27 May 2009

Following his death on 1st October 1914 William Seeley VC was buried in the Evergreen Cemetery, Stoughton, Massachusetts, near the grave of his sister Bessie. Seeley's name was never added to the foot marker over the grave and therefore his burial location remained unrecognised.

Bill Sweeney is a member of the US Medal of Honor Historical Society and has spent a huge amount of his time ensuring that Medal of Honor recipients are recognised by placing markers over those buried in unmarked graves. Bill Sweeney has also taken an interest in Victoria Cross holders buried in the United States and therefore was the driving force behind efforts to recognised the grave of Ordinary Seaman William Seeley VC in Stoughton, Massachusetts. Funds were raised and a memorial plaque was constructed to commemorate this American sailor who served in the Royal Navy during the conflict with Japan in 1864.

Bill Sweeney was in attendance in the Evergreen Cemetery last week to oversee the commemorative plaque laid over where William Seeley VC is buried, which, as it turned out, is two burial plots farther back from his sister Bessie's grave.

The last sighting of William Seeley's Victoria Cross was in 1943 when it was in the possession of Seeley's granddaughter. No sighting of the VC has occurred since this date.

Bessie Seeley left.
William Seeley right.

The expansion of foreign trade into the Far East caused mounting resentment in Japan, and in 1863 the Daimyo ( feudal landowner ) of the Choshu clan began action to expel all foreigners from their land around the Straits of Shimonoseki. His forces launched attacks on European and American vessels and naturally they fired back.

Hostilities continued, so the European powers formed an international squadron, which quickly wiped out the Choshu clan's ships and forts. A treaty was signed with the Japanese government barring the fortification of the Straits of Shimonoseki and providing a large indemnity to the injured Europeans.

Before the attack on the batteries and defences of Shimonoseki, William Seeley was sent ashore alone to ascertain the enemy's positions and strength. He carried out this duty with great daring and intelligence and afterwards took part in the final assault despite being shot in the arm.

For the award of the Victoria Cross.

[ London Gazette, 21 April 1865 ], Shimonoseki, Japan, 6 September 1864, Ordinary Seaman William Henry Seeley, Royal Navy.

For the intelligence and daring which, according to the testimony of Lieutenant Edwards, Commanding the Third Company, he exhibited in ascertaining the enemy’s position, and for continuing to retain his position in front, during the advance, after he had been wounded in the arm.

William Seeley was invested with his Victoria Cross by Admiral Sir M. Seymour, CinC Portsmouth, on the 22nd September 1865.

Medal entitlement of Ordinary Seaman William Seeley - Royal Navy

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Iain Stewart, 28 May 2009