He was 43 years old, and a Deputy Assistant Commissary of Ordnance in the Commissariat Department Bengal Est. of the British East India Company during the Indian Mutiny when the following took place for which he was awarded the VC.
On 11 May 1857 at Delhi, India, Deputy Assistant Commissary Buckley was one of nine men who defended the ammunition storehouse for more than five hours against large numbers of mutineers. When the wall was being scaled hope of outside help was gone, they blew up the ammunition, killing many of the mutineers. Of the defenders, five died in the explosion and one shortly afterwards, while Buckley, George Forrest, and William Raynor survived.
Born in May 1813 at ****er Hill in Stalybridge, Cheshire, John Buckley was destined to have a tragic family life though he himself thwarted death many times. His early employment was in the textile industry working locally at Harrison's Mill and then Bayley's Mill. However, aged eighteen and recognising that his ambitions went beyond mill work, Buckley went to Manchester and joined the Bengal Artillery. Shortly afterwards came his first posting - to India in June 1832 as a gunner.
In India, Buckley met and married fourteen year old Mary Ann Broadway in 1835. Living in Calcutta the couple had three children but illness struck repeatedly and by 1845 Mary Ann and two of the children had died. Buckley remarried in 1846 but in 1852 he lost the surviving child of his first marriage and in 1853 two sons by his second marriage also died.
In 1857 Buckley, his wife and three surviving children moved to Delhi where he became Assistant Commissionary of Ordnance and was employed at the Delhi Magazine (storehouse for guns and ammunition). It was whilst at the magazine that his conduct merited the award of the Victoria Cross. The citation simply reads:
Citation'For gallant defence of the magazine at Delhi'
He showed terrific courage, defying death. It was in May 1857 that the Indian Mutiny flared up against the rule of the British. The mutineers soon reached Delhi where Buckley and his fellow eight soldiers defending the magazine were vastly outnumbered. Rather than let the ammunition fall into enemy hands they decided to blow up the building and themselves. Miraculously four of them, including Buckley, survived. Buckley was captured by the enemy and soon learnt that his entire family had been ruthlessly murdered by the rebels. He had now lost two wives and eight children in total and wanted to live no longer. He begged for death from his captors but they refused to kill him on account of his bravery at the magazine. Buckley later escaped and rejoined the British army thence volunteering for all manner of dangerous missions in order to taunt death. He oversaw the execution of one hundred and fifty rebels who were strapped to the muzzle of a cannon and blown apart.
In 1858 Buckley was promoted to Lieutenant but shortly afterwards fell ill and was given two years leave. Back in England he received his Victoria Cross from Queen Victoria. He lived for a short while in Stalybridge before returning to India as a Major in October 1861.
The final years of his life were spent in London and he was buried in an unmarked grave in Tower Hamlets Cemetery. A memorial tablet at the Delhi Magazine bears testimony to the heroism of a man who suffered tremendous personal loss.Medals won
James W. Clarke VC (6 April 1894–10 June 1947), born in Winsford, Cheshire, was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
He was 24 years old, and a sergeant in the 15th Battalion, The Lancashire Fusiliers, British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
CitationOn 2 November 1918 at Happegarbes, France, when Sergeant Clarke's platoon was held up by heavy machine-gun fire, he rushed forward through a strongly-held ridge, capturing in succession four machine-guns and killing the crews. Later, with the remnants of his platoon he captured three more machine-guns and many prisoners and when his platoon was again held up he successfully led a tank against the enemy guns. Throughout the whole of these operations Sergeant Clarke acted with great bravery and total disregard of personal safety.Medals won
He was 32 years old, and an Acting Sergeant in the 4th Battalion, The King's Shropshire Light Infantry, British Army during the Second World War when he was awarded the VC.
CitationOn 16 October 1944 east of Overloon, the Netherlands, Sergeant Eardley's platoon was ordered to clear some orchards where a strong opposition was holding up the advance, but 80 yards (73 m) away from the objective the platoon was halted by automatic fire from machine-gun posts. Sergeant Eardley spotted one of these posts and moving forward under heavy fire killed the officer at the post with a grenade. He went on to destroy two more posts single-handed, under fire so intense that it daunted those who were with him, but his action enabled the platoon to achieve its objective and thus ensured the success of the whole attack.
He later achieved the rank of Company Sergeant-Major.
A statue was erected in his home town of Congleton in 2004.Medals won
In January 1941, he completed his tour of operations, but then volunteered straight away for a second tour. He was posted to No. 35 Squadron with the brand new Handley Page Halifax, and completed his second tour early in 1942, by now a Squadron Leader. August 1942 saw a return to operations as CO of No. 76 Squadron RAF. The squadron had recently suffered high losses operating the Halifax, and Cheshire immediately tackled the low morale of the unit by ordering an improvement in the performance of the squadron aircraft by removing the mid-upper and nose gun turrets along with exhaust covers and other weighty non-essential equipment. This allowed the bombers to fly higher and faster. Losses soon fell and morale rose accordingly.
In 1943 Cheshire published an account of his first tour of operations in his book "Bomber Pilot" which tells of his posting to RAF Driffield and tells the story of flying his badly-damaged bomber ("N for Nuts") back to base. In the book he fails to mention being awarded the DSO for this, but does describe the bravery of a badly burnt member of his crew.
Cheshire became Station Officer Commanding RAF Marston Moor in March as the youngest Group Captain in the RAF, though the job was never to his liking and he pushed for a return to an operational command. These efforts paid off with a posting to succeed Wing Commander Guy Gibson as commander of the legendary 617 "Dambusters" Squadron in September 1943.
While with 617, Cheshire helped pioneer a new method of marking enemy targets for Bomber Command's 5 Group, flying in at a very low level in the face of strong defences, using first, the versatile Mosquito, then a "borrowed" P-51 Mustang fighter. This development work was the subject of some severe intraservice politics; Cheshire was encouraged by his 5 Group Commander Air Vice-Marshal Ralph Cochrane, although the 8 Group Pathfinder AOC Air Vice-Marshal Don Bennett saw this work as impinging on the responsibilities of his own command.
Cheshire was nearing the end of his fourth tour of duty in July 1944, having completed a total of 102 missions, when he was awarded the Victoria Cross. He was the only one of the 32 VC airmen to win the medal for an extended period of sustained courage and outstanding effort, rather than a single act of valour. His citation noted:
Citation"In four years of fighting against the bitterest opposition he maintained a standard of outstanding personal achievement, his successful operations being the result of careful planning, brilliant execution and supreme contempt for danger – for example, on one occasion he flew his P-51 Mustang in slow "figures of eight" above a target obscured by low cloud, to act as a bomb-aiming mark for his squadron. Cheshire displayed the courage and determination of an exceptional leader." It also noted a raid in which he had marked a target, flying a Mosquito at low level against "withering fire."
One of Cheshire's missions was to use new using 5,400 kilograms (12,000 lb) "Tallboy" deep-penetration bombs to destroy V3 long-range cannons located in underground bunkers near Mimoyecques in the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France. These were powerful guns able to fire a 500 lb shell into London every minute. They were protected by a concrete layer. The raid was planned so the bombs hit the ground next to the concrete to destroy the guns from underneath. Although considered successful at the time, later evaluations confirmed that the raids were largely ineffectual.
Cheshire was, in his day, both the youngest Group Captain in the service and, following his VC, the most decorated.
On his 103rd mission, he was the official British observer of the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki flying in the support B-29 Big Stink. He did not witness the event as close up as anticipated due to aircraft commander James Hopkins' failure to link up with the other B-29s. Hopkins was meant to join with the others over Yakushima, but he circled at 39,000 ft instead of the agreed height of 30,000 ft. He tried to justify this by the need to keep the VIP passengers out of danger, but Cheshire thought that Hopkins was "overwrought."
”Many assumed that it was Nagasaki which emptied him. In fact, as he kept pointing out, it was the war as a whole. Like Britain herself, he had been fighting or training for fighting since 1939.”
He was earlier quoted as saying: "...then I for one hold little brief for the future of civilization"
He left the RAF in 1946 and the time immediately after the war saw him start several new ventures. One of these was a community called VIP (standing for the Latin phrase Vade in Pacem - Go in Peace) which eventually settled in a house called Le Court in Hampshire which Cheshire bought from an aunt. VIP's aim was to provide an opportunity for ex-servicemen and women and their families to live together, each contributing to the community what they could, in order to help their transition back into civilian life. He hoped that training, prosperity and fulfillment would result from united effort and mutual support.He saw the community as one way of continuing to work towards world peace. But the idea did not prosper and the community came to an end in 1947.
At the beginning of 1948, he heard about the case of Arthur Dykes, who had been one of Leonard's original 'VIP' community at Le Court, Hampshire and was suffering from cancer. Dykes asked Cheshire to give him some land to park a caravan until he recovered, but Cheshire discovered that Dykes was terminally ill and that this fact had been concealed from him. He told Dykes the real position and invited him to stay at Le Court.
Cheshire learned nursing skills and was soon approached to take in a second patient, the 94-year-old bedridden wife of a man whose own frailness meant he could no longer care for her himself. She was followed by others, some coming to stay and others to help. Although Le Court had no financial support, and was financially perilous most of the time, money somehow always seemed to arrive in the nick of time to stave off disaster. By the time Arthur Dykes died in 1948, there were 24 people staying at Le Court.
In 1948, on Dykes's death, Cheshire, who had been a lapsed Christian, sat by his bed and picked up a book called One Lord One Faith about the Catholic Church. Soon afterwards, he converted to the Roman Catholic Church.
Cheshire dedicated the rest of his life to supporting disabled people, combining this with lecturing on conflict resolution.
In 1948, he founded the charity now styled Leonard Cheshire Disability, which provides support to disabled people throughout the world. It is now in the top 30 of UK charities.
Other organisations set up by Leonard Cheshire are:
In 1953 he founded the Raphael Pilgrimage, to enable sick and disabled people to travel to Lourdes.
The Leonard Cheshire Disability & Inclusive Development Centre is a joint project by Leonard Cheshire Disability and University College London (originally set up in 1997 as the Leonard Cheshire Centre of Conflict Recovery).
On 15 July 1941, Cheshire married an American actress, Constance Binney, but this marriage was short-lived. Then, on 5 April 1959, in Bombay's Catholic Cathedral, he married Sue Ryder, also the founder of a charity; they had two children, Jeromy and Elizabeth Cheshire, and lived in Cavendish, Suffolk.
In 1950, he became one of the vice presidents of the Eagle Club, one of Britain's most popular juvenile publications of the 1950s.
He died of motor neurone disease on 31 July 1992.
In 1981, he was given the Order of Merit.
In 1991, he was given a life peerage as Baron Cheshire of Woodhall in the County of Lincolnshire, sitting as a cross-bencher.
Queen Elizabeth II paid personal tribute to him in her Christmas message to the Commonwealth in December 1992. In the 2002 BBC poll to find the 100 Greates Britons, Cheshire attained position number 31. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Imperial War Museum, London.
Leonard Cheshire is acknowledged on the Roger Waters album The Wall - Live in Berlin. Former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters once described Cheshire as "the only true Christian I've ever met."
There is a house at Xavier College named after Cheshire.
Thomas Alfred Jones - Runcorn
Thomas Alfred Jones VCDCM (25 December 1880 – 30 January 1956) of Runcorn, Cheshire, was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
He was 35 years old, on 25 September 1916 during the Battle of Morval, when he performed an act of bravery for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Born in Runcorn 25 December 1880, Jones was a private in the 1st Battalion, The Cheshire Regiment, British Army during the First World War. He was known affectionately locally as 'Todger' Jones.Citation
Private Jones was with his company covering the advance in front of a village, when he noticed an enemy sniper 200 yards (200 m) away. He went out and, although one bullet went through his helmet and another through his coat, he returned the sniper's fire and killed him. He then saw two more Germans firing on him although they were displaying a white flag. Both these he shot. On reaching the enemy trench he found several occupied dug-outs and single-handed disarmed 102 of the enemy, including three or four officers, and took them prisoner.
Jones' Victoria Cross is displayed at the Cheshire Military Museum in Chester, England.
Anthony Palmer VC (1819- December 12, 1892) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
He was about 35 years old, and a private in the 3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards, British Army during the Crimean War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
CitationOn November 5, 1854 at the Battle of Inkerman, Crimea, Private Palmer, with two other men were the first to volunteer to go with Brevet Major Sir Charles Russell to dislodge a party of Russians from the Sandbag Battery. The attack succeeded. During this action Private Palmer shot down an assailant who was in the act of bayoneting Russell, and so saved his life. He was also one of a small band which, by a desperate charge against overwhelming numbers, saved the Colours of the battalion from capture.
His Victoria Cross is displayed at The Guards Regimental Headquarters (Grenadier Guards RHQ) (London, England).Medals won