On 5 March 1855
Queen Victoria wrote a letter to Lord Panmure that hospitals 'For our
sick and wounded soldiers is absolutely necessary and now is the moment
to have them built'.
The planning and
building of the hospital took place very quickly and a location was
chosen on the eastern shore of Southampton Water to allow the hospital
to have its own jetty where wounded soldiers could be landed direct from
transports. Queen Victoria arrived at the newly built Netley Hospital on
19 May 1856 to lay the foundation stone. In a copper box she placed the
plans of the hospital, various coins, a Crimean War Medal with the four
campaign clasps, and a Victoria Cross and this was placed under the foundation stone.
served as a major military hospital through various wars and campaigns
and eventually closed to patients in the late 1950s. By 1958 the main
part of the building was empty and remained so until a fire partly destroyed
it in June 1963. Despite opposition, the building was demolished in
On 7 December 1966
many notable members of the Army Medical Services gathered on a very
muddy demolition site and amidst much pomp and ceremony the foundation
stone was raised and the copper casket recovered. Inside were the
hospital plans, coins, the Crimean War Medal, and an unnamed Victoria
There was much
speculation about whether this was in fact the first VC manufactured
and the one that Queen Victoria requested Lord Panmure to provide.
The Council of
Colonels Commandant RAMC undertook a dialogue with Hancocks & Co to
prove its authenticity. Eventually both the Victoria Cross and the
Crimean Medal were suitably engraved to establish their identity and
this was done in January 1967.
consideration the dates of the correspondence concerning the Cross and
the date of the laying of the foundation stone at Netley, careful
consideration must be given that
this is in fact perhaps the first
and its 'presentation' to the Army Medical Services
pre-dates the first official presentation
in Hyde Park on 26
Iain received a reply from the Army Medical
Services Museum which states "the
Netley VC was engraved to establish that it was the medal removed from below the
foundation stone and to ensure there could be no
reproduction". The museum is not at
liberty to divulge the exact wording of the engraving.
These medals now
form part of the VC display in the Army Medical Services Museum
alongside a further twenty-two VCs awarded to the RAMC.