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DateOriginal Topic
26th February 2004Postumous VC
By John Hand
You refer to the fact that both Lieutenant's Melvill and Coghill had posthumously received the VC. This information is incorrect. There was no provision in 1879 for the posthumous award of the VC. Indeed Queen Victoria was moved in a public statement concerning the pair to state that had they survived both would have received the medal.
26th February 2004Adrian Whiting

You are quite right that, at the time, there was no provision for the medal to be awarded posthumously.

However, that was not always to be the case, and both posthumous awards were made in January 1907 I believe. On the 15th of that month King Edward VII presented the medals to the respective families. I expect others can add the details of who attended to accept them on behalf of the recipients.

26th February 2004John Young

As Adrian concurs above, you are right in stating there was no provision under the Warrant of the Victoria Cross, for the award to have been given posthumously.

However, even prior to the Warrant's amendment, the rules were bent somewhat, I cite the case of Lieutenant the Hon. Frederick Hugh Sherston Roberts, K.R.R.C., being gazetted on 2nd January, 1900 for his actions at the battle of Colenso, on 15th December, 1899, and having died of his wounds on 17th December, 1899.

There were others such as Lieutenant Philip Salkeld, Bengal Engineers, for his actions on 14th September, 1857, who died eight months prior to his award being gazetted.

'The London Gazette' of 8th August, 1902, announced the first 'official' posthumous awards, in relation to the 2nd Anglo-Boer War.

With regards to Melvill & Coghill, I'll quote, and not for the first time on this forum, from the 'Supplement to The London Gazette' of 2nd May, 1879.

Lieutenant Melville [sic] of the 1st Battalion 24th Foot, on account of the gallant efforts made by him to save the Queen's Colour of his Regiment after the disaster at Isandlwanha [sic], and also Lieutenant Coghill, 1st Battalion, 24th Foot, on account of his heroic conduct in endeavouring to save his brother officer's life, would have been recommended to Her Majesty for the Victoria Cross had they survived.'

Melvill & Coghill have cropped up on more than one occasion on the forum. Might I suggest a site search.

Melvill & Coghill were not only only belated posthumous awardees - again I quote from 'The London Gazette' this time of 15th January, 1907.
'War Office, 15 Jan. 1907. The King has been graciously pleased to approve of the Decoration of the Victoria Cross being delivered to the representives of the undermentioned Officers and men who fell in the performance of Acts of Valour, and with reference to whom it was notified in the London Gazette that they would have been recommended to Her late Majesty for the Victoria Cross had they survived.'

The Gazette then names:
Private Edward Spence, 42nd Regt., previously gazetted on 21st October, 1859, for his actions on 15th April, 1858, at Ruhya.

Ensign Everard Aloysius Lisle Phillips, 60th Rifles, formerly of 11th Regt. of Bengal Infantry, previously gazetted also on 21st October, 1859, for his various actions during the Siege of Delhi, 1857.

Then appear the names of Melvill & Coghill.

They are followed by;

Trooper Frank Willam Baxter, of the Bulawayo Field Force, previously gazetted on 7th May, 1897, for his actions in Matabeleland on 22nd April, 1896.

Lieutenant Hector Lachlan Stewart MacLean, Corps of Guides, previously gazetted on 9th November, 1897, for his actions at Nawa Kili on 17th August, 1897.

I mention these others, as some still state incorrectly that Melvill & Coghill were the first posthumous awards of the Victoria Cross.

John Y.
26th February 2004Martin Everett
Your last paragraph - 'the first posthumous VCs' is something which is trotted out by many 'official' guides to the AZW battlefields. I am not sure there is any action we can take.

I even overheard this year of the Pulleine message taking 3 hours to reach Chelmsford even though its time of departure (0805 hrs) and arrival (0930 hrs) is actually on the message - assuming their watches were roughly on the same time.
26th February 2004John Young

Let us suggest to AMAFA take us out there to give them a history lesson, then it might dispel a few of the questions that actually come up on this forum.

John Y.
26th February 2004John Hand
John Young

I have just been reading a response you made on 11th inst concerning Melvill and Coghill.

I agree that the passage of time makes it impossible to determine whether both men where cowards or heroes. As the National Army Museum Book of the Zulu War indicates both Melvill and Coghill had already been eulogised by the British Press as heroes in an otherwise wholly forgettable episode in British Army history. Nothing changes in respect of the role press in fashioning suitable outcomes for the Great and the Good.