©National Archives

Photograph of Crimean War heroes awarded Victoria Cross, 1857 As the Crimean War (1854-56) dragged on, Queen Victoria personally oversaw the ladies' committees who organised relief for the wounded servicemen of the campaign. Eagerly seconding the valiant efforts of Florence Nightingale, Victoria visited the wounded and the crippled in hospital. Appalled by the suffering and the casualties she also instituted a special award for gallantry. The original Warrant for the Victoria Cross was signed on 29th January 1865. However, actions dating back to 1854 were included in the first awards announced in the London Gazette of 24th February 1857. On June 26th in the same year Queen Victoria decorated 62 officers and men with the award at an investiture ceremony in Hyde Park. It was awarded for acts of conspicuous bravery and could only be conferred by the sovereign. Cast in bronze from the Russian cannons captured at Sebastopol during the campaign. The main reason for its inception was to develop a comprehensive and enduring award to pay tribute to the bravery of men in conflict on behalf of their country by a caring and grateful monarch.