Islington, North London, 10th September 2002

A plaque in memory of Rifleman Valentine Bambrick VC was unveiled on Tuesday, 10th September 2002, in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery where Bambrick lies in an unmarked grave, of which the exact location cannot be pinpointed. The memorial plaque was unveiled by Lieutenant-General Sir Christopher Wallace, chairman of the 60th Rifles Officers' Club, attended by the Mayor of Islington, Councillor Margot Dunn, members of the Finchley Society and The King's Royal Rifle Corps Old Comrades Association.

[ London Gazette, 24 December 1858 ]. Bareilly, Indian Mutiny, 6 May 1858, Private Valentine Bambrick, 1st Bn, 60th Rifles.

For conspicuous bravery at Bareilly, on the 6th May 1858, when in a Serai, he was attacked by three Ghazees, one of whom he cut down. He was wounded twice on this occasion.

Bareilly lies 140 miles east of Delhi and in the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 the native troops stationed there rose on May 31 and left to join the rebels in Delhi in June 1857. The rebels returned to Bareilly in September after Delhi had been relieved by British Forces and were joined by several insurgent leaders with their supporters.

The British Army were despatched to Bareilly under General Sir Colin Campbell which included the Roorkee Field Force, incorporating, among other units, 1st Battalion the 60th Rifles, with whom marched Private Valentine Bambrick. General Campbell arrived at Bareilly on 6th May 1858, with the Roorkee Field Force under the command of Brigadier-General John Jones who had commanded the 1st / 60th Rifles during the siege of Delhi. The whole of the 1st Battalion took part in the assault on Bareilly.

Confused fighting followed the entry of British troops into the warren of streets and alleyways. A party posted on a roof-top by Lieutenant Cromer Ashburnham, commanding D Company, gave warning of a large body of "Ghazees" towards the serai or group of buildings within which Bambrick fought his personal engagement with three of them. ( It might be considered that Bambrick's action was simply one of self-defence, but it was not unusual for the VC to be awarded to an individual who in the eyes of his comrades had most distinguished himself in a decisive action in which they had all taken part ).

Valentine Bambrick was born in Cawnpore on 13 April 1837 and came of fine military stock, his father, uncle and younger brother all serving with the 11th Light Dragoons. Bambrick's own military record shows he was an "unruly soldier" but as every commanding officer knows, soldiers who are unruly in the guardroom tend to come up trumps in action. After the action at Bareilly, Bambrick continued to serve with the 1st / 60th Rifles at Seetapore, but when the battalion left for England in August 1860 he elected to stay in India and transferred to the 87th Foot, later the Royal Irish Fusiliers. He served with the 87th at the Curragh, Ireland, and was discharged at Aldershot on 16th November 1863, when his luck changed.

Shortly after his discharge from the army Valentine Bambrick was involved in an incident where as he was proceeding to a room with a woman, he was approached by another female who asked him for protection from a beating by one Henry Russell. A fight ensued and later Russell accused Bambrick, and the woman he was with, Charlotte Johnson, of violent assault and of stealing his medals.

A report from The Hampshire Chronicle, dated 5th December 1863, on the trial of Valentine Bambrick VC.

ASSAULT. Valentine Bambrick and Charlotte Johnson, spinster, were charged with violently assaulting Henry Milner Russell, and stealing from his person four medals, value 30s, his property, at Aldershot on the 15th November 1863. Mr. Cole prosecuted.

It appeared that the prosecutor ( Russell ) was invited by Bambrick on the evening in question, whilst passing through the street, to take some ale in a private house at Aldershot, the male prisoner standing with a pot of ale in his hand. Prosecutor offered to stand some drink in return, and he put his hand into his pocket to get the money, when the male prisoner seized him and threw him down, the female assisting in holding the prosecutor, who was a lance-corporal, down. During the affray the soldier lost the four medals from his breast, which the prisoners had torn off, and made their escape with. On the landing two of the medals were picked up by the landlord, and the prisoners were both apprehended the same evening.

Bambrick, in defence, said he was going up to the room of the female prisoner, when he saw another female leaving her room, and she appealed to him for protection. A fight ensued, in which the prosecutor lost his medals. He ( Bambrick ) urged that if his better feelings would not have prevented him committing such a paltry robbery, his interest would, for he was in possession of a medal more prized by the British soldier than all those possessed by the prosecutor - the Victoria medal, which conferred 10 annually upon him, and also a pension, all of which he would lose if convicted. He urged that it would have been much easier for him to have dashed the beer he had in his hand in the prosecutor's face whilst in the street if he wanted to rob him of his medals, and averred that the prosecutor had generally stated in his evidence that which was false.

The proof of the prisoner's guilt, however, was considered to be conclusive by the jury, who immediately found them both guilty of the charge. On hearing the verdict Bambrick immediately change his tone, spoke most contemptuously of the Court, and said he did not care what his sentence should be, and threatened that he would be revenged on Henry Russell. His lordship said it was most sad to see a soldier in the position of the prisoner - one holding so high a mark of honour conferred upon him by his country, and that he should take time to consider his verdict. The prisoners were subsequently sentenced - Bambrick to three years penal servitude, and Charlotte Johnson to twelve months imprisonment.

Bambrick had placed the woman he'd saved from a beating in a hotel to present her as his only defence witness at his trial. However, owing to the length of time to bring the case to court, he lost touch with her. As a result of his conviction, Valentine Bambrick had his Victoria Cross forfeited by Royal Warrant on 3rd December 1863. Bambrick fell into a state of deep depression, and after writing a letter protesting his innocence of theft, while the fight with the other man was in defence of a woman whom the latter was murdering, he hanged himself in Pentonville Model Prison on 1st April 1864. Although Bambrick did not seem to be aware of it, the Governor of the Prison had expected Bambrick to be released on the strength of his recommendation for a commutation of sentence. Both he and the Governor of Winchester Gaol considered Bambrick to be innocent.

The influence of King George V came into play over the forfeiture of the Victoria Cross from eight men who had been convicted of theft, bigamy and desertion. In 1920 the King wrote a letter to his private secretary, Lord Stamfordham, in which he wrote "The King feels so strongly that, no matter the crime committed by anyone on whom the VC has been conferred, the decoration should not be forfeited. Even were a VC to be sentenced to be hanged for murder, he should be allowed to wear the VC on the scaffold". The names of all eight men, including Valentine Bambrick, were eventually added to the Register of Victoria Cross recipients.

Following King George V's decision to reinstate the Victoria Cross to those eight men who had had their medal forfeited, it is unclear if the War Office ever presented the VC awarded to Valentine Bambrick to one of his relatives. The Bambrick VC has never been sold or put up for auction and its whereabouts is unknown to this day.

Medal entitlement of Rifleman Valentine Bambrick - 1st Bn, 60th Rifles

  • Victoria Cross
  • Indian Mutiny Medal - ( 1857-58 )


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Iain Stewart, 19 January 2003