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What part of the object do you notice most? Describe what you can see.

What kind of person do you think would be awarded this medal? What qualities would they have?

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The lion on the award represents bravery and valour, and reflects traditional British royal crests and heraldry. The lion stands upon the Coronation Crown which represents the British monarchy.

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Victoria Cross

Victoria Cross

Victoria Cross

This Victoria Cross was awarded to Petty Officer Tommy Gould in 1942 for his act of bravery while serving aboard a submarine.

Victoria Cross
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The Object

Object name: Victoria Cross
Date: 1942
Catalogue number: JM 2014.119
Material(s): Bronze
On display in the Jewish Museum? Yes

The Victoria Cross award was established by Queen Victoria on 29 January 1856. It is the highest military honour for British and Commonwealth servicemen. It is awarded for acts of conspicuous bravery in the face of the enemy. It is very rarely awarded, but it can be received by an individual of any rank. 

  • The medal is always made from a Russian cannon captured during the Crimean war, 1853-56, or from antique Chinese cannons captured by the British. The recipient’s name, rank, number, and unit are engraved on the back of the suspension bar, and the date of the act of gallantry is inscribed on the reverse side of the cross. 
  • Before 1918, a red ribbon was awarded to those who served in the Army, and blue for those in the Navy. After the formation of the Royal Air Force in 1918, all awards had a crimson ribbon.

  • The Victoria Cross is the first medal to be worn in a row of medals. In 1920, women became eligible to receive the Victoria Cross, but no women have yet been nominated for the award.


The Story

The Victoria Cross of Petty Officer Tommy Gould

Tommy Gould was born in Dover on 28th December 1914. He joined the Royal Navy on 29th September 1933. By the outbreak of World War II, Gould was an experienced submariner, and in August 1940 he was promoted to Acting Petty Officer. On February 16th 1942, his submarine, HMS Thrasher torpedoed and sank an enemy supply ship off the north coast of Crete. The enemy counter-attacked, and dropped 33 water-proof bombs on Thrasher. The Thrasher survived the attacks; however, later that evening two unexploded bombs were found in the gun casing of the submarine. Lieutenant Peter Roberts and Petty Officer Tommy Gould volunteered to remove the live bombs. This was an incredibly dangerous mission because if the bombs exploded, both of the men and the submarine could have been lost. Furthermore, the submarine was in enemy territory and risked having to dive underwater at any time which would have drowned both men.

The first bomb, which weighed around 100lb, was found lying on the submarine's casing. While Gould held the bomb still, Roberts put an old potato sack round it and then dragged it 100ft forward to drop it overboard. The two men found the second bomb inside a hole in the submarine’s casing not far from where they found the first bomb. The two men lowered themselves down into a nearby trap door and wriggled 20 ft forward on their stomachs to where the bomb lay. Gould lay flat on his back with the bomb in his arms as Roberts dragged him by the shoulders, working the bomb through the narrow casing and easing it up through the grating. Gould said that the bomb made a disconcerting twanging noise whenever it was moved, and it was forty minutes before the two men were in the clear. They wrapped the bomb in the sack, carried it forward, and dropped it over the bows, saving the lives of all men on board. For their act of bravery both men received the Victoria Cross from King George VI at Buckingham Palace in June 1942.

Digital Takeaway

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