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The Victoria Cross – what it really represents

Written by: Paul W. on 18 November 2019


The Victoria Cross (VC) has a long and bloody history.  It was created by the British Monarch, Queen Victoria in 1856 and first awarded on 26 June 1857.  The initial purpose was said to commemorate acts of bravery during the Crimean War, but it was primarily an act of propaganda. The Crimean War was the result of an inter-European rivalry for parts of southern Europe.

It was the harbinger of what historians have come to call the “Great Game”, a political and diplomatic confrontation mainly between Britain and Russia, which we will return to later.  The cause of the Crimean War was fairly simple, the Russian Empire wanted to expand into territories which bordered it in the south and that the Turkish Ottoman Empire had become too weak to hold.  Russian Orthodox Christians (and others, such as Armenians) had also, historically, been badly treated in the Ottoman Territories.

The British, French and other allies wanted to suppress Russia.  The successful defeat of Russia was a key factor that led to the rise of Germany and ultimately to that terrible prize in the capitalist bag of political tricks, fascism.

Bloodiest century in human history

Almost two centuries later, the carnage that we are experiencing today is the ongoing result of capitalism in general and the phase of colonial and imperialist rivalry that began with this conflict in particular.  The horrors of the twentieth century, the bloodiest in human history, came about directly because of this.

Who would have thought that a relatively small change in property relations in the north of England, some half a millennium ago, would have caused so much human misery?  Roughly half of the human deaths that have been directly caused by capitalism, colonialism, imperialism and all their wars have occurred in the period stretching from the Crimean War to the present day.

One of the key things about medals in general and the VC in particular is that, from early on, it was used to influence public opinion to support war.  The clearest example is the eleven VCs awarded after the Battle of Rorke’s Drift in South Africa, that occurred over two days in January, 1879. 

The Anglo Zulu War was immensely unpopular with the British public. It was started by British Officials Shepstone and Bartle Frere without official authorization.  The British faced a savage reversal at the Battle of Isandlwana, where the Zulu war-leader Ntshingwayo kaMahole led his Impi (army) of some 22,000 Zulu warriors, armed with assegais and cowhide shields against British soldiers armed with breech-loading Martini Henry rifles.

(Above: Isandlwana Memorial)

Due in part, to their tactical superiority, the Zulu forces destroyed two British columns; the number of British dead exceeded 1,300 (basically two combat battalions were destroyed, the Zulu losses are estimated at between one and two thousand). 

The British Commander-in-Chief, Lord Chelmsford was completely incompetent and made a continuous series of tactical blunders.  To this day it still remains the greatest defeat of a technologically advanced Western European army against native people on their own lands.

Yet despite the lies told to soldiers of “defending the motherland”, bravery is still bravery.

There was a significant cover up after Isandlwana. The working class supported Opposition leader Gladstone, who was against the Zulu War and highly critical of Prime Minister Disraeli. Gladstone is reputed to have said of the war that 10,000 Zulu people were killed for "their attempt to defend against your artillery with their naked bodies, their hearths and homes, their wives and families".

Recently information has surfaced suggesting even the wrong people were awarded VCs after Rorke’s Drift.  “Zulu”, the 1964 film about the battle, has long been known to be historically inaccurate.

Fast forward to the present day.  An Australian version of the Victoria Cross, was created in 1991 under PM Bob Hawke, a CIA collaborator. Some 36 million people worldwide and at least a million Australians marched against the Iraq War.  It was the largest protest in human history.  It did not deter the detestable Howard Government from the usual fealty to the USA. Australia is after all, regrettably, a puppet of the United States.

One of the VCs was awarded to a SAS soldier, who is now under investigation for war crimes.  This is probably part of the reason he looked so uncomfortable when accepting the award.  Other medals were awarded by the Howard Government, largely to turn the tide of public opinion that had been against the “War on Terror” in general and the War on Iraq in particular.

This war, including Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Syria joins the long list of Australian involvement in imperialist wars.  Of them all, only the anti-Japanese war was in any sense (or at least that of international law), a just war.

And finally, we come full circle to the “Great Game”.  Today with the absolute Western attack on the Russian Federation, in terms of world public opinion, it is still going on.  This won’t end well, and that will be the subject of the next article.
 

 

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