Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Article in today's Telegraph


Cotswold
 Share

Recommended Posts

This story is in today's Daily Telegraph on page 3; you can also view the article online. There are some good photographs that accompany the story too. I found the article quite interesting.

Regards,

Donna :)

Author explodes myth of the gunmetal VC

By Catriona Davies

(Filed: 28/12/2005)

The belief that every Victoria Cross, Britain's highest military honour, is made from cannon captured during the Crimean War is nothing more than a myth, says a book marking the 150th anniversary of the medal.

John Glanfield: ‘There was an accepted legend and no one had researched whether it was true’

John Glanfield, a historian and author of Bravest of the Brave, to be published next month, claims to have exposed the truth about the metal used to make the awards.

It has long been believed that all 1,351 Victoria Crosses awarded have been made of bronze taken from two Russian cannon captured at the siege of Sebastopol and kept in the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich.

The Victoria Cross was instituted on Jan 29, 1856, as the supreme gallantry award and the first to recognise servicemen's brave acts regardless of rank.

The priceless lump of metal, of which there remains enough for a further 85 crosses, is kept in a vault at the Royal Logistic Corps in Donnington, Shropshire. It can be removed only under guard.

By studying historical documents and scientific analysis, Glanfield claims that the Woolwich cannon were not used until 1914, 58 years after the first Victoria Crosses had been produced.

John Glanfield's book

He also says that the precious ingot disappeared during the Second World War, so a different metal was used for five crosses awarded between 1942 and 1945.

"I was astonished," he said. "There was an accepted legend and no one had researched whether it was true. When something has been the belief for 150 years it becomes accepted as the truth."

In the book, he says: "No aspect of the history of the Victoria Cross has been so hotly debated or disputed as the origin of the metal from which it is made.

"The truth has become fogged by time, myth and misinformation. Part of the myth is that every cross has been cast from the two [Woolwich] cannon."

The cannon in Woolwich are Chinese-made, although they have often previously been cited as Russian, and Glanfield says that their origin is an "impenetrable mystery".

He said there was no evidence that they had been captured at Sebastopol, the last big battle of the Crimean War, as was often stated. "The Chinese pieces were not the only, or even the first, to contribute VC metal," he said. "An earlier gun provided bronze from the start.

"When the metal ran out in December 1914, the Chinese cannon took over. The football-size cascabels [knobs] were sawn off at the neck and melted down for VC production, starting not in 1856 but nearly 60 years and some 560 crosses later."

Glanfield cites unpublished X-ray analysis of crosses, carried out at the Royal Armouries and the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, showing that those awarded before 1914 were of a different metal from those afterwards. It is only those since 1914 that match the Woolwich cannon.

Furthermore, an estimated 224lb of metal has been taken from the Woolwich cannon. Glanfield said that to make 12 crosses with a combined weight of 10oz or 11oz required 47oz of gunmetal because of the wastage in the process. Therefore the 224lb would have been enough to make the 810 crosses issued since 1914, but not those previously.

Of the disappearance of the ingot in 1942, he said: "The wartime transfer of the VC block from Woolwich Arsenal with tens of thousands of dispersed depots may have rendered it impossible to trace." He said the War Office covered up the crisis at the time.

Glanfield, who began writing after he retired as a director of the Earl's Court and Olympia exhibition centres, almost turned down the opportunity to write the book because he thought there was nothing new to learn about the Victoria Cross.

However, he changed his mind because he had been inspired by VC holders he had met in his earlier career.

He said: "I found all of them quiet, self-effacing and considered their acts of gallantry to be just a job. These are supermen and I relished the prospect of writing about them. Researching the book was a humbling and awesome experience."

Glanfield decided to research the origins of the crosses themselves, a project that took eight months, because previous histories had concentrated on the recipients and their deeds.

Publishers wishing to reproduce photographs on this page should phone 44 (0) 207 538 7505 or e-mail syndication@telegraph.co.uk

14 December 2005: 50 years after his death, maverick colonel may yet receive the VC

23 November 2005: Fake VC at remembrance service faces legal action

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Metal is metal and is one of those things you can reproduce exactly as it was made 150 years ago so what difference does it make, as when it is melted down again to make a medal it is far removed from the canon it once was and infact will be no different than a brand new blob of today's metal.

Also the author needs to be contraversal to sell his book so remember that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Metal is metal and is one of those things you can reproduce exactly as it was made 150 years ago so what difference does it make, as when it is melted down again to make a medal it is far removed from the canon it once was and infact will be no different than a brand new blob of today's metal.

Also the author needs to be contraversal to sell his book so remember that.

Yes I agree its a nice story, myth,legend or whatever the medal is just a token of the act. Still if you cant get sex into the book try a conspiracy. Gareth

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi All, :)

Some people might be shocked and/or surprised, but to me personally I don't think it matters one bit !!

Cheers

Tim.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I saw a TV program not too long ago when the man who has the metal in his safe showed a bit of it. I believe that metallurgy would be able to distinguish the real thing from a substitute if there is a surviving contemporary cannon to get a sample from. As far as the author is concerned, he has got what he wants which is publicity. If he is really lucky, he'll do a Dan Brown and have books and TV programs about how wrong his book is. I'm off to write my startling revelations about Queen Victoria and Jack the Ripper.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As far as the author is concerned, he has got what he wants which is publicity. If he is really lucky, he'll do a Dan Brown and have books and TV programs about how wrong his book is. I'm off to write my startling revelations about Queen Victoria and Jack the Ripper.

That will be the incest angle, then? Someone's already done a book suggesting Jack the Ripper was Prince Eddie, Victoria's grandson who died in his 20s. There was a documentary on UK TV about him early this winter, which pointed out that the prince had excellent alibis for many of the occasions when the Ripper struck, like dining with his mum or being on a royal engagement a long way from London. (Perhaps he had a twin brother, cue comparisons with The Man in the Iron Mask and The Prisoner of Zenda?)

Moonraker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That will be the incest angle, then? Someone's already done a book suggesting Jack the Ripper was Prince Eddie, Victoria's grandson who died in his 20s. There was a documentary on UK TV about him early this winter, which pointed out that the prince had excellent alibis for many of the occasions when the Ripper struck, like dining with his mum or being on a royal engagement a long way from London. (Perhaps he had a twin brother, cue comparisons with The Man in the Iron Mask and The Prisoner of Zenda?)

Moonraker

Quite agree.

A ripperologist won't let an alibi (or anything else for that matter) stand in the way of their theory.

In the case of the Thomas Neill Cream theory for example, the fact that he was in prison at the time of the murders is neatly sidestepped by the claim that the man in jail was a double.

One of the 'experts' who regularly appears on these television programmes used to be an acquaintance of mine. In those days he used to take tourist walks around London. Most of the information he peddled to tourists was made up, though this has not stopped it appearing in print on a number of occasions (including his own published books).

The genre is fun but not to be take too seriously.

Mike

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Quite agree.

A ripperologist won't let an alibi (or anything else for that matter) stand in the way of their theory.

In the case of the Thomas Neill Cream theory for example, the fact that he was in prison at the time of the murders is neatly sidestepped by the claim that the man in jail was a double.

One of the 'experts' who regularly appears on these television programmes used to be an acquaintance of mine. In those days he used to take tourist walks around London. Most of the information he peddled to tourists was made up, though this has not stopped it appearing in print on a number of occasions (including his own published books).

The genre is fun but not to be take too seriously.

Mike

And that applies to tv programmes aswell, i remember a few years back watching a programme on Glen Miller who was alleged to have been called Glen Milner in real life and he was a German spy whose disapearence was faked with the help of Marlene Dietrich and David Niven and he died of old age in the states somewhere after a deal with the US goverment, i even believed it for a few hours aswell :unsure:

Stupid Nigel

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Back to VCs.........

He obviously didnt read Roe's Book of the VC published in the 1940s,which goes into some detail regarding the method of production & source of Metal for the VC,still no need to let the facts get inthe way of a Good story & a Book oppourtunity

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...