The Victoria Cross

Four Canadians were awarded the Victoria Cross for their heroic actions on Vimy Ridge.

For most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy. The medal was instituted on February 5, 1856 with awards retroactive to 1854. The first award to a Canadian was in February 1857, to Lt. Alexander DUNN (Charge of the Light Brigade). There have been 1,351 Victoria Crosses and 3 Bars awarded worldwide, 94 to Canadians (Canadian-born or serving in the Canadian Army or with a close connection to Canada). In February 1993, Queen Elizabeth II granted approval for the creation of a Canadian Victoria Cross (VC). The Canadian VC maintains the resemblance of the original British VC, except for the insertion of the Latin inscription, “PRO VALORE”, replacing the original English inscription, “FOR VALOUR”. No Canadian has been awarded the Victoria Cross since the inception of the Canadian version in 1993. Consequently, the following describes the original British Victoria Cross, as has been awarded to all Canadians since the Crimean War.

Victoria Cross of Canada

The meaning of the Victoria Cross

An act of valour or self sacrifice.


A cross pattee, 1.375 inches across, with a dark brown finish. Made from cannons captured from the Russians during the Crimean War.


The obverse displays the Royal Crown surmounted by a lion guardant. Below the crown, a scroll bearing the inscription: FOR VALOUR.


A straight bar (ornamented with laurels), slotted for the ribbon, has a V-lug below. A small link joins the V-lug to a semi-circular lug on the top of the cross.


The crimson ribbon is 1.5 inches wide and a miniature cross is worn on the ribbon in undress. The ribbon was dark blue for naval recipients until 1918 with Able Seaman William HALL, RN, being the only Canadian VC winner to wear the blue ribbon.


The recipient’s rank, name and regiment are engraved on the reverse of the mounting bar.


Raised edges with the date of the act engraved within a raised circle.

Courage and valour at Vimy Ridge

In the first of a new historical series on the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the Foundation looks at some of the soldiers present at the battle, and the heroism they showed in this landmark victory by Canadian forces.

It is truly difficult to comprehend the chaos of battle, especially one as intense as the Battle of Vimy Ridge. April 9, 1917 was not the first time that Allied soldiers had dared to cross no man’s land at Vimy, but each previous attempt had only resulted in significant losses, as the Germans repelled the onslaught. Their defences were considered almost impenetrable. The Allied troops thrown against them unfortunately suffered the fate of cannon fodder.

That swiftly changed beginning on April 9, when the four divisions of the Canadian Corps, fighting together for the first time, made the charge at Vimy. Their determination was palpable, and with a new strategy and newfound drive, they saw success by taking Vimy Ridge.

victoria cross


While each Canadian soldier undoubtedly showed his courage during the fierce battle, there were four examples of conspicuous bravery that merited the awarding of the coveted Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration within the British Empire. Of these, three were earned on the opening day of the battle:

Victoria Cross recipient portrait

38th Battalion

Captain Thain MacDowell

Victoria Cross recipient portrait

50th Battalion

Private John Pattison

Victoria Cross recipient portrait

18th Battalion

Lance-Sergeant Ellis Sifton

Victoria Cross recipient portrait

16th Battalion

Private William Milne

Help us achieve more amazing things!

Help us carry out our mission and support our programs!