14 November 2008

Local man David Eveson, sponsored by Isola's, decided that Victoria Cross holder Mr Thomas Kavanagh's grave in the North Front Cemetery, Gibraltar, needed a complete refurbishment. The task was set in motion and the successful completion of this project culminated in a ceremony being held in the cemetery to commemorate the life of Thomas Kavanagh, who died on 13th November 1882 in Gibraltar, and who earned his Victoria Cross during the Indian Mutiny in 1857.

On Friday, 14th November 2008, contingents of the Royal British Legion, Royal Engineers, Gibraltar Heritage, and various other interested parties gathered at the North Front Cemetery to pay their respects to Thomas Kavanagh VC whose heroic actions are described below.

On 29th June 1857 the mutineers in the Lucknow area heard of the fall of Cawnpore and this decided them to move on the city of Lucknow, defended by a force commanded by Sir Henry Lawrence. After a foray out of the city to attack the mutineers with disastrous results, the remnants fell back on the Lucknow Residency. From that date up to the first relief by Generals Outram and Havelock the mutineers kept up a continuous fire, both small arms and artillery, augmented on several occasions by major assaults.

The first relief attempt took place between 23rd and 25th September 1857 and got through to the Residency after very heavy fighting only to be trapped themselves from the 27th onwards. The final relief force, led by Sir Colin Campbell, fought through to the Residency between 14th and 17th November 1857 and managed to evacuate the survivors of the initial garrison and the first relief force on the 23rd.

Thomas Kavanagh took part in several actions and sorties during the Siege but further involvement began when he met an incoming spy whose name was Kunoujee Lall who was a nazir in the Court of the Deputy Commissioner of Durriabad before the outbreak in Oudh. Kavanagh decided to accompany Lall through the mutineer's lines disguised as a native to carry despatches to Sir Colin Campbell's relief force which had advanced as far as the Alum Bagh outside the city.

Kavanagh's journey through thousands of muntineers proved successful and upon reaching Sir Colin Campbell was able to brief the Commander-in-Chief over the best route to the Residency, different to that taken by Outram earlier, avoiding the death traps of the narrow streets. This undoubtably saved many lives and made the relief a less hazardous operation than it would otherwise have been.

[ London Gazette, 8 July 1859 ], Lucknow, Indian Mutiny, 8 November 1857, Mr Thomas Henry Kavanagh, Bengal Civil Service ( Clerk at Lucknow ).

On the 8th November 1857, Mr Kavanagh, then serving under the orders of Lieutenant General Sir James Outram, in Lucknow, volunteered on the dangerous duty of proceeding through the city to the camp of the Commander-in-Chief, for the purpose of guiding the relieving force to the beleaguered garrison in the Residency - a task which he performed with chivalrous gallantry and devotion.

[ London Gazette, 4 May 1860 ].

The act of bravery for which Mr Thomas Kavanagh has been awarded the Victoria Cross was performed on the 9th November 1857, instead of the 8th November, as was stated in the London Gazette of the 8th July 1859.

Thomas Kavanagh was invested with his Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle on the 4th January 1860.

Tbomas Kavanagh became unpopular in some circles after the exploitation of his Victoria Cross and what would now be termed as his 'self publicity', particularly in respect of the publication of his book 'How I Won the Victoria Cross'.

Medal entitlement of Mr Thomas Kavanagh - Bengal Civil Service ( Clerk at Lucknow )

  • Victoria Cross
  • Indian Mutiny Medal ( 1857-58 )
    • 1 clasp:
    • "Defence of Lucknow"


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Iain Stewart, 18 November 2008