30 September 2007

Although the condition of James Adams' headstone in St Mary's Churchyard, Ashwell, Rutland, had not detiorated badly, the text on the stone had worn away to a point where it could not be read and therefore the grave was near to being unidentified.

At a short ceremony, held on Sunday, 30th September 2007, a memorial tablet was unveiled over James Adams' grave in St Mary's Churchyard showing his name and the citation for the award of his Victoria Cross in Afghanistan in 1879.

Adam's grave:
before and after

General Roberts, with the Kabul Field Force, was at this time in 1879, attempting to break out of the Sherpur cantonment and inflict a decisive defeat on the surrounding Afghans. About a mile from Killa Kazi the force, now consisting of 214 men of the 9th Lancers, were suddenly confronted by the full enemy army, some 10,000 strong. General Roberts arrived accompanied by the Rev Adams just as General Massey was starting to retreat.

The following is Major General Roberts own account of the Reverend James Adams' action that earned him the Victoria Cross.

Our Chaplain ( Adams ), who had accompanied me throughout the day, behaved in this particular place with conspicuous gallantry. Seeing a wounded man of the 9th Lancers staggering towards him, Adams dismounted, and tried to lift the man onto his own charger. Unfortunately, the mare, a very valuable animal, broke loose and was never seen again. Adams, however, managed to support the Lancer until he was able to make him over to some of his own comrades.

Adams rejoined me in time to assist two more of the 9th who were struggling under their horses at the bottom of the ditch. He was an unusually powerful man, and by sheer strength dragged the Lancers clear of their horses. The Afghans meanwhile had reached Bhagwana, and were so close to the ditch that I thought my friend the padre could not possibly escape. I called out to him to look after himself, but he paid no attention to my warnings until he had pulled the almost exhausted Lancers to the top of the slippery ditch.

[ London Gazette, 26 August 1881 ], Killa Kazi, Afghanistan, 11 December 1879, The Reverend James William Adams, Bengal Ecclesiastical Department, Indian Army.

During the action at Killa Kazi, on the 11th December 1879, some men of the 9th Lancers having fallen, with their horses, into a wide and deep 'nullah' or ditch, and the enemy being close upon them, the Reverend J.W. Adams rushed into the water ( which filled the ditch ), dragged the horses from off the men upon whom they were lying, and extricated them, he being at the time under a heavy fire, and up to his waist in water. At this time the Afghans were pressing on very rapidly, the leading men getting within a few yards of Mr. Adams, who having let go his horse in order to render more effectual assistance, had eventually to escape on foot.

James Adams was invested with his Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle on the 1st December 1881.

The Reverend Adams continued to serve in India and Burma before retiring in October 1886. He was made Hon Chaplain to Queen Victoria in 1900, then Chaplain in Ordinary to King Edward VII in 1901, and Hon MA to Trinity College Dublin in June 1903. James Adams died on the 20th October 1903 and was buried in St Mary's Churchyard, Ashwell, Rutland.

( select to enlarge )
Medal entitlement of The Reverend James Adams,
Bengal Ecclesiastical Department, Indian Army

  • Victoria Cross
  • Afghanistan Medal ( 1878-80 )
    • 4 clasps:
    • "Peiwar Kotal" - "Charisia"
    • "Kabul" - "Kandahar"
  • Kabul to Kandahar Star ( 1880 )
  • Indian General Service Medal ( 1854-95 )
    • 1 clasp:
    • "Burma 1885-7"
  • King Edward VII Coronation Medal ( 1902 )


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Iain Stewart, 30 September 2007