Heroe’s Portraits: Sgt Luke O’Connor VC,KCB

I decided that it might be interesting to profile some of the people who have been awarded the highest medal for bravery their country gives.   I will start with Sgt. Luke O’Connor of the British Army who was the first man to be awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), Britain’s Highest Award for Bravery.

Sergeant O’Connor was a Color Sergeant in the 23rd Regiment of Foot (Later renamed to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers) when he performed the actions that would earn him the Victoria Cross during the Crimean War.   The Victoria Cross did not exist when he performed his action during the Crimean War but he was one of a group of soldiers from the war who were awarded it retroactively after its creation.

 SGT O’Connor was awarded the VC for actions during the Battle of the Alma on September 20, 1855 when he was advancing with his regiment and he retrieved the regimental colors after they were dropped because the officer carrying them was killed.   He was shot in the chest at the same time but despite his wounds, he retrieved the colors and carried them to the enemy position with his regiment following him.   His partial citation reads:

 In the Crimea, at the Battle of the Alma, Sergeant O’Connor was advancing between two officers, carrying the Colour, when one of them was mortally wounded. Sergeant O’Connor was also shot at the same time, but recovering himself, he snatched up the Colour from the ground and continued to carry it until the end of the action, although urged to retire to the rear on account of his wounds. He also acted with great gallantry at the assault on the Redan (8 September 1855) where he was shot through both thighs.

 SGT O’Connor survived the war and stayed in the Royal Army retiring at the Rank of Major General.   He died in February, 1915 and is buried in London at St. Mary’s Cemetery

 A short biography of him can be found here:  Irish Identity