When the Victoria Cross was first instituted in the 1850s several of the first recipients were selected by regimental vote. Maybe it’s time that the modern British Army reserved a couple of medals per tour which would be awarded based on a secret company/battery/squadron ballot. I’ve said before that gallantry medals can go to the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Many regiments now proudly boast of the number of VC winners who have served in their ranks. But this ignores the fact that some excellent fighting regiments had far higher expectations of what constituted outstanding gallantry. What the Camforth Highlanders believed was a soldier simply doing what was expected of any member might well be regarded as outstanding bravery in the ranks of the Royal Blankshire Regiment and worthy of a VC. The only awards that are worth anything are those that come from a peer group. The most qualified peer group is often the opposing side – but they seldom send in bravery commendations for their enemies. Many bosses, in this case the officers, have little idea of what’s really going on lower down the food chain. Some bosses use awards to reward toadies and sneaks. There’s nothing like a Military Cross for boosting a mate up the promotion ladder. Of course there are exams to be sat but there are a lot of people passing those exams and a little extra boost from a crony does no harm. I can’t help feeling that the danger involved in making a couple of awards on the basis of what some might say is a popularity contest still beats the somewhat political way in which they are sometimes handed out at the moment. I can think of at least one reasonably recent VC that was awarded for something that wouldn’t even have earned a mention-in-dispatches during the Second World War. That’s not to say the winner was not brave, just no braver than many others who received no recognition at all.