It is almost exactly 160 years (21 June 1854) when shortly after the start of the Crimean War, though paradoxically the action took place in the Baltic, that 19 year old Midshipman Charles D Lucas picked up a fused shell which had landed on the deck of his ship, HMS Hecla
, and threw it overboard.
This action would be the first for which the new Victoria Cross would be awarded.*
Unlike the French, who had instituted the Legion D'Honneur
as far back as 1802, the British armed forces had entered the Crimean war without a gallantry award available to all ranks. The Order of the Bath was available for senior officers, but there was nothing apart from a Mention in Dispatches or the award of a temporary (brevet) rank for junior officers, NCOs or ordinary servicemen.
It was to rectify this lack of recognition that the Victoria Cross was instituted.http://www.victoriacross.org.uk/aahistor.htm
*The first to be announced in the London Gazette
(24th Feb 1857) was to Lt Cecil Buckley for his action of the 28th May 1855, the first man to physically receive the VC (at the Hyde Park presentation, 26th June 1857) was Commander Henry Raby for his actions of the 18th June 1855.