b. 01/01/1880 Ireland. d. 07/08/1940 Dublin, Ireland
George Boyd-Rochfort (1880-1940) was born at Middleton Park, Castletown, County Westmeath, Ireland on 1st January 1880. His father was Major Rochfort Hamilton Boyd, who added Rochfort to his surname by Royal Licence in 1888 on succeeding to the estates left by his paternal grandmother. He served as a Captain in 15th Hussars from 1867 and later as a Major in the West Kent Yeomanry. He was appointed High Sheriff of County Westmeath in 1876 and was also a JP. George’s mother was Florence Louisa nee Hemming. His parents had married in London in 1875. George had six siblings.
George was educated at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge (BA 1901), where he was Master of Beagles. He travelled widely, hunted big game, played polo and raced horses. On 9th June 1901 he married Olivia Ellen Usher at Woolwich, London. They lived at Middleton Park, Castletown, George’s family home. There were no children. George became High Sheriff of County Westmeath in 1904 and also Deputy Lieutenant. He was badly hurt in a polo match in late August 1914, which delayed him from volunteering. He was initially rejected medically, but following an operation for varicose veins he enlisted on 1st March 1915 and was commissioned on 3rd April in the Special Reserve Scots Guards. His butler, Private Thorowgood, a Boer War veteran, served with him. He went to France on 13th June and was promoted to Lieutenant on 16th June.
On 3rd August 1915 between Cambrin and La Bassée, France, a German trench-mortar bomb landed on the side of the parapet of the communication trench in which Second Lieutenant Boyd-Rochfort was standing close to a small working party of his battalion. Instead of stepping back into safety he shouted to his men to look out, rushed at the bomb, seized it and hurled it over the parapet where it at once exploded. This combination of presence of mind and courage saved the lives of many of the working party.
He was the first Guards officer to be awarded the VC since the Crimean War. He returned to County Westmeath on 3rd September for a few days. On 6th September King George V presented his VC to him at Windsor Castle. Having returned to France, he was wounded in an incident in which he silenced one German with a blow from his pistol butt and another with his fist. He returned to Middleton Park to convalesce. Appointed acting captain and Adjutant of the Guards Divisional Base Depot until 20th April 1918. He was demobilised on 20th April 1919, although he appears in the Army List until July 1920.
After the war, he bred racehorses. His stud at Middleton Park produced the winners of the 1936 St Leger and the 1937 Ascot Gold Cup, both horses trained by his brother Cecil. He received a Honorary MA from Oxford University. He was appointed Senior Steward of the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee and the Irish Turf Club. George died on 7th August 1940 following an operation and was buried in Castletown Church of Ireland Churchyard. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 and George VI Coronation Medal 1937. The medals are held by the Scots Guards Regimental Museum, Wellington Barracks, London.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: SCOTS GUARDS RHQ, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: CASTLETOWN OLD CHURCHYARD, CO. WESTMEATH, IRELAND.
Picture kindly supplied by Jason McKevitt.
Boyd-Rochfort's medals at the Scots Guards RHQ, London (Thomas Stewart).
War Illustrated, 18th September 1915
Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin (Thomas Stewart)