Investigations continue into the early Victoria Cross medal found by a mudlark on the banks of the Thames river. Here's a new article from Ireland's The Northern Echo.
A MEDAL was found amid the mud of the Thames just before Christmas 2015, and it could well be the first Victoria Cross to be awarded to a member of the Durham Light Infantry.
And among the debris, detectorist Tobias Neto found a VC inscribed on the rear with the date, November 5, 1854 – which was the day Pte John Byrne rescued a fallen colleague from in front of
Russian guns at the Battle of Inkerman.
The medals themselves were cast from the bronze of two cascabels – or cannons – captured from the Russians at Sebastopol and melted down. Even today, VCs are made from the same metal from the
cannons and by the same company, Hancocks, which was Queen Victoria’s favourite jewellers.
When the Museum of London received the found medal, its first task was to ensure that it was not a forgery. It did this by comparing the composition of its metal to that of the bronze from the
captured cannons (the captured cannons, incidentally, may have originated in China, so the composition of their metal is highly distinctive).
“We can’t yet say 100 per cent,” says Kate. “There’s room for error but it probably is a genuine VC.” The results of X-ray Fluorescence tests on the metal are due soon which, hopefully, will
increase the certainty.
... two are missing. John Byrne’s is one of them; the other belongs to Pte John McDermond, of the 47th Regiment of Foot, who rescued a colonel at Inkerman.
Therefore, it looks like there is a 50-50 chance that the found medal belongs to Byrne. But how could it have ended up in the Thames?
“I have been trying to place one of those two men in London and I haven’t really come up with a satisfactory explanation,” says Kate.
“I have made contact with a researcher in County Cork who is looking into Byrne and there’s a family history that he got into a fight in a pub in London and allegedly struck a man. The man fell
back, struck his head and subsequently died, and in remorse Byrne threw his medal into the river. How much can that story be trusted?”
Is it just spooky coincidence that the family story – perhaps set in Byrne’s hazy days when he might have been in London – foresaw the discovery of a medal in the Thames, or was that one newspaper
right that Byrne had the medal with him at his death?
“And then there’s a third option,” says Kate, suddenly. “After the medal featured in our exhibition, someone got in touch with me to tell me about Anthony Palmer, a private in the Grenadier
Guards, who had his medal stolen in a bar brawl in London and requested a replacement from Queen Victoria, which she granted.”
Palmer, whose VC is in the Guards museum, won his medal at Inkerman for bravely attacking a sandbag battery and saving a major. Could the one in the mud be connected to him, or could it belong to
our man Byrne?
“It may be that we never know,” says Kate. “It is a mystery, and it may remain the mysterious VC.”
To read the complete article, see:
Speculating the provenance of mysterious
Victoria Cross medal salvaged from the River Thames (www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/history/15157927.Speculating_
To read earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
VICTORIA CROSS MEDAL FOUND IN THAMES RIVER (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v19n47a17.html)
DESCENDANTS OF THAMES VICTORIA CROSS MEDAL SOUGHT (www.coinbooks.org/v20/esylum_v20n01a33.html)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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