Established in 1856, the Victoria Cross 'For Valour' is the highest decoration that a member of the armed services can receive. Cast distinctively in bronze, only 1351 have ever been awarded, the last being in 2015. There have been 11 Durham Light Infantry recipients of the decoration. Their names are now commemorated in a memorial on Palace Green in the heart of Durham, opposite Palace Green Library. Their stories are accessible here, as well as in Stephen D. Shannon's Beyond Praise: the Durham Light Infantrymen who were awarded the Victoria Cross (Durham 1998) which is accessible at both Palace Green Library and the Bill Bryson Library.
One member of the university community was awarded a VC in the First World War: W.R.F. Addison who was a chaplain and also received the Russian Order of St George (4th class). There is a published roll of honour of all the university members who served in WW1 accessible online, with also biographies and some images of those who died in the war and now also a number of those who survived.
Details of the background to the Victoria Cross medal in general and information on some of the holders of the decoration can be found here.
Other decorations for gallantry featured in the collection include:
- Distinguished Service Order (DSO), instituted in 1886, it was awarded to officers as a second tier of gallantry decoration after the Victoria Cross. It was complemented for warrant officers and other ranks by the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) which had been established in 1854. Both were replaced for gallantry in 1993 by the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross.
- Military Cross (MC), instituted in 1914, it was awarded to officers and warrant officers as a third tier of gallantry decoration after the VC and DSO. It was complemented for other ranks by the Military Medal (MM) established in 1916.
Further details about such military gallantry medals can be found at websites such as this (including the meaning and description of different parts of medals). A full listing of such decorations and also all military campaign medals, with their associated ribbons, can be found here.