The original inscription on the cross was "FOR BRAVERY" but this was amended to "FOR VALOUR" on the recommendation of Queen Victoria who thought some might erroneously consider that only medal winners were brave in battle.
The VC was first issued on January 29, 1856, recognising acts of valour during the Crimean War of 1854-1855. All VCs are cast from the bronze of two Chinese cannons that were reputedly captured from the Russians at the of siege of Sevastopol. Some historians doubt the cannon were at Sevastopol.
The medal takes the form of a Maltese cross, or cross patte, 1.375 inches wide, bearing a crown surmounted by a lion, and the inscription . The ribbon is crimson, 1.5 inches wide.
Since its inception it has been awarded 1354 times. The largest number of VCs won in a single day was 24 on November 16, 1857 at the relief of Lucknow. The largest number won in a single action was at Rorke's Drift on January 22, 1879. Since the end of the Second World War the VC has only been awarded 11 times. The last two were won during the Falklands War in 1982. Only three people, one in the 20th century, have won the Victoria Cross twice, Noel Godfrey Chavasse, Arthur Martin-Leake and New Zealander Charles Hazlitt Upham. This is known as VC and Bar as the person so awarded wears a small bar on the medal's ribbon instead of two medals.
Since the VC is awarded for acts of valour "in the face of the enemy", it is thought by some that the changing nature of warfare will result in few VCs being awarded. The last awards made were in 1982.
The corresponding honour for civilians or for acts of valour that do not qualify as "in the face of the enemy" is the George Cross.