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Last Updated: Friday, 18 March, 2005, 08:18 GMT
Medal awarded to courageous few
Victoria Cross
The VC first recognised brave acts of the Crimean War
The Victoria Cross, awarded for gallantry, is the highest honour in the British and Commonwealth military.

Such is the level of courage required for the award that it is estimated the chances of surviving an act worthy of the medal are one in ten.

Pte Johnson Beharry, honoured for his actions in Iraq, became the twelfth recipient of the award since the end of World War II.

A total of 1,355 VCs have been awarded since they were introduced in 1856.

Pte Beharry's award came 23 years after the previous award - a posthumous honour to Sgt Ian McKay who died storming an Argentinean machine-gun post during the Falklands War.

Witnesses required

At least three witnesses have to attest to acts of valour to ensure nominees are worthy of the award.

The VC was first bestowed to recognise bravery during the Crimean war of 1854 and 1855.

The medal is made by London jewellers Messrs Hancock from the bronze of Chinese cannons captured from Russian troops at the siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean war.

A 358oz chunk of the metal is stored at the Army's central ordnance depot at Donnington, Shropshire, and it is thought there is enough metal left to make about 85 more medals.

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