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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Private John McDermond VC

John McDermond VC photographed in 1858 after his promotion to Corporal. He is wearing his Crimean War Medal with three clasps, the Victoria Cross, and the French Medaille Militaire

John McDermond VC photographed in 1858 after his promotion to Corporal. He is wearing his Crimean War Medal with three clasps, the Victoria Cross, and the French Medaille Militaire

John McDermond was probably born in Clackmannan in 1828. He was attested into the 47th (The Lancashire) Regiment in Glasgow in October 1846

He won the first VC to be awarded to a member of the 47th Regiment at the Battle of Inkerman during the Crimean War.

The Commanding Officer of the 47th, Lieutenant Colonel O’Grady Haly, led a charge against an attacking Russian column. After cutting down three, he was himself unhorsed, bayonetted in the leg, and surrounded by the enemy. Seeing his plight, several soldiers rushed to his aid and McDermond, standing over his Colonel , killed the man who had wounded him and fought off the Russians while Haly was helped back to the British line.

John McDermond’s award of  the Victoria Cross was posted in the London Gazette on 24 February 1857. He was presented with his medal by Major General Sir James Scarlett on the parade ground at Southsea, Hampshire, on 12 March 1858.

McDermond served with the 47th for just under 16 years, seeing overseas service in the Ionian Islands, Malta, Turkey, Gibraltar and Canada. He was invalided out of the Army in 1862, aged 34, after being injured on board ship while in transit to Canada.

John McDermond appears to have had a difficult life after leaving the army. He died in  Glasgow, of Typhus, just four years later, in 1866, leaving destitute a wife and two very young children, the youngest of whom was born just weeks before his death. He is buried in an unmarked grave in the Eastern Necropolis, Glasgow.

The location of his Victoria Cross is not known. However, in December 2015, a metal detectorist unearthed what appears to be a Victoria Cross medal from the mud of the Thames foreshore in London. It bears the date of the Battle of Inkerman – 5 November 1854. Only two Inkerman VC’s are unaccounted for. If genuine, there is therefore a 50% possibility that this medal is John McDermond’s. The Thames VC is currently held in the Museum of London.

Privat McDermond saves his Colonel and wins the VC at Inkerman

Private John McDermond defending his fallen Colonel at the Battle of Inkerman. This portrait hangs in the Regimental Council Chamber of the Lancashire Infantry Museum