14 April 2011

A project to refurbish / renew two Victoria Cross graves in the Cheriton Road Cemetery, Folkstone, Kent, both of which had deteriorated badly has been successfully completed. The graves of Admiral Sir John Commerell VC, Royal Navy, and Captain William Kerr VC, Southern Mahratta Irregular Horse, Indian Army, were in need of desperate attention as the images show.

The lead project coordinator was Ian Loftus of the Cheriton & Morehall Branch of the Royal British Legion who, from amongst others, acquired a donation from Michael Howard the outgoing MP, and obtained extensive coverage in the local press and media to enable the project to proceed with the necessary funds.

A rededication / blessing took place in Cheriton Road Cemetery on Thursday, 14th April 2011, to commemorate the work carried out on the two Victoria Cross graves. In attendance were the great-great-granddaughter of Sir John Commerell VC, and distant relatives from William Kerr's side of the family. Commodore Hennessey, Royal Navy, Command Eastern Naval Command, a representative from the National Army Museum, and a member of staff from the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, representing the Lord Ashcroft VC Collection.

Commerell's grave:
before and after

[ London Gazette, 24 February 1857 ], Sea of Azoff, Crimean War, 11 October 1855, Commander John Edmund Commerell, Royal Navy and Quartermaster William Thomas Rickard, Royal Navy

When commanding the 'Weser' in the Sea of Azoff, crossed the Isthmus of Arabat, and destroyed large quantities of forage on the Crimean shore of the Sivash. This action was performed by Commander Commerell, at night, accompanied by William Rickard, Quartermaster, and George Milestone Able Seaman

Having hauled their small boat across the Spit of Arabat, they traversed the Sivash to the Crimean shore of the Putrid Sea. The magazine of corn, of which they were in search, lay about two miles and a half off, and to reach it they had to ford two rivers, the Kara-su and the Salghir. The forage and corn, amounting to 400 tons, were stacked on the banks of the latter river, in the vicinity of a guard-house, and close to from twenty to thirty mounted Cossacks, who were encamped in the neighbouring village.

Commander Commerell and his two companions contrived to ignite the stacks, the rapid blazing of which alarmed the guard, who pursued them to the shore with a heavy fire of musketry, and very nearly succeeded in taking them prisoners.

John Commerell was invested with his Victoria Cross by the Commanding Officer of HMS 'Snake' in China in 1857.

William Rickard was invested with his Victoria Cross by the Commanding Officer of HMS 'Weser', Commander Johnstone, in July 1857.

Admiral Commerell died on the 21st May 1901, aged 72, at his home at 45 Rutland Gate, Hyde Park, London, and was buried in the Cheriton Road Cemetery, Folkstone, Kent. Consecrated Section, Grave 3237-4.

Medal entitlement of Admiral Sir John Commerell - Royal Navy ( on display in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum )

  • Victoria Cross
  • Knight Grand Cross, Order of the Bath ( GCB )
  • Knight of Grace, Order of St John of Jerusalem ( KStJ )
  • Queen Victoria Golden Jubilee Medal ( 1887 ) + clasp "1897"
  • Baltic Medal ( 1854-55 )
  • Crimea Medal ( 1854-56 )
    • 2 clasps:
    • "Sebastopol" - "Azoff"
  • Second China War Medal ( 1857-60 )
    • 1 clasp:
    • "Taku Forts 1858"
  • Ashantee Medal ( 1873-74 )
  • Knight, Order of the Red Eagle ( Russia )
  • Knight, Legion of Honour ( France )
  • Order of the Medjidieh ( Turkey )
  • Turkish Crimea Medal ( 1855-56 )


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Iain Stewart, 24 April 2011