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Before the Crimean War, there was no official standardised system for recognition of gallantry within the British armed forces.
Officers were eligible for an award of one of the junior grades of the Order of the Bath and brevet promotions while a Mention in Despatches existed as an alternative award for acts of lesser gallantry.
The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest award of the United Kingdom honours system.
It is awarded for gallantry "in the presence of the enemy" to members of the British armed forces. It was previously awarded to Commonwealth countries, most of which have established their own honours systems and no longer recommend British honours.
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Following a 2008 donation to the Imperial War Museum, the Ashcroft collection went on public display alongside the museum's Victoria and George Cross collection in November 2010.
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As each country's system evolved, operational gallantry awards were developed with the premier award of each system—the Victoria Cross for Australia, the Canadian Victoria Cross and the Victoria Cross for New Zealand—being created and named in honour of the Victoria Cross.
These are unique awards of each honours system, recommended, assessed, gazetted and presented by each country.
These investitures are usually held at Buckingham Palace.
The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour acts of valour during the Crimean War.
This structure was very limited; in practice awards of the Order of the Bath were confined to officers of field rank.