Scotland and the Victoria Cross: The Little Wars of Queen Victoria

Storming the Peiwar Kotal.  By Vereker Monteith Hamilton, 1891. Scottish-born John Cook was awarded the Victoria Cross. (Wiki image)

Storming the Peiwar Kotal. By Vereker Monteith Hamilton, 1891. Scottish-born John Cook was awarded the Victoria Cross.
(Wiki image)

1860 – 1900 (excluding the Second Boer War 1899-1902)

Following the Indian Mutiny or Sepoy Mutiny, British soldiers and sailors found themselves deeply involved in colonial battles across the British Empire. The “pink” of the globe was well known to students and diplomats of Empire, so too the gun and cannon of powerful, organized troops against spirited adversaries defending their lands, their beliefs.

Apart from Queen Victoria’s little wars, other empire nations also subjected many to cultural and resource conquest. Separate and yet strangely together this competition of empirical adversaries carved incomprehensible borders…they established the fence…in search of wealth and power, seldom inclusive of indigenous rights and titles.

The Indian Mutiny is also known as the Indian Rebellion by those whose world view see it from a differing perspective of the Empire. Within the list of names below we see other nations, portions of India now Pakistan, Ashanti now Ghana, Burma formerly Myanmar now Myanmar, Rhodesia now Zimbabwe. Language too has changed…so too the British Empire.

During the period from the end of the Indian Rebellion 140 soldiers and sailors of Queen Victoria’s little wars were awarded the Victoria Cross…13 were born in Scotland. Brave deeds enacted against brave foes…valour on both sides of the empire equation.

The Recipients

John Leishman McDougall VC

Taku Forts (Third China War)
21 August 1860
44th Regiment of Foot (East Essex)
Born: Probably Edinburgh, Scotland (1839)

John Carstairs McNeill. From Celebrities of the Army, 1902. (Wikimedia Image)

John Carstairs McNeill.
From Celebrities of the Army, 1902.
(Wikimedia Image)

Lieutenant Colonel (later Major General)
Sir John Carstairs McNeill VC GCVO KCB KCMG

Invasion of Waikato (New Zealand Wars)
30 March 1864
107th Regiment of Foot (Bengal Light Infantry)
Born: Colonsay, Argyllshire, Scotland (28 March 1831)

Lieutenant (later Captain)
James Dundas VC
Dewan-Giri (Bhutan or Bhootan War)
30 April 1865
Bengal Engineers
Born: Edinburgh, Scotland (10 September 1842)
Died during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (23 December 1879)

Donald Macintyre. (Wiki Image)

Donald Macintyre.
(Wiki Image)

Major (later Major-General)
Donald Macintyre VC
Lalgnoora village, North-east India (Lushai Expedition)
4 January 1872
Bengal Staff Corps and 2nd Gurkha Rifles
Born: Kincraig, Rosshire, Scotland (12 September 1831)

Samuel McGaw (Wiki Image)

Samuel McGaw
(Wiki Image)

Lance Sergeant (later Sergeant)
Samuel McGaw VC
Amoaful, Ashanti (First Ashanti Expedition. Third Anglo-Ashanti War)
21 January 1874
42nd Regiment of Foot
Born: Kirkmichael, Ayrshire (1838)

Captain (later Major)
John Cook VC
Peiwar Kotal, Kuram Valley, India (Second Afghan War)
2 December 1878
5th Gurkha Rifles
Born: Edinburgh, Scotland (28 August 1843)
Died of Head Wound received near Argundeh (11 December 1879)
Died at the Sherpur Hospital, Afghanistan (19 December 1879)

Lieutenant (later Lieutenant Colonel)
William Henry Dick-Cunyngham VC
Sherpur Pass, Afghanistan (Second Afghan War)
13 December 1879
92nd Regiment of Foot
Born: Edinburgh, Scotland (16 June 1851)
Killed in Action Siege of Ladysmith, Natal, south-east Africa (6 January 1900)

George Sellar (Wiki Image)

George Sellar
(Wiki Image)

Lance Corporal (later Sergeant)
George Sellar VC
Asmai Heights, near Kabul, Afghanistan (Second Afghan War)
14 December 1879
72nd Regiment of Foot
Born: Keith, Banffshire, Scotland (1850)

Captain (later Major General)
William John Vousden VC CB
Koh Asmai Heights near Kabul, Afghanistan (Second Afghan War)
14 December 1879
5th Punjab Cavalry, Bengal Staff Corps
Born: Perth, Scotland (20 September 1848)

Charles James William Grant (Wiki Image)

Charles James William Grant
(Wiki Image)

Lieutenant (Later brevet Colonel)
Charles James William Grant VC
Thobal near Manipur, Burma (Anglo-Manipur War)
27 March 1891
Indian Staff Corps
Born: Bourtie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland (14 October 1871)

Herbert Stephen Henderson (Wiki Image)

Herbert Stephen Henderson
(Wiki Image)

Herbert Stephen Henderson VC
Campbell’s Store, near Bulawayo, Rhodesia (Matabeleland Rebellion)
30 March 1896
Rhodesia Horse, Bulywayo Field Force
Born: Glasgow, Scotland (30 March 1870)

George Frederick Findlater (Wiki Image)

George Frederick Findlater
(Wiki Image)

Piper (later Sergeant)
George Frederick Findlater VC
Dargai Heights, India (Tirah Campaign)
20 October 1897
2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders
Born: Turriff, Aberdeenshire, Scotland (15 February 1872)

Sergeant (later Major)
John MacKenzie VC DCM
Dompoassi, Ashanti (Third Ashanti Expedition)
6 June 1900
2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders
Born: Contin, Ross-shire, Scotland (22 November 1871)
Killed: Commanding 2nd Battalion Devonshire Regiment at Festubert, France  (17 May 1915)
Buried: Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy, France


Victoria Cross citations are readily available online or in hard copy publications.
An online keyword search of a recipient’s name should find a summary record of the award.
Search the London Gazette to find a published citation at the time the award was announced.

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was captivated by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Over time Paul became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography, narration and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was inspired when he learned Weir visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. "Gallipoli", the film, led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii, Gallipoli, North Macedonia and Salonika. When Paul first watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests was a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, Paul believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


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