had to salute VC winners regardless of their rank, is this true. Dont know if anyone has seen newsreel film of The King visiting 617 SQN just after the dams raid, The King is shown saluting Gibson before Gibson salutes him.
6th April 2004Mike McCabe
There is no official (or even unofficial) custom of the serevice requiring VC holders to be saluted by anybody, except where their serving rank may require it (now no serving examples) or their retired rank might customarily be acknowledged by the courtesy of a salute by somebody junior in rank. It is not (and has not been) a feature of official RAF 'customs of the service' and whoever taught you to do it was wrong to do so even then, and would appear to have been expressing a private theory.
There is an informal service custom (in the Army anyhow) whereby the Chaplain is sometimes saluted as a 'Regimental' custom (in civilian clothes at least) by all in recognition of his ordained ministry.
If you look very hard at the apparent saluting of Gibson VC by King George VI, it probably arises from the editing of the film. The more likely sequence would be: Gibson salutes the King in approaching him or joining his company, the King salutes in acknowledgement, Gibson then salutes again before moving away from the King or at the end of a verbal 'report'. Of course, being Sovereign, King George can pay (or not pay) any compliments he might wish to - being, in this country, the 'fount of all honour'.
The same bit of romantic folklore sometimes surrounds Chelsea pensioners - supposedly saluted by all soldiers. It can usually be tracked as a pure myth to magazine illustrations from Victorian or Edwardian times that promoted the notion.
However, the British military salute, besides being a formal acknowledgement of the Sovereign's commission and rank, is also a much older traditional courtesy. Some soldiers might simply feel that they want to salute a VC holder as a private expression of respect. To do so on any formal occasion is technically inappropriate. Done as a spontaneous private gesture, there are simply no controls to bring to bear to prevent it.
6th April 2004Martin Heyes
Mike, I beg to differ.
I recall being told, when I was serving with the British Army, that the holder of a Victoria Cross WHEN ON PARADE was ALWAYS saluted first by whoever was taking the Parade - no matter what the rank of the Cross holder.
In effect, this meant that an Inspecting General - or even the Sovereign in Richard's example of Gibson VC above, would march up to the VC holder before he even mounted the saluting dias and salute him.
The fact that Richard recalls being told something similar (or even the same) when he was serving in the RAF tends to suggest there is some truth to all this.
I recall meeting a Canadian VC holder here in Hong Kong a few years ago, during a veterans reunion of the Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers. (The VC holder won his award serving in North Africa during WW 2 if my memory serves me correctly, but he was part of the Hong Kong Veterans reunion nonetheless). Anyway, the point is that although he was wheelchair-bound and not on parade in the formal sense of the word, (wearing Regimental headdress; blazer and OF COURSE his medals incl. the VC), uniformed personnel present in the Sai Wan Military Cemetery made a point of marching up to him and saluting.
Martin Heyes
6th April 2004Mike McCabe
Differ as you please, whoever told you it was expressing a personal theory - not borne out by establish service practice. There is no mention of such a requirement in any version of the King/Queen's Regulations for the Navy, Army or Air Force, single service drill/ceremonial manuals, or the successive VC Warrants.
What people do themselves when the spirit moves them is largely their affair, and should not be confused with established services custom and practice.
No offence intended.

6th April 2004John Young
I delved into the contemporary manual of 'Field Exercise' issued in 1877, to see if I could add a contemporary word on this discussion. Sadly there is nothing. I was however intrigued to discover the drill for 'the left-handed salute'.

John Y.
6th April 2004Mike McCabe
You'll be pleased to know that The Queen's Regulations still allow left handed salutes - in very specific circumstances, I'm glad to say.

6th April 2004Dvid Alan Gardner
There are definitely no regulations regarding the saluting of VC holders in the services..That's not to say there has been no "unwritten etiquette" where VC holders are saluted-they have been in the past and that's a fact.
6th April 2004Mike McCabe
I think the idea of an 'unwritten code' regarding saluting VCs is an attractive story and a popular myth, but no more than that.
That's a fact too!
6th April 2004richard
As regards what I said about saluting a VC holder, it was understood by everyone in the RAF that a VC holder was to be saluted regardless of rank. From what I can recaal having spoken to soldiers and sailors its the same in the other two services.
6th April 2004David Alan Gardner
Thats funny Mike, because in 2001 on another forum, you said that saluting a VC is quote "no more than a peronal courtesy" ie it has happened, if only informally-ie not a myth!
8th April 2004Bill Cainan
Richard, David, Martin - I have just completed 36 years service in the Army with the last five years as an RSM. I can assure you that Mike is completely correct - VC holders should NOT be saluted purely on the basis that they have been so decorated. During my service career I have NEVER known it to happen. If this practice was being encouraged by an officer or NCO it would be a sad reflection on that person's knowledge of Military Regulations.

However, I have come across the story a few times in conversations in the Mess and on each occasion the story has been quickly dismissed as the myth it undoubtedly is. I would also mention that the originators of this particular tale (ie the ones I heard) also had other stories about even more dubious customs and traditions !!! "If you have the rank and can keep a straight face... " !!

Having said that - has anyone actually WITNESSED a VC holder being saluted ?

The holders of the Victoria Cross would without doubt be awarded the utmost respect by all ranks in all services, as indeed are the Chelsea Pensioners but this respect should not extend to them being saluted.

8th April 2004DavidAlan Gardner
Try looking here
8th April 2004Bill Cainan

Thank you. I've read the various entries on that site, and again like the various entries above, a lot seem to be founded on hearsay ! Interestingly enough, one of the only alleged (and wintnessed) salutings was of the Grenadier Guards doing so at Buckingham Palace under the direction of the Garrison RSM ! All I can say to that is, if it is true, then it would seem that the Garrison RSM had chosen to do it, despite Queen's (or King's) Regulations - but then RSMs have often tended to make the rules up - defying underlings to challenge them !!

So, in conclusion, saluting VCs may have happened on very rare occasions, but this would have been the decision of the person giving the salute and was certainly NOT in accordance with Queen's (King's) Regulations. A long standing fable that has become part of the VC lore !

8th April 2004David Alan Gardner
Hi Bill,
Yes a lot is hearsay, but the changing of the guard story rings a bell as it does tie in with the date of retiral of the VC winner.
As I said, I agree with Mike-who normally most accurate-that there is definitely nothing official in regs!
9th April 2004Richard
Bill, I realise you are an ex RSM, but have you ever watched the festival of remebrance? They have a contingent of Chelsea pensioners, and every year the cadets lining the route of the pensioners salutes them, and the Festival of Remberance is organised by the London District GSM! And why do politicians get saluted????? Maybe Douglas Bader was right rules are for the guidance of the wise and the blind obedience of fools!!
10th April 2004Bill Cainan

To round off this discussion, perhaps you would allow me to quote from the "Queen's Regulations and Orders for the Army" dated 1873:

"Her Majesty has been pleased to give Her Royal approbation to the following Revised Regulations and Orders, and to command that they be circulated throughout the Army and STRICTLY OBSERVED ON ALL OCCASIONS." (my capitals)

11th April 2004Richard
Bill, if i may reply? Have you ever read the introduction to the latest edition of Queens Regualtions? It says that officers are to use common sense when using QR's!!! And on the subject of saluting VC holders, in the USA holders of the medal of honor(as they spell it) are always saluted when wearing the medal regardless of rank. I wonder if some people in the British Forces have quite rightly copied the yanks?
11th April 2004Bill Cainan

Yes indeed, I do have a certain familiarity with QRs.

I think you have to be very careful with using the phrase "common sense" so that it is not taken out of context when applying the Regulations to specific situations.

If the direct application of a given regulation produces a situation that was outside the intent of that regulation, then obviously it becomes a matter of common sense as to what should be done. However, this "let-out" clause does not entitle ADDITIONAL regulations to be included, nor does it allow for existing regulations to be ignored based on preferences.

Queen's Regulations are specific as to who should be saluted and when, and they do NOT include the saluting of holders of the VC purely for holding that award.

I would not wish to comment on the regulations pertaining to the US Forces.

20th April 2004JASE
22nd April 2004Richard
Thanks for that jase, if its good enough for the Queen then I think its good enough for the Armed Forces!!!
3rd May 2004R Donovan
Re unsubstantiated award of the VC.I think one Bishop (Canadian) was awarded a vc in the Great war he returned to base and told his account of a dog fight and was awarded a VC. Check with VC list
regards RBD
17th February 2005Arthur Bishop
I have just finished following this thread, which I did with great interest, not to mention a warm appreciation for the common sense, and simple courtesy, of those service men, who choose to demonstrate their respect for the holders of Britain's highest military honour, in the abscence of a suitable direction to do so by QRs.

Our history abounds with too few inovations originating from the rank and file, and not waiting upon the tardy decisions of the "Colonel Blimps'.

Even if it is not in QRs, I for one "take my hat off" to them. I am proud of them, and the VCs,.

It is a shame that a similar recognition cannot be granted to holders of the civilian equivalent of the VC, the George Cross.