The Victoria Cross (VC) is the most prestigious award in the British honours system, recognising acts of extreme bravery in the face of the enemy. Created in 1856, the VC has been awarded to several black service personnel.

William Hall was the first black serviceman to receive the VC. He was the son of escaped American slaves and joined the British Royal Navy, serving on HMS Shannon during the Crimean War. When a mutiny among the Indian sepoy soldiers broke out, Hall was dispatched to Calcutta to join a relief force. As the situation worsened, Hall and his officer, Lieutenant Thomas Young, were left to blast their way through Lecknow with eight-inch guns and twenty-four-pound howitzers. Hall was awarded the VC in recognition of his valiant efforts.

In 1866, Samuel Hodge joined the Army as an Assistant Surgeon. He was awarded for his act of bravery when he helped capture the stockaded town of Tubabecolong, Gambia. Although he was wounded in action, he was able to open the barricades to allow British support to enter.

The actual specimen Victoria Cross medal that was approved by Queen Victoria in the nineteenth century.
Lance Sergeant Johnson Beharry

Lance Sergeant Johnson Beharry received his Victoria Cross in 2005. While serving in Iraq with the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, Beharry managed to evacuate his platoon after they were ambushed.  After a month of recovery, his vehicle came under a second ambush and was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. As the vehicle driver, Beharry successfully drove out of the ambush into safety and was later awarded for extreme heroism.

Throughout history, there have been many notable black Britons who have made brave efforts when serving their country. One such person is Walter Tull who rose through the ranks during World War One. He once was a professional football player but, when war broke out, Walter joined the Army to fight for his country. He was the first black man to lead white troops as an officer and was killed in action.

Walter Tull
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