Today I was at the ‘Find Your Roots’ family history fair in Exeter. The show was bustling with people itching to discover more about their family history, for me it was a particularly busy day as a large number of the visitors seemed to make a bee-line for my stand to discuss their military ancestors. I spoke to scores of fascinating people and discussed all manor of people and aspects of military life. However one story stood out as being particularly remarkable, and I wonder if anyone out there can shed some light on the medal in question for me?
The discussion in question was from a local lady who waited very patiently for around 20 minutes while I was talking to another customer…she had a remarkable story of a chap who was her neighbour who allegedly recieved a very special medal from Queen Victoria. This story was captured in print in a publication called ‘From Youth Onwards: Recollections and Escapades of a Doctor’, John William Ley. c. 1910
THE SILVER VICTORIA CROSS
“Soon after I commenced practice at Newton Abbot I was called in to see a patient in the neighbouring village of Kingsteignton. The case was nothing in itself, but through I became acquainted with a fact that probably is little known and worth recording. My patient, who must have been a man of enormous muscular development, was quite blind, and he had been terribly wounded during the attack on The Redan during the Russian War.
After the first unsuccessful attack he was discovered quite insensible between the great redoubt and the trenches. He was clutching a dead Circassian by the throat, whom he had evidently throttled before he became insensible; but not before the former had thrust his curved sword through his forearm, where it was still fixed.
He had been shot sideways through both eyes; and a great part of his lower jaw had also been blown away! Besides this he had a fearful bayonet wound in the chest and numerous other injuries; in fact, I never saw a man who had been so knocked about!
He had no recollection whatever as to what has occurred; but it was generally thought that the Circassian and others had come out from The Redan after the repulse to finish off the wounded; and that it was in this encounter he had received most of his injuries.
Although the poor fellow was so fearfully wounded that he could not for some time be removed from the field hospital, he was ultimately taken to Netley. He was there when Queen Victoria paid her visit; and she ordered the huge bullet, which had been extracted from his throat, to be set in a silver cross, of the same shape as the present Victoria Cross, and given to him!
I saw the full account of it as told to the Queen and the description of her visit, and what she said to him in I think, ‘The Times’ newspaper. The extracts had been cut out and pasted in a book, which he shewed me with great pride.
It stated that only three of the Crosses had ever been given; and directly after this the Order of the Victoria Cross was initiated.
This man was engaged as an instructor for the Bind Institution, I think, in basket making.
But the extraordinary part of the thing is, that, although I have stated these facts to a great number of military men, I have never come across on who had ever heard of the ‘Silver Victoria Cross’!
I saw it myself, with the bullet set in the centre!
Unfortunately I cannot remember the man’s name; I know he was the son-in-law of an old gardener called Locke, who lived in Kingsteignton; but the whole family have long since been dead.
These three Crosses must be of some value; and I think it is a great pity that they cannot be traced, as they must still be in existence, and are of historical interest.”
[This meeting would have taken place sometime between 1883 and 1910]
Does anyone know anything about this medal? What was it called, what did it look like? I would be very intrigued to know…Answers on a postcard (or email)…