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7th March 2004VC's awarded politically?
By Toby
hi all
I doing a history internal assessmant for my IB highschool course, and I needed a quote or a link. Most people have come to the conclusion that Chard and Bromhead were awarded VC's not on battlefield merit, rather because of their rank and connections. Could someone please show me where I can find a good quote for this, or paraphase something so I can quote you....thanks a lot.
7th March 2004Peter Ewart

I'm not at all sure that you'd find "most people" agreed that the two officers were awarded VCs for reasons other than what you call "battlefield merit" - implying (almost) that the awards were - or are nowadays - considered undeserved according to the correct VC criteria.

Under the scheme as it applied then and by normal late Victorian military standards, the leadership qualities, the bravery, clear- and cool-headedness in very trying circumstances, devotion to duty and the example they set were bound to have attracted recommendations for a VC.

That the recommendations were both ratified at a time of immense shock, both at home and in S Africa, when some good news was very welcome and the awards would be greeted warmly by the public, does not detract from the fact that most lieutenants who became caught up in such an affair and acted as they did in that period, would have been been recommended for the award. Nor does the fact that others who acted equally bravely at Rorke's Drift but went without a VC necessarily, in my opinion, mean that Chard and Bromhead didn't deserve theirs according to the military traditions of the time.

I'm not sure Bromhead and Chard would be considered to have had much in the way of "connections." Many (most?) AZW VC awards were lobbied for by someone in SA or at home (sometimes by the recipient himself!) before finally being awarded. VC experts on this forum might like to enlighten us as to whether this was considered almost part of the system then. Certainly many VCs won in the far flung corners of the Empire would not have been awarded for like deeds during the Great War, and even less so since.

Their rank played a part, of course, but so did the leadership duties their rank obliged them to accept. The VC was a comparatively young decoration then and many officers aspired to one, often quite realistically if they saw enough overseas action and took sufficient physical risks - one of the best ways to gain promotion or the VC at that time.

This certainly isn't the "good quote" or "link" you've decided to look for (someone else may come up with something) but good luck anyway with your assessment.

7th March 2004Keith Smith

The Victoria Cross was, and is, awarded for 'conspicuous bravery in the presence of the enemy'. There can be no doubr that Chard, Bromhead and the other recipients at Rorke's Drift all met this criterion.

Part from Peter's very full answer to your question, the suggestion that the 11 VCs awarded for the defence of Rorke's Drift was a political action to screen the disaster at Isandlwana has often been put forward. I think there may have been an element of this in the very great publicity which was given to it but as to the VCs? My greatest doubt comes from the fact that the awards were not all made at the same time, Dalton's for example, being awarded a year later.

There is also an element of truth in the fact that in 1879, individuals lobbied, or had others lobby, for their award, although I have evidence for only one of these. Perhaps Peter might be able to illustrate this point a little better than I.

8th March 2004Julian Whybra
"Most people" ????? Name names! I think you've been misinformed. Perhaps a better subject might be how a modern interpretation of historical events viewed political correctness can skew historical accuracy!
8th March 2004John Young

As part of the course have you been shown the recent (2003) BBC documentary which was presented by Dr. Saul David?

I know Michael Glover, the author of 'Rorke's Drift - a Victorian Epic', put forward a theory in the late 1970's/early 1980's, that the profusion of awards was merely to lessen the impact of the defeat at Isandlwana.

John Y.
8th March 2004kevin heslop
no british goverment has ever given away vc
the vc at rorksdrift would have had to be won by bravery above that whats expected of a british solders, To give vcs out as sweetners for isandlwana would be disastrus