History 2

Awarded for Valour: A History of the Victoria Cross and the by Melvin Charles Smith (auth.)

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By Melvin Charles Smith (auth.)

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The following passage comes from newspaper accounts of the storming of Dargai Ridge, 20 October, 1898: Stepping forward to the head of his regiment, Colonel Matthias addressed a few words to his men in loud, clear tones. The task before the troops was practically a forlorn hope. Four hours and more had been spent in similar attempts without success. Words to be a value in such an emergency must be well chosen. Colonel Matthias pitched his that afternoon in the right patriotic spirit. Having ordered the regiment to ‘charge magazines, fixed bayonets,’ Colonel Matthias said: – ‘men of the Gordon Highlanders, listen to me.

Felt himself deserving for services rendered ‘during the American War’ (we can only hope he meant 1812). The grandfather of all of these hoary heroes was a Frenchman, Monsieur le Baron Despiaux. 6 The reply to McDowell was typical, concise and leaving no room for argument: I am directed by Lord Panmure to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 22nd instant, forwarding a statement of the grounds on which you consider yourself entitled to the Victoria Cross for your services during the American War, and I am to acquaint you in reply that it is not intended that the grant of this decoration shall extend to deeds of gallantry performed prior to the commencement of the present war.

The circulation of the Times rose from about 5000 copies daily during the Napoleonic Wars to over 40,000 by the time of the Crimean conflict. 16 29 By mid-century the subjects of Queen Victoria were used to reading accounts of the latest British achievements and comfortable with the perception that they lived in the most advanced and stable country in the world. 19 It was ready to accept a national hero as another symbol of national greatness. The general social climate of Britain was receptive to the idea of a national standard of heroism, but it took a special set of political circumstances to develop it.

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