The cleaning team headed by Steve and supported by Barry completed the cleans of three VC related graves today, Tuesday 14th February 2023. The grave of William Fraser McDonnell VC, who is buried at St Peters church Leckhampton along with family graves associated with Major Douglas Reynolds VC and Commander Cecil Buckley VC were tended, using our specialist Doff cleaning equipment. With all three VCs related to different eras of conflict it was a unique opportunity to conduct the renovation and restore the graves to their former glory.
McDonnell VC Buckley VC Reynolds VC
The citations for each man read as follows:
McDonnell VC - “ For great coolness and bravery on the 30th of July, 1857, during the retreat of the British Troops from Arrah, in having climbed, under an incessant fire, outside the Boat in which heand several Soldiers were, up to the rudder, and with considerable difficulty cut through the lashing which secured it to the side of the boat. On the lashing being cut, the boat obeyed the helm, and thus thirty-five European Soldiers escaped certain death".
Buckley VC - "Serving in the Royal Navy on HMS Miranda when, along with Lieutenant Hugh Burgoyne from HMS Swallow and Gunner John Robarts from HMS Ardent, he volunteered to land at a beach where the Russians were present in strength. They were beyond the range of covering fire from the ships offshore and met considerable enemy opposition, but managed to set fire to some corn stores and ammunition dumps and to destroy enemy equipment before embarking again. On 3 June Buckley set off for Taganrog with Boatswain Henry Cooper in a four-oared gig, landing while the town was under bombardment. Its garrison numbered 3,000 men, but Buckley and Cooper set fire to various government buildings and stores, and destroyed arms and equipment. All four men were awarded the VC. Buckley’s was the very first VC to be gazetted."
Reynolds VC - "At Le Cateau, on 26th August, he took up two teams and limbered up two guns under heavy Artillery and Infantry fire, and though the enemy was within 100 yards he got one gun away safely. At Pisseloup, on 9th September, he reconnoitred at close range, discovered a battery which was holding up the advance and silenced it. He was severely wounded 15th September, 1914."
All three graves restored to their former status now gleam in the churchyard at St Peter's Leckhampton. As an added gesture the VCT also cleaned the grave of Lt Colonel Henry Duberly and his wife Frances notable characters from the Crimean War. At the conclusion the VCT presented the church with commemorative plaques for display in the community to help remember the valour of three extraordinary men.
Eric Miller local historian also penned a piece for the parish magazine - There are three memorials to holders of the Victoria Cross in our churchyard. Two are crosses on the graves of William Fraser McDonell, from the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and Major Douglas Reynolds from the First World War, and the other is a stone recording the name of Commander Cecil William Buckley who died in Madeira and gained his honour in the Crimean War. The memorials had become rather shabby with the passage of time and we were delighted recently when the Victoria Cross Trust contacted the Parish Office with an offer to clean them.
They came one sunny day last month and transformed the stones. The grey patina was removed from the crosses and the stone underneath was revealed to be white marble, as can be seen in this photo of Major Reynolds’s grave. Steve Abell and Barry Stewart from the Trust made short work of the task and had time in addition to treat the gravestone of Major Henry Duberly and his wife Fanny (who wrote about her experiences in the Crimean War and in India).
When they had finished, Steve and Barry presented plaques inscribed with brief accounts of the actions for which the crosses were awarded. The plaques will be displayed at an appropriate place in church.