It Runs in the Blood: Related Recipients of the Victoria Cross

VC winners and recipients of other high awards for bravery line up on parade near the Exhibition Building at the Anzac day march.1927

One of his heroic actions included saving his younger brother Hugh who was wounded in action.

The Victoria Cross (VC) was introduced by Queen Victoria on January 29, 1856, towards the end of the Crimean War. Right from the outset, it took its place as the most prestigious award in the United Kingdom.

In over one and a half centuries, the Victoria Cross has only been awarded 1,358 times. On top of that, only 15 servicemen have received VCs for actions in World War II. The number of recipients is just a tiny fraction of the colossal numbers that have served the United Kingdom since the Crimean War.

Such rarity is due to the very stringent criteria that are attached to the award. After examining them, it is easy to see how hard it is for an individual to earn the UK’s most distinguished decoration.

But in the history of the VC, there are tales of men who have won the honor twice, as well as examples of family members who have each been honored for exceptional bravery with a Victoria Cross.

Lieutenant Colonel Howard Karl Kippenberger (later Sir), World War II Distinguished Service Order award winner, and Victoria Cross recipient Lieutenant Charles Hazlitt Upham (right). Photo:Unknown CC BY-SA 3.0

Only a relatively few families have achieved the incredible feat of having the Victoria Cross given to two or more family members. To date, four pairs of brothers and three sets of father-son duos have been decorated with the Victoria Cross.

In this article, we take a look at these men who have bravery running in their blood.

Josh Leakey and Nigel Gray Leakey

Following his decoration in 2015, paratrooper Lance Corporal Joshua Mark Leakey became the third British soldier to receive the Victoria Cross for actions in Afghanistan. Interestingly, he is the first living recipient to have received the premier British decoration due to his actions in the War in Afghanistan.

Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey. Photo: MOD OGL 3

A little research revealed that Josh’s award came about seven decades after Nigel Grey Leakey, a close relative of his, posthumously received the Victoria Cross for heroic action in the North African theater of WWII.

Josh Leakey is Nigel Leakey’s second cousin twice removed.

Nigel Grey Leakey VC, King’s African Rifles, awarded the Victoria Cross, Abyssinia, May 19, 1941.

Reginald Williams Sartorius and Henry Euston Sartorius

Major General R.W Sartorius was 32 when he pulled off the act that resulted in him receiving the Victoria Cross. The year was 1874, during the Anglo-Ashanti War in Ghana, and he was serving in the 6th Bengal Cavalry of the British Indian Army.

In 1879, Henry Euston joined his older brother as a VC recipient after his action in the Second Anglo-Afghan War.


Euston Henry Sartorius VC


Reginald William Sartorius VC

Alexander Buller Turner and Victor Buller Turner

These brothers are unique in that while Alexander received his decoration in the First World War, his younger brother, Victor, received his decoration in the Second World War.

Alexander Buller Turner received the UK’s most prestigious award for actions during the Battle of Loos in 1915. A few decades later, WWII ensued. For actions on 27 October 1942, during the Second Battle of El Alamein, Victor (who was seven years younger than Alexander) was awarded the Victoria Cross, too.

British infantry advancing through gas at Loos, September 25, 1915.


British night artillery barrage which opened the second Battle of El Alamein.


El Alamein, 1942. British infantry advancing through the dust and smoke of the battle.


Victor Buller Turner, VC

George Nicholson Bradford and Roland Boys Bradford

Lieutenant Commander George Nicholson Bradford had his VC-worthy performance while serving with the Royal Navy aboard the Mersey Ferryboat HMS Iris II during World War I. His brother Roland Bradford received his own share of honor while serving with the British Army in WWI.

Iris II returns to Liverpool after the Zeebrugge Raid.

They both died in service, along with their brother James Parker Bradford.

Owing to the heroic actions of this duo, they became the only brothers to be decorated with the Victoria Cross for actions in the First World War.

Roland Boys Bradford VC.

Sir Charles John Stanley Gough and Sir Hugh Henry Gough

During the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the two brothers served in the Guide Corps where they participated in the Siege of Lucknow. Charles John Stanley of the 8th Bengal Cavalry received his Victoria Cross for gallantry during this period. One of his heroic actions included saving his younger brother Hugh who was wounded in action.

A young Charles John Stanley Gough in the uniform of the 8th Bengal Light Cavalry. He was later awarded the Victoria Cross and became a General.

A few months later, still during the Indian Mutiny, Hugh Henry Gough also pulled off a heroic performance that made him eligible to receive the Victoria Cross.

With this, the two of them sealed their place in history as the first pair of brothers to be honored with the Victoria Cross.

Hugh Gough VC

Sir Charles John Stanley Gough and Sir John Edmund Gough

Several decades after Charles’ Victoria Cross action, his son John Gough would follow in his footsteps, receiving the VC for actions in the Third Somaliland Expedition.

With John Gough now in the picture, the Gough family became the only family with three VCs. They are widely regarded as the bravest family in Britain.

John Gough VC.

This is a remarkable feat from a family, especially since it’s in relation to an extremely rare decoration with the most stringent prerequisites.

John Gough, second from right, talking to Brigadier-General E M Percival. Also in the picture are Lieutenant-General Douglas Haig and Major-General Charles Monro. France, 1914.

Frederick Sleigh Roberts and The Hon. Frederick Hugh Sherston Roberts

Frederick Sleigh Roberts is one of the recipients of the Victoria Cross from the events of the Indian Mutiny. He established himself as being among the most successful commanders of his time.

Earl Roberts of Kandahar.


Roberts on his 82nd birthday, in First World War uniform.

Years later, during the South African War, his son played a very significant role in the Battle of Colenso, receiving the Victoria Cross, just like his father.

Frederick Hugh Sherston Roberts.

Sir Walter Norris Congreve and William La Touche Congreave

Sir Walter Norris Congreve received his award for actions during the Battle of Colenso, along with Frederick Sleigh Roberts and two others. His son would join him on the list of VC recipients during the First World War.

Lieutenant General W.N. Congreve.


William Congreve VC.

Read another story from us: The Incredible Captain Noel Chavasse: One of the Few Men to be Awarded the Victoria Cross Twice

Congreve was given this honor for his actions at Longueval, France. From 6 – 20 June 1916, while his battalion was under attack, he constantly inspired his comrades and several times ran into the open to rescue his wounded fellows. He was struck down by a sniper and was eventually awarded a posthumous decoration of the Victoria Cross.

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