This Day In History

  • 1775 In the early hours a small British force, including the Grenadier and Light Companies of the 47th (later 1st Loyals) and 59th (later 2nd East Lancashires), sets out from Boston, Massachusetts for Concord, some 20 miles away, to destroy a colonial munitions depot. At dawn at Lexington they are confronted by the local militia and the first shots of the American Revolution are fired. A further engagement follows at Concord where about 500 Militiamen defeat three British companies and force the British column to begin its return march to Boston. Reinforced at Lexington by a relief force including the rest of the 47th, the march is carried out under sustained fire from concealed insurgents, and the American War of Independence has begun.
  • 1854 47th Regiment (later the 1st Loyals) disembark at Scutari, opposite Constantinople, to join the 2nd Division, part of the British Army concentrating in preparation for the Crimean War. They are quartered in the huge Turkish barracks there, later to become famous as the British base hospital where Florence Nightingale effected her nursing reforms.
  • 1880 2nd Afghan War. Battle of Ahmed Kel. 59th Regiment (soon to 2nd East Lancashires) is hard-pressed on the right of the British line.  The Regiment forms square around its colours. It is the last occasion on which colours are carried by a British regiment on a victorious field. Afterwards 1,000 dead lie in front of the British line, with 600 around the 59th's position. The shell-torn colours are now displayed in the Sergeant's Mess of the 1st Battalion, Duke of Lancaster's Regiment.
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Colour Serjeant John Lucas VC

John Lucas VC

John Lucas VC

John Lucas was born in Clashganny, Myshall Parish, Bagnalstown, Co. Carlow, Ireland, in 1826.

In 1861 he was about 35 years old and serving in New Zealand as a Colour Sergeant in the 40th (2nd Somersetshire) Regiment of Foot, later to become the 1st Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment. The Regiment was engaged in the First Taranaki War, against the Maori, at Waitara on the North Island.

On the 18th of March he was acting as Sergeant of a party employed as skirmishers to the right of No. 7 Redoubt, and close to the Huirangi Bush, facing the left of the positions occupied by the Maori. According to the citation for his Victoria Cross:-

At about 4 o’clock, a very heavy and well-directed fire was suddenly opened upon them from the Bush, and the high ground on the left. Three men being wounded simultaneously, two of them mortally, assistance was called for in order to have them carried to the rear: a file was immediately sent, but had scarcely arrived, when one of them fell, and Lieutenant Rees was wounded at the same time. Colour-Serjeant Lucas, under heavy fire from Maori warriors, who were not more than thirty yards distant, immediately ran up to the assistance of this Officer, and sent one man with him to the rear. He then took charge of the arms belonging to the killed and wounded men, and maintained his position until the arrival of supports under Lieutenants Gibson and Whelan.

As a result of his action, John Lucas received  the first Victoria Cross to be awarded to the Regiment which became the South Lancashire Regiment.

By then promoted to Sergeant Major, he was invested with the VC at a full parade of all British troops in the area, at Ellerslie Racecourse, Auckland, New Zealand, on 2 October 1862.

John Lucas died at his home in Dublin on 29 February 1892, aged 66. He is buried there in St. James churchyard, James Street. For decades his grave was lost, allegedly because it was obliterated and the headstone destroyed by the IRA in the 1920’s.  

St James’s Church is now the Pearse Lyons Distillery. In 2017, during restoration work in the churchyard, the fragments of the headstone were rediscovered.  Repaired and renovated, it has been re-erected as closely as could be ascertained to it’s original position. 

John Lucas’s headstone in St James’s Churchyard, Dublin. Photo courtesy of Patrick Hugh Lynch

 

His  Victoria Cross is in the proud possession of the Lancashire Infantry Museum.