19 May 2007

Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Lenon VC, 67th Regiment ( later the Royal Hampshire Regiment ) died in St Thomas's Hospital, London, on the 15th April 1893, aged 54, and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, West London, in a grave which was left unmarked. The reason for the lack of a headstone is not known. To rectify this a ceremony took place on Saturday, 19th May 2007 in Kensal Green Cemetery where a headstone was placed over the burial plot of Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Lenon.

The project was instigated and in part funded by the Victoria Cross & George Cross Association in conjunction with the Royal Hampshire Regiment. Twelve members of the Lenon family attended, including the Rev Philip Lenon, who conducted the service, as well as Ms Didy Grahame MVO, Secretary to the VC & GC Association, and representaives of 'Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery'.

When, in 1860, the Chinese emperor declined to reply to a note demanding an apology for firing on British ships and his government's failure to act on the provisions of the Treaty of Tientsin, a combined Anglo-French task force was sent to enforce compliance. The aim of the expedition was to force the Chinese from the Taku Forts positioned at the mouth of the Pei-ho river. In overall command of the assault was Major General Sir Robert Napier whose task was to expel the Chinese from the well defended Small North Fort.

At 06:00 on 21 August 1860, Napier gave the signal for the asault to begin. The attackers surged forward crossing a dry ditch and pouring through the abatis that had been smashed by the artillery. Two wet ditches were then crossed with great difficulty and upon reaching the fort's wall the French erected ladders only to have them thrown down by the defenders. The troops, whose units had inevitably become intermingled, were crowded together at the base of the wall, being pelted with grenades, cannon shot, jars of quicklime and 'stinkpots' that gave off clouds of smoke. Desperate measures were needed urgently if the assault was to succeed. Close to the gate was Lieutenant Nathaniel Burslem and an Irishman, Private Thomas Lane, both of the 67th Regiment, who scrambled up to a narrow embrasure which they proceeded to widen, both sustaining serious wounds.

Not far away were Lieutenant Robert Rogers and Private John McDougall of the 44th Regiment who had swum the wet ditches, together with Lieutenant Edmund Lenon and Ensign John Chaplin both of the 67th, the latter carring the Queen's Colour of the regiment. Lenon pushed his sword deep into the mud wall, supporting the hilt while Rogers used it as a step, fighting his way into the embrasure above. More men pushed their bayonets into the wall, creating a ladder up which Lenon, Chaplin and McDougall and others clambered up to join Rogers. At about the same time Burslem and Lane broke through their embrasure on to the ramparts. Men from both regiments then swarmed through the embrasures fighting their way at the point of the bayonet up the tower's ramp enabling Chaplin to plant his Colour on the summit. The will of the Chinese, who until this point had fought stubbornly, suddenly collapsed and it was estimated that of the fort's 500-strong garrison, 400 were either killed or wounded.

For the award of the Victoria Cross.

[ London Gazette, 13 August 1861 ], Taku Forts, China, 21 August 1860, Lieutenant Edmund Henry Lenon, 67th Regiment ( and Private John McDougall & Lieutenant Robert Montresor Rogers, 44th Regiment ).

For distinguished gallantry in swimming the Ditches, and entering the North Taku Fort by an embrasure during the assault. They were the first of the English established on the walls of the Fort, which they entered in the order in which their names are here recorded ( Rogers RM, McDougall J, Lenon EH ) each one being assisted by the others to mount the embrasure

Edmund Lenon was invested with his Victoria Cross by GOC Ireland, General Sir George Brown, at Kilmainham, Ireland, on 19 August 1862.

Edmund Lenon's Victoria Cross and China Medal were discovered in a pawn shop in September 1886. The pawn ticket can be viewed in the Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum. The medals were redeemed at a later date and are held by the Regimental Museum in Winchester.

Medal entitlement of Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Lenon - 67th Regiment ( Hampshire Regiment )

  • Victoria Cross
  • Second China War Medal ( 1857-60 )
    • 2 clasps:
    • "Taku Forts 1860" - "Pekin 1860"


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Iain Stewart, 19 May 2007