For Valour: recipients of the Victoria Cross, 1914 - 18

    Albert Ball,    by Argent Archer,    circa 1915,    NPG P657,    © National Portrait Gallery, London
Albert Ball by Argent Archer, circa 1915, NPG P657

Past display archive
4 November 2017 - 24 June 2018

Room 31: case display, Floor 1


To mark the centenary of the First World War, this display consisting of two showcases, commemorates recipients of the Victoria Cross (VC). The VC is the highest commendation in the British honours system for members of the military. Named after Queen Victoria and established at the end of the Crimean War in 1856, the VC is awarded only in exceptional circumstances, for acts of extreme bravery carried out under direct enemy fire.

The VC was awarded 628 times for action during the First World War, accounting for almost half of all the 1,356 Victoria Crosses awarded and the most presented in a single conflict. These stark figures emphasise the huge loss of life and tremendous acts of bravery that characterised this war. The great public interest in VC recipients and their inspirational stories was fuelled by collectable ephemera such as cigarette or post cards. The depiction of war heroes served as visual propaganda to turn attention towards bravery and individual achievements, rather than the horrors of war and heavy casualties. As well as examples of publicly available photographs this display also features studio portraits which were taken as a record of honours received and as mementos for wives and family.

Victoria Cross recipients

Named after Queen Victoria and established at the end of the Crimean War in 1856, the VC has been awarded 1,358 times to 1,355 recipients. Coinciding with the photography display For Valour: Recipients of the Victoria Cross, 1914—1918 at the National Portrait Gallery, this selection of images features VC recipients from the Victorian era to the present day.

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    Robert James Loyd-Lindsay, Baron Wantage,    by Camille Silvy,    1860,    NPG Ax50277,    © National Portrait Gallery, London
Robert James Loyd-Lindsay, Baron Wantage by Camille Silvy, 1860
NPG Ax50277
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    Sir Dighton MacNaghten Probyn,    by Bourne & Shepherd,    1860s,    NPG x12771,    © National Portrait Gallery, London
Sir Dighton MacNaghten Probyn by Bourne & Shepherd (founded 1863)
Albumen carte-de-visite 1860s
NPG x12771
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    Randolph Cosby Nesbitt,    by Alexander Bassano, published by  Ogden's,    published circa 1900,    NPG x137369,    © National Portrait Gallery, London
Randolph Cosby Nesbitt by Alexander Bassano (1829-1913)
Cigarette card published by Ogden's circa 1900
NPG x137369
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    Arthur Martin Leake,    by Bassano Ltd,    26 July 1915,    NPG x33675,    © National Portrait Gallery, London
Arthur Martin Leake by Bassano Ltd, 26 July 1915
NPG x33675
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    Euston Henry Sartorius,    by Walter Stoneman,    1920,    NPG x67072,    © National Portrait Gallery, London
Euston Henry Sartorius by Walter Stoneman, 1920
NPG x67072
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    Alfred Francis Blakeney Carpenter,    by Olive Edis,    1920s,    NPG x5697,    © National Portrait Gallery, London
Alfred Francis Blakeney Carpenter by Olive Edis, 1920s
NPG x5697
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    Alfred Oliver Pollard,    by Lafayette,    1 March 1932,    NPG x48080,    © National Portrait Gallery, London
Alfred Oliver Pollard by Lafayette (founded 1880), 1 March 1932
NPG x48080
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    Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart,    by Cecil Beaton,    1944,    NPG P869(10),    © National Portrait Gallery, London
Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart by Cecil Beaton, 1944
NPG P869(10)
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    Johnson Gideon Beharry,    by Giles Price,    9 May 2007,    NPG x131262,    © National Portrait Gallery, London
Johnson Gideon Beharry by Giles Price, 9 May 2007
NPG x131262