The Delhi VCs July and August 1857

There was no lack of bravery on the Ridge. As the weeks turned into months, the camp was seized with the spirit of men who felt they had nothing to lose. Outnumbered and truth be told, outgunned, the only thing left in abundance by July, besides the rain and flies, was spirit. Although the men of the Ridge were undoubtedly already made of sterner stuff – barring Lucknow, there were more VCs awarded on the Ridge than during any other time during the Mutiny with 30 VCs presented for actions of valour between June and September alone. For Lucknow, it would be 66 between July and November.

Lieutenant Alfred Spencer Heathcote, the 60th Rifles

Elected by the officers of his regiment – the 60th Rifles – to receive a VC, the citation in the London Gazette states:

“For highly gallant and daring conduct at Delhi throughout the Siege, from June to September 1857, during which he was wounded. He volunteered for services of extreme danger, especially during the six days of severe fighting in the streets after the Assault.” (No. 22347, The London Gazette, January 20th 1860)

Born in 1832 in Winchester, the first son of Henry Spencer Heathcote and his wife Ann Currie, Alfred was the nephew of Sir Frederick Currie, 1st baronet and Vice-Admiral Mark John Currie. Educated at Winchester College, unbeknownst to Alfred he would become the first of 6 students of the college to be awarded a VC.
It is interesting to note that Alfred did not follow a traditional career – as a young man of some means, his port of call was not the army but New Zealand. After leaving school in 1851, Alfred joined the myriads of other men seeking their fortunes on the other side of the world, in the Australian Gold Rush. However, his ship stopped in New Zealand and young Alfred decided to try farming instead. However, the 500 acres he had purchased did not hold his interest for long – shortly after he sailed for Australia where he staked a claim at Bendigo and bought more land, this time, in Melbourne.
What Heathcote was thinking can be left to the imagination. Within a year of arriving in Australia, Alfred joined an East Indiaman and sailed his way through the seas, stopping off in the USA, Mexico, China and Singapore. By October 1855 we find Alfred back in England, where, with a little help from his family connections, he was commissioned as an ensign in the 1st Regiment of the Royal Surry Militia. This was still not quite what Alfred wanted – next, on the 16th of May, 1856, he received a commission as ensign in the 60th Regiment of Foot, also known as the 60th Rifles or King’s Royal Rifle Corps. As a member of the 1st Battalion of the 60th Foot, he soon found himself in Meerut.
Possibly his experiences on the 10th of May framed Heathcote’s mindset, at least where soldiering was concerned. His regiment had been shifted and shunted the whole night of the 10th, Hewitt refusing to let anyone loose on the mutineers and Alfred would have been one of the many men at Meerut who would have been forced to watch the town burn. Once in Delhi, Alfred refused to miss any opportunity to prove himself.
In a testimonial written by Major F.R. Palmer, we can get a sense of who 25-year-old Heathcote had become.

“No one ever better deserved the Victoria Cross; he obtained with not only one act but for many acts…commencing with the march on Delhi. on one occasion an advanced post in Delhi was retained by his declaring to the officer in command, who wished to retire, that he could do so with his men, but that he, Lieutenant Heathcote, would endeavour to hold the post with six riflemen he had with him. On another occasion, he made his way to the front with six men, supported by fourteen of those under my command. He and his party killed eight or ten of the enemy. This was the first forward step taken after the Army had been three days in the portion of Delhi first occupied by it.”

When the final assault on Delhi dawned on the 14th of September, Alfred Heathcote was one of the first men through the Kashmiri Gate leading the men of the 60th who rushed into the streets of the city. At the time of the mutiny, he was still an ensign.

His career did not end with Delhi. Alfred Heathcote fought through the rest of the mutiny in Oudh and Rohilkhand, receiving his lieutenancy in 1859. He also married Mary Harriet Thompson in Dehra Dun the same year. Not that this stopped Alfred Heathcote.
Instead of returning with his regiment to England after the mutiny, Heathcote preferred to transfer to the 2nd Battalion of the 60th in 1860 serving with them in China He took part bot in the assault on the Taku Forts and the capture of Peking. In 1863, he finally gave up soldiering but nothis wayfaringg life. Following a short stint in England, he returned to Australia, this time with his wife. Their first child was born in Sydney in 1864.
Farming seems to have been on his mind but soldiering was never far away. In 1871, Heathcote raised the Warwick Troop of Irregular Cavalry 1871, the first of its kind in Queensland. He would then serve as a captain in the New South Wales Artillery until their disbandment in 1872.
Henceforth, his life took a different turn. Appointed Clerk of Petty Sessions at Tambaroora and Hill End, it would appear he had finally settled down. In 1875 however, Heathcote was on the move again, though this time he would remain in Orange, NSW for 17 years before returning to Sydney and then finally to Bowral where he died in 1912, aged 79.

Perhaps a poem, penned for the Warwick Irregulars, is a better memorial for Alfred Heathcote than any other.

The Warwick Irregulars

List to the tramp of Warwick’s warlike troop,
An thro’ the town they march in bold array”,
While fair young maids and hoary matrons group
To gaze on our Irregular Cavalry!

We dread no more the blustering Yankee foe;
Our hearts are beating – but with love, not fear !
What foe could stand those sixteen in a row,
Well fortified with poor old David’s beer?

There rides the Captain on his charger fair,
Proud as a lord, ready to do or die;
For he can fight as well as he can swear –
Those medals are a witness if I lie.

The haughty U—- n, terrible in fight,
Surveys the drill ground with a fiery eye;
While timid maidens tremble at the sight,
And dream all night of him and victory.

Young S—-de a ” Victor*’ creditably rides,
And sits his charger with consummate grace;
No doubt while be his noble horse bestrides,
Bethinks him of his speed in hurdle race.

But where is Adam V—-‘s comely form,
Full fifteen stone of muscle, bone, and fat?
And where Young E—- whom may the gods reform ?
And where the hardy and the jovial Mat?
H—– prick your drowsy charger with the spur.

And sound the martial trumpet shrill and wild;
Pray go and see what all the rest deter.
Blow ! H—-n, Blow I but, H—-n, blow it mild !
– Warwick,’ April 25,1871. (

Hills and Tombs

We have already seen in the previous post, “A Desperate, War, the Ridge in July” how Major Henry Tombs twice saved the life of his subaltern, the rather wreckless James Hills.

For the action of the 9th of July that very nearly cost Hills his life, both men were recommended for the VC, Hills for defending his position and Tombs for rescuing Hills.

“For very gallant conduct on the part of Lieutenant Hills before Delhi, in defending the position assigned to him in case of alarm, and for noble behaviour on the part of Lieutenant-Colonel Tombs in twice coming to his subaltern’s rescue, and on each occasion killing his man.” (See despatch of Lieutenant-Colonel Mackenzie, Commanding 1st Brigade Horse Artillery, dated Camp, near Delhi, 10 July 1857, published in the Supplement to the London Gazette of 16 January 1858.)

Nowlan, Frank; James Hill Johnes, VC, Attacking the Enemy; Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales;

Both Addiscombe men, Hills, like Tombs, had been born in Bengal.

James Hills (or as he later became known Sir James Hills-Johnes) was born in 1833 in Neechindipore, Bengal, the son of a Scottish indigo planter and his wife, Charlotte, the daughter of Signor John Angelo Savi of Moisegunge, an Italian with a French wife. ( James was sent back to Scotland for his schooling, first to the Edinburgh Academy and then to Addiscombe, where he received his commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the Bengal Horse Artillery in 1853.

Sir James Hills Johnes, 1879. Royal Trust Collection, RCIN 2501422

Hills would serve through the mutiny in the 2nd Troop, 1st Brigade Bengal Horse Artillery. He was present at the action on the Hindun River in May, Badli ki Serai and then served on Ridge. Initially, his troop assisted Reid in defending Hindu Rao’s House but were then on regular picquet duty on the Mound after the heavy guns were positioned. Hills would be attached to Tombs’ troop at the Battle of Najafgarh in August. Following the fall of Delhi in September, Hills would join the force. which in 1858 captured Lucknow.
At the end of the mutiny, Hills became ADC to Lord Canning. His active career, however, was far from over. he served in the Abyssinian Expedition (1867-1868), and then, as Lieutenant- Colonel, he was appointed Commandant of the Peshawar Mountain Battery in 1869. From 1870 he would be the district and garrison commander at Kohat. Back on active service during the Lushai Campaign, he commanded the battery and was once again, mentioned in dispatches.
Hills joined the Kandahar Field Force as Assistant Adjutant General and served in the latter part of the Afghan War of 1878-1880. He then joined another mutiny veteran, Sir Frederick Sleigh Roberts who was commanding the force in the Kurram Valley in 1879. Hills was to be the last Military Governor of Kabul, holding the post from October 1879 until it was abolished in 1880. Before his retirement in 1881, Hills saw service for a final time as commander of the 3rd Division, Northern Afghanistan Field Force. It earned him mentions in dispatches and thanks from both Houses of Parliament.
After his retirement, Hills married Miss Elizabeth Johnes at Westminster Abbey in 1882, joining her name to his. However, he was not quite done with the army. He became Honorary Colonel of Carmarthenshire Artillery in 1891 and then, in 1893, went with Lord Roberts, privately, from Kronstadt to Diamond Hill during the South African War. As Honorary Colonel of the 4th Welsh Regiment and chairman of the Territorial Force Association in Carmarthenshire, James Hills finally retired from army life. He died in Wales in 1919, at the age of 85.
His was not the only VC in the family – his brother-in-law William Cubitt (married to James’ sister) would win his VC at the Battle of Chinhat in June 1857, while his nephew, Brigader Lewis Pugh Evans of the Black Watch, would win his at Zonnebeke, Belgium in 1917.

As for Henry Tombs, his career would sadly, be much shorter than that of his friend James Hills.

Sir Henry Tombs, VC, KCB (portrait by Felice Beato)

Henry Tombs was born in 1824 in Calcutta, the 7th son of Major General John Tombs and his wife Mary, daughter of John Remington, His father was a career soldier who had commanded the 3rd Bengal Cavalry at the Siege of Bhurtpore (1824-1825). Sent to England for his schooling, Henry entered Addiscombe at the age of 14. In 1841 He received his commission as second lieutenant in the Bengal Horse Artillery. At the age of 19, he would see active service for the first time with his regiment during the Gwalior Campaign, at the Battle of Punniar in 1843. Serving with the No. 16 Light Field Battery, Henry would be mentioned in dispatches for his gallantry and received the Punniar Star. It was a promising start for a young officer.

During the 1st Sikh War (1845-1846) Tombs commanded the horse artillery troop at the actions of Mudki and Ferozeshur, the affair at Buddiwal and the Battle of Aliwal, while also serving as ADC to Sir Henry Smith. Tombs received the Sutlej campaign medal with two clasps (for Ferozeshur and Aliwal). During the second Sikh War (1848-49) Henry, now Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General of Artillery, would be present not only at the Battle of Ramnagar and the passage of Chenab but also at Chillianwallah and Goojerat. Besides mentions in dispatches, he was promoted to brevet-major for his services and received another campaign medal with 2 clasps.

Events were unrelentingly hurtling their way towards 1857. Like Heathcote and Hills, Tombs was in Meerut in May. He was commanding the 2nd Troop of the 1st Brigade Bengal Horse Artillery. Under him, the troop would fight the battle of Ghaziudinnagar on their way to Delhi in May. Henry Tombs was at Badli ki Serai and then, under John Nicholson at Najafgarh. For Hills (who was part of Tombs’ troop at Najafgarh), he was “the best commander he had served under…” Gallantry appears to have had a sobering effect on Henry Tombs – when writing his report of the affair on the 9th of July, he deliberately left his part out of the report, much to the chagrin of Lieutenant Mackenzie, who promptly tore it up and submitted his own instead, thus ensuring Tombs a VC.

Medals of Henry Tombs, sold at auction in 2017
“Yesterday, the 9th instant (July ’57), Second Lieutenant J. Hills was on picquet duty with two guns at the mound to the right of the Camp. About 11 o’clock a. m., there was a rumour that the enemy’s Cavalry were coming down on this post. Lieutenant Hills proceeded to take up the position assigned to him in case of alarm; but before he reached the spot, he saw the enemy close upon his guns before they had time to form up. To enable him to do this, Lieutenant Hills boldly charged single-handed the head of the enemy’s Column, cut down the first man, struck the second, and was then ridden down, horse and all. On getting up and searching for his sword, three more men came at him (two mounted); the first man he wounded with his pistol; he caught the lance of the second in his left hand, and wounded him with his sword; the first man then came on again and was cut down; the third man (on foot) then came up and wrenched the sword from the hand of Lieutenant Hills (who fell in the struggle), and the enemy was about to cut him down when Major Tombs (who had gone up to visit his two guns) saw what was going on, rushed in, and shot the man and saved Lieutenant Hills. By this time the enemy’s Cavalry had passed by, and Major Tombs and Lieutenant Hills went to look after the wounded men when Lieutenant Hills observed one of the enemy passing with his (Lieutenant Hills’) pistol. They walked towards him, the man flourishing his sword and dancing about. He first cut at Lieutenant Hills, who parried the blow, and he then turned on Major Tombs, who received the blow in the same manner. The second attack on Lieutenant Hills was (I regret to say) more successful, as he was cut down with a bad sword cut on the head, and would have been, no doubt, killed, had not Major Tombs rushed in and put his sword through the man. I feel convinced that such gallant conduct on the part of these two Officers has only to be brought properly forward to meet with an appropriate reward. Major Tombs was saved from a severe sword cut on the head by the wadded headdress he wore.” – Mentioned in General Reed’s Despatch, 14th July ’57, for being conspicuous for distinguished gallantry.

After the mutiny, Tombs continued his career in India, and saw active service for the last time, commanding the right column of the Bhutan Field Force sent to recapture Dewangiri in 1865. He had attained the rank of Brigadier General in command of the Gwalior District – following the last campaign, he was made ADC to Queen Victoria. After a brief sojourn in England, Tombs returned to India with his wife – Georgina Janet, the youngest daughter of Sir James Stirling and Ellen neé Mangles who was the cousin of Ross Mangles, VC. Together Henry and Georgina would have three children, but their son Henry died in infancy.
In 1871, Henry was given command of the Allahabad Division which was then transferred, in 1872 to Oudh. The family settled in Lucknow. It was here that Henry Tombs’ life began its decline. During Christmas 1873 upon falling ill, the doctor had no option but to send him home on sick leave. By the time he reached Marseille, his condition had dramatically worsened and he was operated on in Paris. When he finally reached England, the doctor had given Tombs the sobering news that his condition was incurable – Tombs decided to spend his final days on the Isle of Wight where he died, on the 2nd of August, 1874. He was 49.

 “Henry Tombs an unusually handsome man and a thorough soldier. … I had always heard of Tombs as one of the best officers in the regiment. …. As a cool, bold leader of men Tombs was unsurpassed: no fire, however hot, and no crisis, however unexpected, could take him by surprise; he grasped the situation in a moment, and issued his orders without hesitation, inspiring all ranks with confidence in his power and capacity. He was somewhat of a martinet, and was more feared than liked by his men until they realized what a grand leader he was, when they gave him their entire confidence, and were ready to follow him anywhere and everywhere.” – Field Marshal Lord Roberts

Portrait of Major General Tombs with his staff
” “In the eyes of all those who had watched his career from its brilliant and joyous commencement to its most sad and untimely end, he was the very type of Spartan fortitude, of chivalrous valour and of every manly grace … one who united in himself all the attributes of a heroic martyr, of a splendid soldier, and of a knightly gentleman.” – Sir George Cowper, C.B.

During his lifetime, Henry Tombs was considered an ideal man and soldier- intelligent, brave, generous, kind and handsome. His looks caused women to swoon where ever he went and even swayed a general to offer Tombs his only daughter in marriage! Tombs, always the gallant gentleman, declined. Perhaps his nickname, “Cupid.” given to him by the ladies, was fitting after all.

James Thompson, the 60th Rifles

On the 9th of July, another man made his name for bravery – however, like Private Murphy who swam with as much vigour as Mowbray Thompson and Lieuenant Delafosse, they are remembered for Cawnpore and not Murphy who died largely unknown. Such is the case of James Thompson. His deed, though no less admirable than that of Hills and Tombs, has been forgotten.

Very little is known about the early life of James William Thompson. Born in 1830 at Hadley, near Yoxall in Staffordshire, James had worked as a farm labourer prior to enlisting in the 1st/60th Rifles in 1852.
After the Meerut uprising, Private Thompson, along with Alfred Heathcote, marched with his regiment as part of the Delhi Field Force and fought at Badli-ki-Serai.

The citation which appeared in the London Gazette is short and terse.

” For gallant conduct in saving the life of his Captain (Captain Wilton), on the 9th of July, 1857, by dashing forward to his relief, when that Officer was surrounded by a party of Ghazees, who made a sudden rush on him from a Serai, – and killing two of them before further assistance could reach. Also recommended for conspicuous conduct throughout the Siege. Wounded. Elected by the Privates of the Regiment.” The London Gazette of 20 January 1860, No. 22347, p. 179

The incident however, though perhaps not on the scale of Hills and Tombs was no less admirable.

On the 9th of July, Captain F.R. Wilton led his company to the Sabzi Mandi where they were surprised by a party of rebels who had been hiding in serai. The rain had fouled Wilton’s pistol which misfired, leaving him defenceless. Surrounded as he was by a particularly vicious band of mutineers, there was little hope he would survive. Private Thompson, seeing the straits his officer was in, leapt forward, killed two of the attackers with a bayonet, charged the rest, who turned and fled, and he then dragged Wilton to safety. Thompson then went back to doing his duty.

During the final assault on Delhi, Thompson was severely wounded, his left arm was amputated at the shoulder and he was invalided out of the army. Captain Wilton, fortunately, did not forget Thompson’s bravery and gave him a position, for a short time, as a gamekeeper at the Wilton estate in Scotland. In 1865, Thompson returned to his home in Staffordshire, where he took up work as a watchman in a colliery. However, fate and time were unkind to James Thompson. By 1890 he was penniless and living in poverty and the following year he died. at the age of 61. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Queen Street Cemetery in Walsall. The council eventually placed a memorial plaque commemorating Private James Thompson, VC.

Richard Wadeson, 75th Regiment of Foot

We met Richard Wadeson before in Returns of June 1857, Before Delhi where he was involved in the unfortunate and accidental shooting of Thomas Greensill of the Engineers, which led to Greensill’s death.

Richard Barter of the 75th, Wadeson’s commanding officer, although not exonerating Wadeson from blame in the incident put it down to nerves and bad judgement. Barter had high hopes for Sergeant-Major Wadeson – shortly after Badli-ki-Serai, Wadeson was commissioned without purchase to ensign. The incident with Greensill though deplorable would not affect Wadeson’s subsequent career.

However, it might have affected his character as Wadeson appears to have had a need to atone for Greensill’s death. Saving one man under fire would be commendable enough, but Wadeson saved 2 on the same day.

On the 18th of July, the objective was to push the rebels out of Sabzi Mandi and subsequently establish a picquet which would extend the British lines on the Ridge. The action was severe and the fighting brutal.

“The force sent to dislodge them was under command of Colonel Jones, of the 60th Rifles, who made his arrangements with singular judgment and tact and insisted on a regular formation being kept by the troops, instead of the desultory style of action in vogue during previous sorties. There was, however, some very hard fighting in the gardens and serais, where we were received by a storm of bullets; but the men being persuaded to keep well under cover, the losses were not very serious, the casualties amounting in all to about ninety officers and men. The enemy, as usual, suffered severely, more especially from the fire of our field guns, which mowed them down when collected in groups of two and three hundred together.” (Griffiths, Narrative of the Siege of Delhi)

In the midst of the fighting, Richard Wadeson saved the life of Private Michael Farrell of the 60th of Foot. Attacked by a rebel sowar, Farrell was unable to ward off the attack, as it is, the sowar being mounted and Farrell on foot, it was hardly a fair fight. However Wadeson, on the spur of the moment, ran his bayonet through the cavalryman, and Farrell was saved. He then returned to the fight only to come across the wounded Private Barry of the 75th trying with little success to ward off an attack by another sowar. Wadeson ran forward, bayonetted the attacker, thus saving Barry. Both Farrell and Barry survived, the latter with a slight wound in his shoulder. For these acts, Wadeson was nominated by his regiment for the Victoria Cross.

Wadeson saving Farrell

The Army and Navy Gazette says:- “Lieutenant Colonel R. WADESON, V.C., who had succeeded to the Lieutenant-Colonelcy of the 75th Regiment, makes the third officer commanding a regiment who has obtained his commission from the ranks.
“Colonel Wadeson obtained his ensigncy in the 75th from sergeant-major, June 2, 1857; became lieutenant, September 19, 1857; captain, December 9, 1864; and major, July 17, 1871.
He served with the regiment in the Indian campaign of 1857 from the outbreak on May 12, including the battles of Budinkeserai, siege operations before Delhi, and repulse of sorties on June 12 and 15, and night attacks on the camp on June 18 and 23, and July 14 and 18; storming (severely wounded) and capture of Delhi (medal with clasp and Victoria Cross).
He obtained the Victoria Cross when an ensign for “conspicuous bravery at Delhi on July 18, 1857, when the 75th was engaged in the Subjee Mundee, in having saved the life of Private Farrell when attached by a sowar of the enemy’s cavalry and killing the sowar. Also, on the same day, for rescuing Private Barry, when, wounded and helpless, he was attacked by a cavalry sowar, whom Ensign Wadeson killed.”

In 1875, Wadeson received his lieutenant colonelcy and appointed commander of the 75th becoming only the 3rd regimental commander in the British army to have risen from the ranks. Following his promotion to brevet colonel, in March 1881, he became Lieutenant Governor of the Royal Chelsea Hospital where he resided until his death in January 1885 at the early age of 58. He was buried with full military honours at Brompton Cemetery.

Charles Gough

Only 1 VC was won in August and it was awarded for a multitude of brave acts that went beyond Delhi. The recipient was Charles Gough of the 5th Bengal European Cavalry who famously saved the life of his brother Hugh at Kurkowhah while serving under William Hodson on his Rohtak expedition.

“Captain Charles John Stanley Gough winning the VC at Khurkowhah, Indian Mutiny”
One of a series of 55 paintings depicting Victoria Cross subjects executed between 1859 and 1862 by the British artist Louis Desanges.

The action was described by his brother, rather than by Charles himself:
An episode occurred during this little fight which I must relate with a feeling of the deepest gratitude to the gallantry of my brother Charles, who fortunately was so near at hand. When the enemy made their desperate rush I was rather in the forefront of the party awaiting them, and in the melee which took place I was forced backwards, and, suddenly making a false step from the roof on to a lower roof about a foot down, fell or was forced on my knees. While thus half falling, one man made a cut at me with his heavy sword, which cut right down my riding -boot. Another was aiming a better-directed blow, when my brother, seeing my danger, rushed forward and attacked the two, killing both, and thus undoubtedly saved my life. As it was, the hilt of my sword was forced into my wrist by a sword-cut, inflicting a slight wound.” (General Sir Henry Hugh Gough, Old Memories, pp 89-90)

Born in 1832 in Chittagong (now in Bangladesh) to George and Charlotte (née Becher) Gough, Charles, like his brother Hugh, was educated in England. Charles returned to India earlier than Hugh when at the age of 16 he joined the 8th Bengal Cavalry. His brother, Hugh, only 1 year younger was commissioned in 1853 as a cornet in the 3rd Bengal Light Cavalry. While Hugh was still in England, Charles took part in the 2nd Sikh War (1848-49) seeing action in Ramnuggur, Chenab and the battles of Sadoolapur, Chillianwalla and Goojerat. In 1857, Charles Gough was in the Guide’s Cavalry and rode with them to Delhi. Here he met his brother Hugh who had been sent up from Meerut.
Already recognised as brilliant cavalry officers, Hodson enlisted the brothers for his Rohtak expedition, Charles leading the Guides and Hugh as a part of Hodson’s Horse. Returning to the Ridge, Charles was almost immediately embroiled in the action on the 18th of August, leading the Guides Cavalry in a charge against the mutineers. In the hand-to-hand combat which ensued, Charles killed two mutineers after a prolonged fight, leading to his second citation for a VC.

Charles transferred to Hodson’s Horse and was present at the 2nd Relief of Lucknow under Sir Colin Campbell and three more mentions in despatches. He received in all, 4 citations for the Victoria Cross.

“First, for gallantry in an affair at Khurkowdah, near Rhotuck, on the 15th of August, 1857, in which he saved his brother, who was wounded, and killed two of the Enemy. Secondly, for gallantry on the 18th of August
when he led a Troop of the Guide Cavalry in a charge, and cut down two of the Enemy’s Sowars, with one of whom he had desperate hand-to-hand combat. Thirdly, for gallantly on the 27th of January, 1858, at Shumshabad, where, in a charge, he attacked one of the Enemy’s leaders and pierced him with his sword, which was carried out of his hand in the melee. He defended himself with his revolver, and shot two of the
Enemy. Fourthly, for gallantry on the 23rd of February, at Meangunge, where he came to the assistance
of Brevet-Major 0.- H. St.’George Anson, and killed his opponent, immediately afterwards cutting down_ another of the Enemy in the same gallant manner.”
– The London Gazette, 21 October 1859, No. 22318.

War would remain the mainstay of Charles’ career. Although he returned to England on sick leave following the mutiny, in 1864-65 he took part in the Bhutan Expedition and on the outbreak of the 2nd Afghan War, he was back in the thick of things, appointed brigade commander of the Peshawar Valley Field Force under Lieutenant Sir General Samuel Browne. Once again it was an opportunity for Gough to show his prowess as a cavalry officer, leading the assaults on Kabul, and the attack on Ali Masjid. He would receive the campaign medal with two clasps, followed shortly by a KCB. Upon returning to India, Gough took over command of the Hyderabad Contingent and finally, as commander of the Bengal District following his promotion to Major General in 1885. He finally retired to Ireland in 1895. His soldiering days now over, Gough spent the remaining years of his life as a country gentleman, writing a book on the Sikh Wars. He died in 1912.
Both his sons, John and Hubert, entered the military and they, like Charles and his brother, had distinguished careers. His youngest son, John received his VC in 1903 in British Somaliland but was sadly killed in France in 1915. Hubert’s career was somewhat more colourful than Johns’, however, it belongs rightly in the annals of WWI and the history of the 5th Army.
There is little doubt bravery, gallantry and valour ran strongly in the Goughs and they remain the only family to have received 3 VCs. Hugh received his during the Indian Mutiny and his exploit will feature later.

Photograph of a group portrait of the Peshawar Valley Field Force.
Back row (left to right): (unidentified); (unidentified); Major John Slade; (unidentified); (unidentified) and Brigadier General John Doran. 
Front row, left to right are: Lieutenant Gilbert Hamilton; (unidentified); Colonel Charles Macgregor; Lieutenant General Sir Samuel Browne (1824-1901) VC, Commander of the Peshawar Valley Field Force; Brigadier-General Frederick Ernest Appleyard (1829-1911); Brigadier-General Sir Herbert Macpherson (1827-86) VC; Brigadier-General Charles Gough VC and Brigadier-General John Adams Tytler (1825-80) and (unidentified)
Brigadier General Sir Charles John Stanley Gough, VC, CB and three officers of his staff, 1879, in the Bala Hisar, Afghanistan.

A picture of all the officers of Gough’s brigade at the Bala Hisar in Kabu, 1879. Gough is seated in front on a pile of trunks. The band of the 4th Gurkhas is lined up between the columns of the building above the officers.

A Narrative of the Siege of Delhi – Charles John Griffiths (1910)
The Punjab and Delhi in 1857 Vol II- Rev. J. Cave-Browne M.A. (1911)
The Red Fort – An Account of the Siege of Delhi – James Leasor (1956)

The Great Mutiny, India 1857 – Christopher Hibbert (1980)
The Siege of Delhi -Mutiny Memories of an Old Officer – Richard Barter, (London, the Folio Society, 1984)

The Victorian Crosses that Saved a Empire – Brian Best (2016)

3 thoughts on “Spirited Daring

    1. For sure! I think they were cut from very different cloth in more ways than one. It never ceases to amaze me how unabashedly brave they were and then went on as if what they had done was nothing in particular. The VC was a new kind of award and only recently open for men of the East India Company which were considered by men of the Queen’s service an inferior branch of the army and in part the idea of winning one certainly spurred on some of the acts of bravery, yet I think many of these men were inherently possessed of a strong sense of duty and honour which led them on. The Indian Mutiny was one of the last conflicts which saw fighting at such close quarters and they would have been very close to their foes to do what they did. There is a trend today to mock these men yet I wonder how many of our friendly keyboard “warriors” would be able to keep up even at half a pace with a Hodson or a Nicholson, have the clear judgement of Tombs or the cold determination of a Gough. I doubt any of them would make the muster.

      Liked by 1 person

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