20 December 2007

( select to enlarge )

Medal entitlement of Rear Admiral Charles Lucas,
Royal Navy ( HMS 'Hecla' )

  • Victoria Cross
  • Indian General Service Medal ( 1854-95 )
    • 1 clasp: 'Pegu'
  • Baltic Medal ( 1854-55 )
  • Royal Humane Society Medal ( not shown )

The Victoria Cross awarded to Rear Admiral Charles Lucas, the first VC to be awarded, has been loaned to the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin by the National Maritime Museum of Greenwich, in whose possession the VC medal group resides. The Victoria Cross has been included in the National Museum or Ireland's new exhibition entitled "Soldiers and Chiefs - The Irish at War at Home and Abroad from 1550".

Soldiers and Chiefs is the largest single exhibition ever undertaken by the National Museum of Ireland. Some 910 objects and 201 loans are displayed in an area of some 1700 square metres on two floors of exhibition space at the Museum's Decorative Arts and History premises at Collins Barracks, Dublin. The exhibition aims to tell the story of Irishmen and women who fought at home and in foreign armies in distant lands over the past half-millennium - from the Elizabethan wars of the 16th Century to the Irish Defence Forces' peacekeeping role with the United Nations.

At first the Allies planned to fight the war against Russia in two distinct theatres. A British Expeditionary Force was sent to the Balkans under Commander-in-Chief Lord Raglan, and at the same time an Allied fleet set sail for the Baltic under the command of Sir Charles Napier.

AS Napier's fleet sailed towards the Baltic, its most obvious targets were Sveaborg, the fort protecting Helsingfors ( now Helsinki ), Bomarsund, a fortress on an island in the middle of the Baltic, and Kronstadt, an island protecting the approaches to St Petersburg. On the 21st June 1854, Bomarsund was bombarded by the steam frigate 'Hecla' under the command of Captain Hall. The bombardment was ineffectual, but the action was notable, however, for the conduct of a midshipman, Charles Lucas, who picked up a live shell and heaved it overboard. He was immediately promoted lieutenant and his was the first action for which the Victoria Cross was awarded.

[ London Gazette, 24 February 1857 ], Off Bomarsund, Aland Islands, Baltic Sea, 21 June 1854, Mate Charles Davis Lucas, Royal Navy ( HMS 'Hecla' ).

This Officer was promoted to his present rank on the 21st June 1854, for his gallantry in throwing overboard a live shell, at the first attack on the batteries at Bomarsund.

Captain Hall writes to Sir C Napier: "With regard to Mr. Lucas, I have the pleasure to report a remarkable instance of coolness and presence of mind in action, he having taken up, and thrown overboard, a live shell thrown on board the 'Hecla' by the enemy, while the fuse was burning"
( Letter of Captain Hall to Sir C Napier, 22nd June 1854 )

Sir Charles Napier, in forwarding Captain Hallís letter remarks: "Their Lordships will observe, in Captain Hallís letter, the great courage of Mr CD Lucas, in taking up a live shell and throwing it overboard; and I trust their Lordships will mark their sense of it by promoting him"
( Sir C Napier to Secretary of Admiralty, 28th June 1854 )

Charles Lucas was invested with his Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria in Hyde Park on the 26th June 1857.

Lucas eventually reached the rank of Rear Admiral in the Navy. He died on the 7th August 1914, aged 80, at his home in Great Culverden, Kent, and was buried in St. Lawrence's Churchyard, Mereworth.


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Iain Stewart, 20 December 2007