LIST OF THE FOURTEEN OLD CHELTONIANS WHO HAVE WON THE VICTORIA CROSS
"Requiescant In Pacem" (May they Rest in Peace –
but not unremembered !)
"Who would true valour see, Let him come hither...."
(John Bunyan in The Pilgrimfs Progress (1684) pt.2, p.247)
Listen to the first verse (sung unaccompanied by the Editor of this page ! Ed.) here. (approx 1MB .wav sound file)
Note: This rousing hymn is frequently sung in the Chapel of Cheltenham College. There are two tunes, according to Hymns Ancient & Modern new standard. The usual one has no name, and is listed as "Adapted from an English Traditional Melody by R. Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)". This is the one usually sung at Cheltenham. The second tune is listed as "christen-schatz (Basle, 1745)" (Thanks to Tim Cutts, OC for this information. Ed.)
1. Names and dates from John Bowes , the former Housemaster of Hazelwell
3. Richard Arman for details about the number of VCs held by various schools and colleges, and about the tragic end of Duncan Boyes.
4. Nigel Marshall for details about A.G. Kempster.
1. Award holders are given below first in alphabetical, and then in chronological order (oldest award first, from 1857 through 1943).
2. Age at the time of the gallant deed is given in brackets after the name in the alphabetical list, and the date in the chronological list. Ranks given are those at the time of the deed, without regard to any subsequent promotions.
3. There are no living O.C. recipients of the Victoria Cross. As at July 1998 there were only 29 recipients still alive out of 1,354 awarded so far. Since 1945 the V.C. has only been awarded 11 times, the last two in the Falklands War (1982).
4. In the nineteenth century the Victoria Cross was the only award available for gallantry, but in this century lesser awards have been introduced: George Cross, Distinguished Service Order, Military Cross etc.
5. Apparently two (or maybe three ?) of the Old Cheltonian VC holders are buried in Gloucestershire.
W. F. McDonell - born in Cheltenham, buried in St. Peter's Churchyard, Leckhampton
J. Forbes-Robinson - born in Cheltenham, buried in Cheltenham Cemetery
E. C. Boyle - ?
6. Richard Arman has kindly supplied the following information regarding the numbers of VCs won by schools and Oxbridge colleges:
Date: 21 Aug 1998
The following list from Canon Wm. Lummis MC is submitted for interest from my files. The colleges with a "X" have been checked and verified. Here goes:
22 Eton, 15 Harrow, 14 Cheltenham X, 13 Marlborough, 11 Wellington, 7 Stonyhurst X, 7 Haileybury, 7 Clifton, 6 Westminster, 6 Trinity College Cambridge, 5 Dulwich College, 5 Edinburgh Academy, 5 Sherborne X, 4 Winchester, 4 Merton College Oxford, 4 Victoria College, Jersey
The following have a tally of 3 VCs each:
Bedford, Berkhamsted, Charterhouse, Christchurch Oxford, Christ's Hospital X, Clongowes Wood College, Fettes College, Framlingham X, King's School Canterbury, King William IV School Isle of Man X, Merchant Taylorsf School Blackheath (Northwood not Blackheath ? Ed.), St. Andrews College, St. Bees Cumberland X, St. Paul's London, Uppingham School.
This list was compiled on the 23rd July 1968 by Lummis himself. If anyone out there has a notion to confirm these figures please do. I would be very glad of the results. I would do it myself, but I have much to do with my own research and would shelve it for a much later project.
Hope this helps.
(Thank you very much, Richard ! Please add Bromsgrove School to your list, as they have five V.C.s. Regards. Ed.)
Alphabetical List (by family name)
"Carve their Names with Pride"
BOGLE, Lieutenant Andrew Cathcart (28)
BOOTH, Sergeant Frederick Charles (27)
BOYES, Midshipman Duncan Gordon (17, easily the youngest)
BOYLE, Lieut. Commander Edward Courtney (32)
CHANNER, Captain George Nicolas (32)
FORBES-ROBERTSON, Lieutenant Colonel James (34)
GRANT, Lieutenant John Duncan (27)
HART, Lieutenant Reginald C. (31)
KEMPSTER, Major A. G. (George Cross, see below)
MELVILL, Lieutenant Teignmouth (37)
McDONELL, Mr. William Fraser (28)
MOOR, Second Lieut. George Raymond Dallas (19)
NEAME, Lieutenant Philip (26)
REYNOLDS, Captain Douglas (32)
RYDER, Commander Robert Edward Dudley (34)
Chronological List (1857-1943)
1) Lieutenant Andrew Cathcart BOGLE (78th Regiment, later Seaforth Highlanders); Oonao, India, 29 July 1857 (Age 28)
"On 29 July 1857 in the attack on Oonao, India Lieutenant Bogle led the way into a loopholed house which was occupied by the enemy and from which a heavy fire harassed the advance of his regiment. The lieutenant was severely wounded in this action. He later achieved the rank of Major in the 18th regiment (later The Seaforth Highlanders - Ross-shire Buffs, Duke of Albany's)."
2) Mr. William Fraser
McDONELL, Bengal Civil
Service; Arrah, 30 July 1857
(One of only five civilians to receive the award.) (Age 28)
"On 30 July 1857 during the retreat from Arrah, India, Mr. McDonell and 35 soldiers were in a boat hoping to escape, but the oars had been taken away by the rebels and the rudder tied to the side of the boat. Mr. McDonell climbed out of the boat under incessant fire from the enemy and with considerable difficulty cut through the lashing which secured the rudder. He then guided the boat himself, and helped by a breeze, crossed the river to safety."
"On 6 September 1864 at Shimonoseki, Japan, Midshipman Boyes of HMS Euryalus displayed great gallantry in the capture of the enemy's stockade. He carried the Queen's Colour into action with the leading company and kept the flag flying in spite of direct fire which killed one of his colour sergeants. Mr. Boyes and the other colour sergeant (PRIDE, T.) who was badly wounded, were only prevented from going further forward by direct orders from their superior officer."
The information about Duncan Boyes in the following e-mail came from four sources:
Richard Arman's own file on Boyes;
The Victoria Cross At Sea by John Winton;
The Victoria Cross 1856-1920 by O'M Creagh VC and EM Humphris, and
The Victoria Cross 1856-1964 by Sir John Smyth VC MC.
Date: 12 Aug 1998
The Boyes VC realised GBP 51,000 and was sold on behalf of Cheltenham College [on 21 July 1998 at a London auction Ed.] for the purpose of establishing a scholarship in Boyes' name.
OK. What have we got here ...
Duncan Gordon Boyes was born at 3 Paragon Buildings, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, the son of John Boyes Esq. on the 5th November 1846. His sister Louisa Mary was later to marry Thomas Young, who was to win a VC at Lucknow.
Duncan was educated at Cheltenham College (hence their reason for having the Cross) and joined the RN, after being prepared at North Grove House Academy, and was assigned to HMS Euryalus on the East Indies station.
He won his VC at the age of 17, for his part in action at Shimonoseki, Japan on the 6th September 1864. The citation was published in the London Gazette of the 21st April 1865 and read:
"Duncan Gordon Boyes, Royal Navy, Midshipman of Her Majesty's Ship Euryalus"
For the conspicuous gallantry, which, according to the testimony of Capt. Alexander CB, at that time Flag Captain to Vice-Admiral Sir Augustus Küper KCB, Mr. Boyes displayed in the capture of the enemy's stockade. He carried a Colour with the leading company, kept it in advance of all, in the face of the thickest fire, his colour-sergeants having fallen, one mortally, the other dangerously wounded, and he was only detained from proceeding yet further by the orders of his superior officer. The Colour he carried was six times pierced by musket balls."
Duncan was invested with his VC on the 22nd September 1865 by Admiral Sir Michael Seymour GCB (C-in-C to Portsmouth) on the Common at Southsea, along with William Seeley and Thomas Pride. Hugh Talbot Burgoyne VC, John Commerell VC and others also attended the ceremony.
Duncan's short life was to take a turn for the worse from then on. On the 9th February 1867, he and another midshipman were court-martialled for disobedience of the C-in-C's Standing Order by breaking into the Naval Yard at Bermuda after 11 pm after they had been previously refused admittance by the Warder at the main gate for not having a pass. Both admitted their guilt and were sentenced to be dismissed from the service. There is some speculation that there was more to this to warrant such a harsh penalty. (Speculation there may be, but under English law a man is "innocent until proven guilty" of any crime, no matter how serious or trivial. Ed.)
The disgrace of this was too much to bear for Duncan and he began to suffer tremendously from fits of depression and began drinking heavily. For the sake of his health he went to New Zealand to work with his brother on his sheep station, but the scandal appears to have followed him, for he was to suffer a complete nervous breakdown and he took his own life on the 26th January 1869 at Dunedin, aged just 22 years 2 months. On his death certificate, the cause was listed as delirium tremens.
He was buried locally in the Southern Cemetery with a stone at his head and feet, though on the 4th May 1954 the Dunedin RSA, in consequence of his VC, reburied him in the servicemen's section of Anderson's Bay Cemetery.
Hope this helps, if you require any more info drop me a line. I'll do what I can.
1) A Diplomat in Japan by Sir Ernest Satow, who was present at Shimonoseki on the day when Boyes won his medal. He wrote:
"Lieutenant Edwards and Crowdy of the Engineers were ahead with a middy named D. G. Boyes, who carried the colours most gallantly; he afterwards received the V.C. for conduct very plucky in one so young." (p.112, first edition, 1921)
2) The Royal Navy - A History from the earliest times to the death of Queen Victoria in seven volumes by Sir William Laird Clowes (AMS Press Inc, New York, 1966)- Volume VII, pp. 190-209 for background and in particular details of the action at Shimonoseki (pp. 200-209).
Finally, it is interesting to compare the Boyes case with that of Gunner James Collis. If a proven bigamist can get back his honour (and his VC), then surely Duncan can also have his honour restored to him ? Duncan Boyes never forfeited his VC in any case, and was, it seems, very harshly dealt with.
4) Captain George Nicolas CHANNER, Gurkha R.,Perak Expedition; 20 December 1895 (Age 32)
"On 20 December 1875 in Perak, Malaya, Captain Channer was the first to jump into the enemy's stockade to which he had been despatched 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 on it because of the steepness of the hill and the density of the jungle. If Captain 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."
Iain Stewart (firstname.lastname@example.org) has recently found his grave in Devonshire. He writes in an e-mail dated 5 September 1998:
"If you take a look in my website under the 'Devonshire' webpage you will see that I have recently discovered the grave of Channer and that I have taken a photograph of the headstone and you can now view this as well.
I was initially trying to find the grave of a VC winner called Graham and through a contact in Bideford (see my News webpage) I discovered Channer as a bonus. What is remarkable is the two graves are side-by-side in a cemetery controlled by the church and completely overgrown. And I mean overgrown. Some of the graves are now covered by foliage as it is a very old cemetery."
(Thank you very much, Iain ! Ed.)
5) Lieut. Teignmouth MELVILL, 24th Regiment; Isandhlwana, Zululand, 22 January 1879 (Age 37)
"On 22 January 1879 after the disaster of the Battle of Isandhlwana, South Africa, Lieutenant Melvill made gallant efforts to save the Queen's Colour of his Regiment. He and another officer (COGHILL, N.) were pursued by Zulu warriors and after experiencing great difficulty in crossing the swollen River Buffalo (during which time the Colour was unfortunately carried downstream) the two men were overtaken by the enemy and following a short but gallant struggle both were killed. The Colour was retrieved from the river 10 days later."
6) Lieut. Reginald Clare HART, R.E; Afghan War, 31 January 1879 (Age 31)
"On 31 January 1879 in the Bazar Valley, Afghanistan, Lieutenant Hart, while on convoy duty, ran some 1,200 yards to the rescue of a wounded 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."
7) Lieut. John Duncan GRANT, 8 Gurkha R; Gyantse Jong, Tibet Expedition, 6 July 1904 (Age 27)
"On 6 July 1904 at the storming of the Gyantse Jong, Tibet, the storming company, led by Lieutenant Grant, had 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. Lieutenant Grant and a 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 men below, were at last successful."
8) Capt. [later Major] Douglas REYNOLDS Le Cateau, France, 26 August 1914 (Age 32)
"On 26 August 1914 at Le Cateau, France, Captain Reynolds took up two teams with volunteer drivers, to recapture two British guns and limbered up two guns under heavy artillery and infantry fire. Although the enemy was within 100 yards he managed, with the help of two drivers (DRAIN, J.H.C. and LUKE, F.), to get one gun away safely. On 9 September at Pysloup, he reconnoitred at close range, discovered a battery which was holding up the advance and silenced it."
9) Lieut. Philip NEAME, R.E.; Neuve Chapelle, France, 19 December 1914 (Age 26)
"On 19 June 1914 at Neuve Chapelle, France, Lieutenant Neame, in the face of very heavy fire, engaged the Germans in a single-handed bombing attack, killing and wounding a number of them. He was able to check the enemy advance for three-quarters of an hour and to rescue all the wounded whom it was possible to move."
10) Lieut. Comdr. Edward Courtney BOYLE, R.N; Submarine E 14; Sea of Marmara, 27 April 1915 (Age 32)
"On 27 April 1915 in the Sea of Marmara, Dardanelles, Lieutenant-Commander Boyle, in command of Submarine E.14, dived his vessel under the enemy minefields and in spite of great navigational difficulties from strong currents and the presence of hostile patrols waiting to attack, he continued, during the next two weeks, to operate in the narrow waters of the straits and succeeded in sinking two Turkish gunboats and one military transport."
11) Second Lieut. George Raymond Dallas MOOR , Hampshire R; Krithia, Dardanelles, 5 June 1915 (Age 19)
"On 5 June 1915 south of Krithia, Gallipoli, when a detachment of the battalion which had lost all its officers was rapidly retiring before a heavy Turkish attack, Second Lieutenant Moor, realising the danger to the rest of the line, dashed back some 200 yards, stemmed the retirement, led back the men and recaptured the lost trench. This brave act saved a dangerous situation."
12) Sgt. Frederick Charles BOOTH, British South African Police, attached Rhodesian Native Infantry; Johannesbruck, E.Africa, 12 February 1917 (Age 27)
"On 12 February 1917 at Johannesbruck, near Songea, East Africa, during an attack in thick bush on the enemy position and under very heavy rifle fire, Sergeant Booth went forward alone and brought in a man who was dangerously wounded. Later he rallied native troops who were badly disorganised and brought them to the firing line. On many previous occasions this NCO had set a splendid example of pluck, and endurance."
13) Acting Lieut. Col. James FORBES-ROBERTSON, D.S.O., M.C., Border Regiment Vieux Berquin, France, 11 and 12 April 1918 (Age 34)
"On 11/12 April 1918 near Vieux Berquin, France, four times Lieutenant Colonel Forbes-Robertson saved the line from breaking and averted a most serious situation. On one occasion, having made a reconnaissance on horseback in full view of the enemy under heavy fire, he led a counter-attack which was completely successful in establishing our line. When his horse was shot under him he continued on foot, steadying the men and inspiring confidence by his disregard for personal danger. On the second day he lost another horse and again continued on foot until he had established a line to which his own troops could withdraw."
14) Comdr. Robert Edward Dudley RYDER, R.N; St.Nazaire, 27 March 1942 (Age 34)
"On 28 March 1942 in the attack on St. Nazaire, France, Commander Ryder, commanding the Naval force, led HMS Campbeltown in under intense fire. When the main objective of the expedition had been accomplished and Campbeltown had been beached, Commander Ryder remained on the spot evacuating men from Campbeltown and conducting operations while exposed to heavy fire, and did not withdraw until it was certain that his ship could be of no more use. His motor gun boat (MGB. 314), full of dead and wounded, survived by a miracle and managed to withdraw through an intense barrage of fire."
One O.C. has won the George Cross which, of the awards of the Commonwealth, ranks second only to the Victoria Cross .
KEMPSTER, Major André Gilbert (né Coccioletti) won the George Cross.
Royal Armoured Corps; Philippeville, Algeria, 21 August 1943
Date: 23 Aug 1998
Having visited your page about the Cheltenham College VC's, I noticed the reference to AG Kempster GC.
I have a copy of the CWGC cemetery register for Bone war Cemetery, Algeria, due to the fact that it is in this cemetery that AL Aaron VC DFM is buried there.
The details for Kempster are as follows:
KEMPSTER, Maj. Andre Gilbert, 138804, GC. 145th (8th Bn. The Duke of Wellington's Regt.;West Riding) Regt RAC 21st August, 1943. plot 2, row D, grave 1.
The London Gazette of 9th November 1943 states that this officer was awarded the George Cross "in recognition of most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner".
I hope this info is of some interest to you.
(Yes, thank you, Nigel ! Ed.)
This conveniently makes the numbers up to fifteen holders of the major gallantry medals. So I have decided to call them the
FIRST XV !
I fervently hope that the next century will see such a reduction in wars as to render the formation of a Second XV unnecessary. But I have no doubt that Old Cheltonians will rise to the challenge if the "time of trial" should come again.
Ian Ruxton, O.C.
21 August 1998
I am grateful to Kyushu Institute of Technology (my employers) for the opportunity and facilities to create this web page.
Warning! These pages are always under construction.
Go to Ian Ruxton's main Old Cheltonians page.
Go to Ian's list of deceased and living O.C.s - all on one web page, because "once an alumnus, always an alumnus" !