4 December 2009

Alexander Dunn was the first Canadian born recipient of the Victoria Cross and attended the first investiture of the new award for gallantry in Hyde Park on 26th June 1857, receiving his VC personally from Queen Victoria.

It was whilst commanding the 33rd Regiment of Foot, serving in Abyssinia, that he died in a shooting accident at Senafe on the 25th January 1868. Dunn had gone out with a native barer to shoot game when a shot was heard and Dunn was found dead from a gunshot wound. A subsequent Court of Enquiry found Dunn's death was purely accidental and was caused by his own rifle exploding. Alexander Dunn was buried, along with six other men of the 33rd Foot, in Senafe Cemetery, 135 kilometres from Asmara in Eritrea.

During a detachment on United Nations duty in Eritrea Canadian troops made it a specific part of their time there to visit Senafe Cemetery to refurbish, not only Alexander Dunn's grave, but also that part of the cemetery that contained the burial plots of the other six men of the 33rd Foot ( later The Duke of Wellington's Regiment ).

Senafe cemetery
& Dunn's grave

Bill Mullen,

The 11th Hussars comprised the second line during the famous Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava on the 25th October 1854. The 11th rode through the right of the Russian artilley with appalling casualties, and with only 80 men remaining, including only three surviving officers, Colonel Douglas brought them to a position behind but clear of the guns. He then called on his men to give the Russians another charge but were confronted with a squadron of Russian Lancers, so Colonel Douglas ordered "every man for himself" as they tried to fight their way out.

On the way back Troop Sergeant Bentley was attacked by three Russian Lancers who knocked him from his horse and wounded him with a lance prod in the neck and a bullet graze in the calf. Lieutenant Dunn saw Bentley's predicament and immediately reined in his horse and turned back to go his aid. Dunn emptied his revolver at the Russians, and cut them down with his extra long sword. He then pulled Bentley onto his horse and rode to safety.

For his unselfish gallantry in saving the lives of Bentley and Private Levitt of the same regiment, Lieutenant Dunn was awarded the Victoria Cross.

For the award of the Victoria Cross.

[ London Gazette, 24 February 1857 ], Balaclava, Crimea, 25 October 1854, Lieutenant Alexander Roberts Dunn, 11th Hussars.

For having in the Light Cavalry Charge on the 25th October 1854, saved the life of Serjeant Bentley, 11th Hussars, by cutting down two or three Russian Lancers who were attacking him from the rear, and afterwards cutting down a Russian Hussar, who was attacking Private Levett, 11th Hussars

Alexander Dunn was invested with his Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria at the first investiture held in Hyde Park on the 26th June 1857.

Medal entitlement of Colonel Alexander Roberts Dunn - 11th Hussars
( owned by Upper Canada College - on loan to the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa )

  • Victoria Cross
  • Crimea Medal ( 1854-56 )
    • 4 clasps:
    • "Alma" - "Inkermann" - "Balaclava" - "Sebastopol"
  • Abyssinian War Medal ( 1867-68 )
  • Turkish Crimea Medal ( 1855-56 )


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Iain Stewart, 4 December 2009