*John Buckley was born in May 1813 at Cocker Hill in Stalybridge. He is truly a local hero. He is one of the only 1353 people to have received the Victorian cross which is the joint highest award for bravery in the United Kingdom with the George Cross.
His life story would make an amazing film. I wonder if Daniel Craig could pull it off, because if I’m honest I prefer my heroes to look more like Daniel Craig, or perhaps Brad Pitt than the photo below.
John Buckley VC
John Buckley started work, as did most Stalybridge people did then, in the Mills. He worked at Harrison’s Mill and then Bayley’s Mill. When he was eighteen he went to Manchester and joined the Bengal Artillery. Shortly afterwards he was sent to India in June 1832 as a gunner.
In India, he met and married Mary Ann Broadway in 1835. Living in Calcutta the couple had three children but 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.
So far he has lost one wife and five kids… unfortunately he was to lose more by the end of his story.
Four years later, 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).
In 1857 the Indian Mutiny flared up against the rule of the British. The mutineers soon reached Delhi where John Buckley and his fellow eight soldiers defending the ammunition store were massively 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. But they were captured by the enemy and he 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 and apparently volunteered for all the dangerous missions.* see below
In 1858 he was promoted to Lieutenant but shortly afterwards fell ill and was given two years leave. I understand he came back to Stalybridge. Whilst 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. He died in 1876.
A blue plaque to commemorate the life of John Buckley is on the wall of the Travellers Call Public House, Wakefield Road, Stalybridge.
John Buckley was in the news again recently. There was an article in the Manchester Evening News on 11 December 2012 about the recent finding of his unmarked grave in a cemetery in Tower Hamlets cemetery North London.
The Victoria Cross Trust raised money for a headstone.
Thanks to James Melik I can now post a photo of the headstone.
And I love this photo; featuring James’ cat!
18/03/13 – I have, as a result of this post, found out a few more things about John Buckley;
*John Buckley’s Revenge – now you have to remember here how much Major Buckley lost whilst in India; first one wife and five kids to illness and then his second wife and three kids to the rebels…So on escaping the rebels capture he was probably a bit mad. apparently then rejoined the British Army, captured 150 of the rebels strapped them to cannons and blew them apart… sounds a bit messy. Thanks for highlighting that one Jim!
*I also have Jim to thank for finding this record of John Buckley’s Baptism.
I have had another email about Major Buckley; this time from a descendant of his – it seems there was more to John Buckley’s reasons to joining the army than I originally thought…..A yet another wife and more children! Looks like he had children and got married in Stalybridge before he left for India!
“According to some legal documents from the 1830’s, (still in my father’s possession), John Buckley was married to my 3x great aunt Ann Woodall, of Cocker Hill, Stalybridge.
Their two daughters were christened on the same day (6th. February 1831) at Old St.Georges Church, Stalybridge.
Looking at the baptismal records, the first daughter was born illegitimate on 31st.October 1829, and was given the name Mary Ann Buckley Woodall. The second daughter was named Hannah Buckley, and is registered as daughter of John Buckley spindle maker and Ann.
After looking at the parish register of deaths, it looks likely there was a second illegitimate child named Ann Woodall, she died at one day old in 1830.
Ann Woodall was born in 1810,and was the daughter of John Woodall, Shoemaker and Nanny Woodall (his second wife).
The legal document mentioned above, is to do with a business venture drawn up between Ann’s father John Woodall, the local Lord of the Manor and David Ricardo (M.P. and renowned economist) of Gatcombe Park.
The document names Ann, together with her husband John Buckley and the years they were born, (Ann in 1810 and John in 1813).
Reading between the lines ,it looks as if John Buckley ran off to join the army shortly after they were married and committed bigamy whilst serving in India!
Ann Buckley was supported by her family for the rest of her life, by means of a 1/8th.portion of the rents from property owned by her father in the Stalybridge area. (Confirmed by more legal documents).
The Woodall family lived at Rasbottom Brow ,Stalybridge, I have been told that the property still exists to this day.”
Interesting stuff eh? I haven’t checked it at all or seen the document in question, but have no reason not to believe it. Thanks very much for the email Val.
As usual, if you have anything to add to this post please let me know – leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org