Honourable East India Company & Indian Army Victorian Crosses - Part II 1860-1913

The 37 recipients of the VC covered by this period served in 18 different wars, campaigns and expeditions both inside and outside India and include the youngest winner, one civilian and the only Cross to be awarded 'in barracks' rather than on active service.

It is quite clear that the award during this period had become much more selective as despite the number of actions involving the Indian Army, only 37 Crosses were awarded during the 53 years as opposed to the 72 in the four years between 1856-59. The introduction of the DSO in 1886 would have had a substantial effect and it should also be remembered that from 1862 onwards there were in effect no British other ranks serving in units of the regular Indian Army. Though eligible in 1911 no Indian soldier appears on this list and it was not until Oct 1914 that Sepoy Khudadad Khan of 129th Duke of Connaught's Own Baluchis became the first Indian recipient.

As in Part I the descriptions of the actions are summaries of the citations and I have no hesitation in including the Rev Adams who was clearly serving on active service as the equivalent of an Army Chaplain.

The 3rd China War 1860

Hospital Apprentice A Fitzgibbon - Bengal Sub Medical Dept
Taku Forst 21/08/1860

"Fitzgibbon accompanied a wing of the 67th Regiment when it took up position within 500 yards of the North Taku Fort. He then proceeded, under heavy fire to attend a dhoolie bearer whose wound he had been directed to bind up and while the Regiment was advancing under the enemy's fire he ran across the open ground to attend to another wounded man. In doing so he was himself severely wounded."

At 15 years 3 months Fitzgibbon was the joint youngest recipient.

The Ambela Expedition 1863

Lt. A. Fosbury - 1st Infantry PIF
Umbeyla 30/10/1863

"During the Umbeyla campaign Lt Fosbury led a party of his regiment to recapture the Crag Piquet after its garrison had been driven off by the enemy and 60 of them killed. The approach to the Crag was very narrow but the Lt led his party with great coolness and was the first man to gain the top of the Crag from his side of the attack. Subsequently when the CO was wounded Lt. Fosbury assembled a party and pursued the routed enemy, inflicting on them further losses"

Lt. & Adjutant H.W. Pitcher - 4th Infantry PIF
Umbeyla 30/10/1863

"Together with Lt Fosbury Lt Pitcher had a party of recapture the Crag Piquet on 30th October. He led the party up a narrow path to the last rock until he was knocked down and stunned by a large stone thrown from above. On 16th November the Lt displayed great courage in leading a party to the Crag Piquet when it had again fallen into enemy hands. He led the first charge but was wounded in the action."

The Bhutan War 1864-66

Maj WS Trevor & Lt J Dundas - Bengal Sappers & Miners

"At Dewan-Giri a number of the enemy, about 200 strong, had barricaded themselves in a blockhouse which they continued to defent after the main body was in retreat. The blockhouse which was loopholed, was the key to the enemy's position and on the orders of the General in command Maj Trevor and Lt Dundas had to climb a 14ft wall and then go through an opening only 2ft wide. The two officers scaled the wall followed, after they had set the example, by the Sikh soldiers but they were both wounded."

The Lushai Expedition 1871-2

Maj D Macintyre - 2nd Ghoorkha (The Sirmoor Rifle) Regt

"During the Looshai campaign Maj Macintyre led the assault on the stockade village of Lalgnoora. He was the first to reach the stockade, at that time about 9ft high and successfully stormed it under heavy fire from the enemy"

The Ashanti War - 1874

Maj RE Sartorious - 6th Regt of Bengal Cavalry

"During the attack on Abogu Maj Sartorious removed, under heavy fire a Houssa NCO who was mortally wounded and placed him under cover."

His brother Capt. E.H. Sartorious won the VC with HM's 59th Regiment in 1879 during the 2nd Afghan War.

The Perak Expedition 1875

Capt G N Channer - 1st Ghoorkha Regt (Light Inf)

"In Perak Capt Channer was the first to jump into the enemy's stockade to which he had been dispatched with a small party to obtain intelligence of its strength and position. The stockade was formidable and it would have been impossible to bring guns to bear upon it because of the steepness of the hill and the density of the jungle. If Capt Channer and his party had not been able to take the stockade in this manner it would have been necessary to resort to the bayonet with consequent great loss of life."

Quetta 1877

Capt A Scott -4th Sikh Infantry PFF
26th July 1877

"At Quetta Capt Scott was on duty at the regimental parade ground in the evening when he heard that British officers were being killed and immediatlely rushed to the rescue. He found one Lt cut down and another hard pressed and wounded but being protected by a sepoy. Capt Scott bayonetted two of the assailants and closed with a third who fell with him to the ground and was killed by the sepoys of the regiments. This action saved the life of the wounded Lt."

2nd Afghan War 1878-80

Capt J Cook - 5th Goorkha Regiment PFF
2nd December, 1878

"At the Peiwar Kotal Capt Cook through heavy fire charged out of the entrenchments with such impetuosity that the enemy broke and fled. At the close of the melee seeing that a Major was in personal conflict with an Afghan soldier Capt. Cook distracted attention to himself and a hand-to-hand struggle ensued during which both men fell to the ground. The Afghan seized the Captain's arm in his teeth until the struggle was ended by the man being shot in the head."

Lt W R P Hamilton - Queen's Own Corps of Guides PFF (Cavalry)
24th April, 1879

"At Futtehabad Lt Hamilton led a charge of the Guides Cavalry against very superior numbers of the enemy. When his CO fell the Lt, the only officer left with the regiment, assumed command and cheered his men on to avenge the death of their CO. In this charge seeing that a sowar was down, entangled with his dead horse and being attacked by three of the enemy, Lt Hamilton rushed to the rescue cutting down all three and saving the life of the sowar."

Capt O'M Creagh - The Marwara Bn
12th/22nd April 1979

"At Kam Dakka on the Kabul River Capt Creagh who had been ordered to take a detachment of 150 men to protect a village against a threatened incursion of the Mohmands had to repel an attack by about 1,500 of the enemy. The inhabitants of Kam Dakka joined with the Mohmands and Capt. Creagh's force was compelled to retire so he took up a position in a cemetery and relief force arrived when the enemy were finally routed and many of them driven into the river."

Rev J W Adams - Bengal Eccesiastical Est.
11th December 1879

"At Killa Kazi some men of the 9th Lancers had fallen with their horses into a deep ditch and the enemy were close upon them. The Rev Adams rushed into the water, dragged the horses off the men, upon whom they were lying and extricated them. All this time he was up to his waist in water and under heavy fire. Some of the enemy were within a few yards of him and having let his own horse go in order to render more effective assistance Rev Adams had to escape on foot."

Capt A G Hammonds - Queen's Own Corps of Guides PFF (Inf)
14th December, 1879

"At the action on the Asami Heights near Kabul Capt Hammond defended the top of the hill with a rifle and fixed bayonet against a large number of the enemy while the 72nd Highlanders and Guides were retiring. Again on the retreat down the hill he stopped and helped to carry a wounded sepoy, the enemy being only 60 yards off and firing heavily all the time."

Capt W G Vousden - 5th Regt of Cavalry PFF
14th December, 1879

"At the Asami Heights Capt Vousden charged with a small party into the centre of the line of the retreating Kohistani force by whom they were greatly outnumbered. After rapidly charging through and through the enemy backwards and forwards several times Capt Vousden and his party swept off the round of the oppostie side of the village and joined the rest of the troops."

Capt E P Leach - Bombay Sappers & Miners
17th March, 1879

"On 17th March 1879 near Maidanah Capt Leach, with some men of the 45th Sikhs, was covering the retirement of the survey escort who were carrying a mortally wounded lieutenant. The captain charged, with his small band, a veyr large number of the enemy and in th eencounter he killed two or three himself while receiving a severe wound to his left arm. His action saved the whole party from annihilation."

Lt R C Hart - Bombay Sappers & Miners
31st January, 1879

"On 31st January 1879 in the Bazar Valley Lt Hart, while on convoy duty ran some 1,200 yards to the rescue of a sowar of the 13th Bengal Lancers lying in a river bed exposed to the fire of the enemy on all sides. He reached the wounded man, drove off the enemy and with the help of some soldiers who had accompanied him carried the casualty to safety."

The Naga Expedition 1876-80

Capt R J Ridgeway - 44th (Sylhet) Regt Bengal Native (Light) Inf
22nd November 1879

"During the final assault on Konoma, under heavy fire from the enemy, Capt Ridgeway rushed up to a barricade and attempted to tear down the planking surround it to enable him to effect an entrance. Whilst doing this he was severely wounded in the right shoulder."

3rd Burma War 1888-9

Surgeon J Crimmin - Bombay Medical Service
1st January 1889

"In action near Lekaw, E Karenni a Lt and four men charged into a large body of the enemy and two men were wounded. Surgeon Crimmin attended one of them under enemy fire and he then joined the firing line and helped in driving the enemy from small clumps of trees where they had taken shelter. Later, while Surgeon Crimmin was attending a wounded man, several of the enemy rushed out at him. He thrust his sword throught one of them, attacked a second and a third dropped from the fire of a sepoy. The remainder fled."

Manipur 1891

Lt C J W Grant - 44th Gurkha (Rifle Regt) Bengal Inf
21st March, 1891

"After the disaster at Manipur Lt Grant volunteered to attempt the relief of the British captives with 80 native soldiers. Inspiring his men with his example of personal daring and resource the Lt captured Thobal, near Manipur and held it against a large force of the enemy."

Hunza/ Nagar Campaign 1891

Lt G H Boisragon - 5th Gurkha (Rifle) Regt PFF
2nd December 1891

"During the attack on Nilt Fort Lt Boisragon led the assault, forcing his way through difficult objects to the inner gate when he returned for reinforcements, moving fearlessly to and fro under heavy fire until he had collected sufficient men to drive the enemy from the fort."

Capt F J Aylmer - Bengal Sappers & Miners
2nd December 1891

"On December 1891 during the assault on Nilt Fort Capt Aylmer, with the storming party forced open the inner gate with gun-cotton which he had placed and ignited and, though severely wounded fired 19 shots with his revolver killing several of the enemy and remained fighting until, fainting from loss of blood he was carried out of action."

Lt J M Smith - 5th Gurkha (Rifle) Regt PFF
20th December 1891

"Near Nilt Fort Lt Smith led the storming party at the attack and capture of a strong position occupied by the enemy. For nearly four hours on the face of the cliff which was almost precipitious he moved his handful of men from point to point and during this time he was unable to defend himmself from any attack which the enemy chose the make. He was the first man to reach the summit within a few yards of ne of the enemy's sangars which was immediately rushed, the Lt pistolling the first man."

The Chitral Campaign 1895

Surgeon Capt H F Whitchurch - Indian Medical Service
3rd March 1895

"At Chitral Fort Surgeon Capt Whitchurch went to the assistance of a Captain who had been mortally wounded 1½ miles from the fort. The Captain was placed in a dhoolie but on the return journey three of the bearers were killed and the fourth severely wounded so that Surgeon Captain took the injured man on his back and carried him for some distance. The rescue party was fired on incessantly the whole way but Surgeon Captain Whitchurch eventually succeeded in getting them back to the fort although nearly all were wounded."

Malakand 1897

Lt E W Costello - 22nd (Punjab) Regt Bengal Inf
26th July, 1897

"At Malakand Lt Costello went out from the hospital enclosure and, with the assistance of two sepoys brought in a wounded Havildar who was lying 60 yards away in the open on the football ground. The ground was, at the time, over-run with swordsmen and swept by a heavy fire from both the enemy and his own men who were holding the sapper lines."

The Tirah Campaign 1897-98

Bt/Lt Col R W Adams & Lt H L S Mclean - Queen's Own Corps of Guides Frontier Force (Cavalry)
18th August 1897

"At Nawa Kili, Upper Swat Lt Col Adams, Lt McLean, Lt Fincastle and five men of the Guides went, under a heavy and close fire, to the rescue of a Lt of the Lancashire Fusiliers who was lying disabled by a bullet wound and surrounded by enemy swordsmen. While the wounded officer was being brought under cover he was unfortunately killed by a bullet. Lt McLean was mortally and Col Adams horse and three others were shot"

Lt McLean's was a second 'posthumous' award before they were made official. His was finally gazetted on 15th January 1907. See Ensign Phillips in Part I of this article. See Conclusion of this article concerning Lt Fincastle.

Lt J M C Colvin - Bengal Sappers & Miners
16th/17th September 1897

"On the night of 16th/17th September in the Mohmand Valley Lt Colvin was with another officer who colected a party of volunteers and led them into the dark and burning village of Bilot to try to dislodge the enemy who were inflicting losses on our troops. When the brother officer had been incapacitated by wounds Lt Colvin continued to fight and made two more attempts to clear the enemy from the village. He was conspicuous during the whole night for his devotion to his men in the most exposed positions and under heavy fire."

Lt T C Watson - Bengal Sappers & Miners
16th/17th September, 1897

"On the night of 16th/17th September Lt Watson, with another officer collected a party of volunteers and led them into the dark and burning village of Bilot to try and dislodge the enemy who were inflicting losses on our troops. After being wounded and driven back by very heavy fire at close quarters Lt Watson made a second attempt to clear the village and only gave up after a second repulse and being again severely wounded."

South Africa 1899-1902
Lt F A Maxwell - Indian Staff Corps (Att Robert's Light Horse)
31st March 1900

"At Korn Spruit Lt Maxwell carried out the self imposed duty of saving the guns. He went out on five different occasions and helpled bring in two guns and three limbers one of which he, another officer and some gunners dragged in by hand. He also went out with two other officres and tried ot get the last gun in and remained there until the attempt had to be abandoned."

During a previous campaign, Chitral 1895 he had recovered the body of a Lt Col of the Guides under fire.

Ashanti, West AFrica 1900

Capt C J Melliss - Indian Staff Corps (Att WAFF)
30th September, 1900

"At Obassa Capt Melliss gathered together a party of men and charged into the bush at the head of them into the thick of the enemy. Although wounded in a hand-to-hand encounter his bold rush caused panic among the enemy who were at the same time charged by the Sikhs."

Somaliland 1901-1904

Capt G M Rolland - 101st Grenadiers
Capt W G Walker - 4th Gurkha Rifles (Att Bikanir Camel Corps)
22nd April, 1903

"On the 22nd April, after the action at Darabolah the rearguard got considerably behind the rest of the column. Capt Rolland, Capt Walker and four other men were with a fellow officer when he fell, badly wounded. Capt Rolland ran back some 500 yards to get help while the others stayed with the casualty endeavouring to keep off the enemy who were all round. This they succeeded in doing and when the officer in charge of the column arrived they managed to get the wounded man onto a camel. He was, however, hit again and died immediately."

Capt (Local Lt Col) A S Cobbe - Indian Staff Corps (Att 1st KAR)
6th October, 1902

"At Erego when some of the companies had retired Lt Col Cobbe was left by himself with a Maxim Gun. Without assistance he brought in the Maxim and used it most effectively at a critical time in the engagement. He then went out under a very hot fire from the enemy and succeeded in bringing in a wounded orderly"

Lt H A Carter - 101st Grenadiers
19th December, 1903

"During a reconnaissance at Jidballa when two sections were retiring before a force of Dervishes who outnumbered them by 30 to 1, Lt Carter rode back alone a distance of 400 yards to the assistance of a private who had lost his horse and was closely pursued by a number of enemy. The man was so badly wounded that it took three attempts to get him onto the horse."

Tibet 1903-1904

Lt J D Grant - 1st Bn 4th Gurkha Rifles
6th July 1904

"At the storming of Gyantse Jong the storming party, led by Lt Grant hd to advance up a bare almost precipitous rock face with little cover and under heavy fire. Showers of rock and stones were being hurled down the hillside by the enemy and only one man could go up at a time, crawling on hands and knees. Lt Grant and Havildar attempted to scale the final defensive curtain but on reaching the top they were both wounded and hurled back. Regardless of their injuries they made another attempt and, covered by the fire of the men below were at least successful."


A quick totalling of the number of recipients will show that I have in fact listed 108 not 105 as stated in part I of the article. The reason for this is that I have added three awards to this part having reconsidered their eligibility as Indian Army recipients. To quote Sir John Smythe there has been considerable controversy regarding the number of VC's which can fairly be claimed by the HEIC and the Indian Army in the period 1856-1914 and I would concur that it is very difficult to draw a clear line and there is bound to be some element of contention.

This is particularly so in the case of attached officers in South Africa and Somaliland and in the case of Engineers where all British officers of Indian Engineers and Sappers and Miners were Royal Engineers. I do feel however that the Indian Army is reasonably entitled to claim all those that I have listed.

In view of this element of contention it might be useful to mention those recipients which I have seen listed as Indian Army but which I have excluded.

Lt H E Wood - Indian Mutiny, March 1858
This officer was serving with HM's 17th Lancers not HEIC troops.

Lt Col J C Neil - New Zealand, March 1864.
This officer was serving with HM's 107th Regiment which ceased to be connected with the Indian Army in 1862 when it transferred to British service having ben 3rd Bengal Light Infantry.

Lt Viscount Fincastle - Tirah, 1897
(With Adams and McLean)
He was HM's 16th Lancers though attached to the Guides at the time of the action. 'The Story of the Guides' claims this as Guides award but I am sure that 16th Lancers made a similar claim!

Midshipman A Mayo - Indian Navy (Naval Brigade)
Indian Mutiny Bridge were acting in a military capacity and belonged to the HEIC. For the sake of good order I will therefore give a summary of his citation.
"At Lucknow on 22nd November 1857 Midshipman Mayo headed the charge when the Indian Naval Brigade was ordered to charge two 6pdr guns manned by the mutineers who were keeping up a heavy fire. Mr Mayo was nearly 20 yards in front of everyone else during the advance."

As in Part I it is interesting to note how many of the recipients again achieved high rank:

Sir Reginald Hart GCB KCVO
Sir O'Moore Creagh GCB GCSI
Sir Edward Leach KCB KCVO
G N Channer CHB

Lt General
Sir Alexander Cobbe GCB KCSI DSO
Sir Fenton Aylmer KCB

Major General
W S Trevor
D Macintyre
R W Sartorious CMG
W G Vousden CB
W G Walker CB
Sir Charles Melliss KCB KCMG
Sir Robert Adams KCB

Brig. General
E W Costello CMG CVO DSO
F A Maxwell DSO & Bar
Sir Arthur Hammond KCB DSO
G H Boisragon

A Fosbury
J Crimmin CB CIE
C J W Grant
J Colvin
J D Grant CB DSO
W Chase CB
R Ridgeway CB

Finally, strictly speaking the title of this part should not have included the HEIC as all elements of the armed forces were transferred to the crown in 1859. However, I have left it in for the sake of continuity!

Reproduced from 'Soldiers of the Queen', issue 79

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