It might be the first time this Queen has done it but….

An officer who was awarded one of Britain’s most coveted gallantry medals for his bravery in Afghanistan has been stripped of it after he exaggerated his heroism.

It is the first time the Queen has rescinded a gallantry medal issued to a serviceman and the case could undermine confidence in the awards system in the armed forces.

Rolling around the back of my mind is the idea that an early VC winner had his taken off him for, umm, not being a very good soldier I think it was.

Not sure if I’m right or not but there is that twinge of memory telling me that.

17 comments on “It might be the first time this Queen has done it but….

  1. PRIVATE FREDERICK CORBETT, V.C. On 30 July 1884 he was convicted by District Court Martial at Aldershot for being absent without leave, fraud and embezzlement and received 28 days hard labour. Because of this, his Victoria Cross award was rescinded and all of his medals repossessed.

  2. How would this undermine confidence in the awards system? I suppose if you’re a hack journo who thinks bullshitting is a legitimate route to success, then it might appear this way. But to a squaddie? I doubt it.

  3. Well the award of quite so many VCs at Rorke’s Drift was largely believed to be a smokescreen to play up the heroism of the British soldier so as to avoid the media concentrating on the military disaster that was Isandlwana and the poor command of Lord Chelmsford who was a personal favourite of Queen Victoria.

  4. Actually, there is a difference – you can be stripped of your medals for all sorts of military (or civil) offences. But they were still awarded. This is different – this is having the specific citation revoked.

    Consider a subtle difference between Fred Godwin losing his knighthood – his services to banking turned out not to be so worthy, as opposed to, say Roger Casement.

  5. What undermines confidence in the award’s system is giving them to people who obviously don’t deserve them.

    I’ll bet there was more than a few squaddies and Sgt’s Mess members who were pissed off when the award was made because it will have undermined those that were well deserved.

    This is more likely to restore confidence.

  6. Two different things:
    a) this latest Rupert hadn’t actually done the things he’d said he’d done to get the gong; shouldn’t have got it in the first place; taken off him.
    b) the 1884 squaddie, he had done the acts of bravery, but then a year later he did something wrong or foolish (embezzeled from an officer, apparently), entirely unrelated to the earlier act of bravery, was stripped of his VC.

    I’d say (a) helps maintain confidence in the system – it makes sure that the awards only go to those who deserve them.

    I’m less sure about (b) though. Once you’ve done the brave act, nothing you do later means you weren’t brave then, so I’d tend to say you should keep the VC.

    Different to belonging to an order of chivalry; that’s more a continuing obligation so it seems right that you can be booted out for something you do later. But a VC? That says you were overwhelmingly brave on one particular occasion in the past; even if you are a complete shit later, you’ve still done that act of bravery.

  7. From Wikipedia:

    “The awards of eight Victoria Cross recipients were forfeited between 1861 and 1908. Since 1920 when King George V expressed strong objections to the use of the forfeiture power no further awards have been forfeited. The power to cancel and restore awards is still included in the Victoria Cross warrant. The power to restore a forfeited award has never been exercised.”

  8. Eight of them:

    Private Valentine Bambrick, awarded 1858 during the Indian Mutiny, forfeited 1861 on conviction for stealing medals from a comrade (why? he’d got the top one anyway); committed suicide in Pentonville prison.

    Gunner James Collis, awarded 1880 during the retreat to Kandahar; forfeited 1895 on being convicted of bigamy. Died 1918 & given a military funeral.

    Private Frederick Corbett, awarded 1883 in Egypt, forfeited 1884 on conviction of theft from an officer. Died 1912 in a workhouse. 2004 given a new gravestone as a VC, unveiled by a Lt Gen.

    Midshipman Edward St. John Daniel, awarded 1854, Crimea, forfeited 1861 for desertion.

    Private Thomas Lane, awarded 1860, opium war, forfeited 1881 for desertion (and running off with his horse).

    Sergeant James McGuire, awarded 1857, Indian Mutiny, forfeited for stealing a cow.

    Farrier Michael Murphy, awarded 1858, Indian Mutiny, forfeited 1872 for theft of military oats.

    Private George Ravenhill, awarded 1899, Boer War, forfeited 1908 for theft of “a quantity of iron” on being unable to pay the 10-shilling fine.

  9. Actually, a mate of mine was awarded the DSO for his actions in Afghanistan, the youngest recipient for years. It was for his actions at the head of a special forces patrol which got ambushed. i.e. set down in the middle of a Taliban position. Nobody was more surprised than him when he was told of the award, and tends to downplay it.

  10. I do wonder if there’s been some grade inflation with gongs in some of the recent past’s grubby little wars. The “our brave boys” narrative to deflect criticism of why they’re there in the first place & some of the appalling management.
    And I do wonder about the requirement for “bravery” amongst the lads, produces the awards. This is supposed to be a first world, C21th high tech military against C19th bandits. Opportunities for casualties & opportunities for outstanding bravery should be at an absolute minimum. If a supposed C21th high tech military wasn’t being run on a shoe-string with clapped out helicopters & Snatch Landrovers. from the mid C20th.

  11. The guy wrote his own citation. Truly the defence cuts must be deep and grievous that people have to mark their own exams.

  12. do wonder if there’s been some grade inflation with gongs in some of the recent past’s grubby little wars.

    In “Ghost Force”, a memoir by a long-serving SAS sergeant, there’s some pithy comments about special forces officers who got medals for the actions of their troopers during patrols just because they got to write the reports. It was in the chapter about the Malaya campaign, so it’s nothing new.

    Great book, by the way, available on Amazon too.

  13. @BnIS

    ‘And I do wonder about the requirement for “bravery” amongst the lads, produces the awards.’

    Let’s say you’re a 25-year-old corporal based in a FOB in Nahr-e Saraj in July. You have just walked out of the gate of on a six hour ‘reassurance’ patrol (though no-one seems to know who you’re reassuring) in 50C heat wearing combats, leather gloves, a helmet and Osprey wearing around 12kg, carrying a rifle weighing a further 5kg and carrying around another 25kg of kit. They ought to dish out medals for that alone.

    Yesterday you saw your best mate and section 2IC step on an IED 2km from the FOB. The force of the explosion ripped his genitals, face and arms off, and blew the rest of him 60ft away, over a canal. The Taliban followed up the IED with a simultaneous harrassing fire on the FOB to slow down the QRF, and the subsequent contact lasted thirty minutes until an Apache came in. By that time you were down to one and a half magazines and wondering about the old Kipling poem.

    Once they broke contact you could get to your mate. Despite his injuries, he had been alive for quite a while, but thank God by the time you got there he was dead.

    He was 22 and his wife had just had their first child. Your girlfriend and she are good friends.

    You spent the next two hours with your blokes, collecting his body parts and guarding the scene while waiting for the police. The RAF refused to fly in to collect what you could find of his body, so he poached nicely in his body bag until an American helicopter did the job.

    You’d had a lot of admin to do, the British forces do like their paperwork, and then between thinking about your mate and his wife and their kid and your turn on stag you have had about two hours’ sleep.

    Today, you are in a ditch flowing with human sewage looking at a maize field 25m away. The maize is so thick you can’t see more than 5m into it, even with your optics. You don’t know if there are IEDs in there – the Taliban tend not to mine the crops but you never know – or several of them with AKs looking at your position even as you lie there.

    To your left along this dirt track is a small compound. To the right is a boy pushing a wheelbarrow. Last time you were out here the Taliban used a boy with a wheelbarrow to put a large device into the middle of a group of marines and killed three of your mates. You can still hear their screams.

    Irrelevant, because before he gets within what would be range you are up and into the maize, almost literally blind, hunting an enemy that will castrate and gut you alive if they get hold of you, and put it on youtube so your family can watch.

    You did that last week, you’ll do it next week, and in total you’ll do it for five months (the Yanks have it a lot worse), for a maximum £34,000 (you’re not complaining, you volunteered for this, if you didn’t have a sense of humour you wouldn’t have joined), and you won’t eat properly, or sleep properly, or wash properly for any of that time, barring a bit of R&R when you’ll come home and sit in the pub watching the football with people who think Man U’s latest crap signing is a big deal and haven’t got a fucking scooby where you’ve been, and keep asking if you’ve been on holiday, you’ve got such a good tan.

    Yep, I call that bravery, B(n)IS, and without the ironic quotes!

  14. I’m sorry, Interested. Are you advocating the above as a lifestyle choice? That we should use the model as a basis for adventure holidays?
    Just because it’s done doesn’t mean it needs doing in the way it’s done or needs to be done at all.
    Sounds remarkably like the “hard working dedicated doctors & nurses” schtik gets dragged out every time the NHS comes under fire. A narrative device, shrewdly used, to deter critics asking difficult questions. The question here being whether politicians should be involving the military in risky foreign adventures? What’s being achieved?
    Bravery without purpose is like the bravery of a climber half way up an ice pitch on a mountain. You have to ask what the hell he’s doing up there?

  15. That’s a geopolitical question. I was addressing the tone of your comment and the implied suggestion that the bravery of the average soldier is somehow in doubt.

    I’m not sure what you mean by a lifestyle choice or adventure holidays but I do know that more than a few of the lads at the lower end of the scale have very few other opportunities.

  16. b(n)is,

    It’s damn near impossible to read

    > I do wonder if there’s been some grade inflation with gongs

    as being anything other than a clear implication that the medals are going to people who don’t deserve them. If that’s not what you meant, work on your wording.

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