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The First Victoria Cross: Awarded to Charles Davis Lucas.
The First VC Winner.
Charles Davis Lucas was indeed the first man to be awarded the Victoria Cross. Although his action was the first to be recognised, on the day of his presentation, due to rank he stood fourth in line. This was considered by many of his peers to be a great injustice. However military protocol was observed. Therefore, although he was the first awarded, he was not the first presented, three senior officers received their VCs from Queen Victoria before him.
At the age of 20 and as an able seaman Lucas risked his life to save his ship and crewmates. He had already served on HMS Vanguard and HMS Fox, whilst serving on HMS Fox he had seen action in the Second Burmese War of 1852. Now he was on HMS Hecla and she was under fire. The date was 21st June 1854. The Crimean War was at its height with Britain and France fighting Russia for control of the Middle East. HMS Hecla was despatched to assist in the blockade of the Russian Baltic Fleet. With two other wooden battleships, she engaged a Russian fortress. A brutal battle ensued, the three ships were pounded by Russian guns, in reality they were no match for the Russian firepower.
Promotion under fire.
At the height of the battle a live shell landed on the upper deck of HMS Hecla but did not explode. An immediate order to 'hit the deck' was given, as his shipmates dived for cover Lucas rushed over to the shell. The fuse was still hissing as he picked up the shell and threw it overboard, it exploded before hitting the water, only two men were slightly injured. The Master of the ship was greatly impressed and made an instant decision. Captain William Hutcheson Hall promoted Lucas to acting Lieutenant on the spot.
Lucas's action did without doubt save the ship and crew. It was his action which helped to convince the Government of the day, that an award for bravery should be introduced. It should be open to all ranks in the armed forces. This was done and the VC was introduced on 29th January 1856. Lucas received his award from Queen Victoria on 26th June 1857.
He made a career in the Royal Navy with various commissions and promotions. On retirement he had achieved the rank of Rear Admiral. He retired to Tunbridge Wells and died peacefully in his sleep on 7th August 1914.
Victoria Cross VC.
Order of Merit OM. (for distinguished service).
© 2012 Graham Lee