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TO THE VICTORIA & GEORGE CROSS

COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE

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b. 17/07/1833 Dublin, Ireland. d. 07/09/1870 at sea off Cape Finisterre.

 

Captain Hugh Talbot Burgoyne VC, RN was born in Dublin, Ireland on the 17th July 1833. He was the only son of Field Marshal Sir John Fox Burgoyne GCB, who had fought in the Peninsular Wars alongside the Duke of Wellington, fought in the War of 1812 and was an official adviser to Lord Raglan during the Siege of Sebastopol in the Crimea. He had married Charlotte Rose (Hugh's mother) in 1821, and Hugh Talbot Burgoyne was the only boy in the eight children they had together.

 

Hugh's connections to the military were even more deep seated than just his distinguished father, in that his grandfather, John Burgoyne, often referred to as "Gentleman Johnny" was a General who was heavily involved in the American War of Independence, though was forced to surrender with his 6,000 strong army near Saratoga in 1777, in what was seen as a turning point in the War. He was also an accomplished playwright and became a MP, sitting for the seats of Midhurst and Preston.

 

Hugh joined the Royal Navy at the age of 14 in 1847, and by 1854 he had been promoted to Lieutenant and served on the steam sloop, HMS Swallow in the Baltic, during the early stages of the Crimean War.

 

In a quote from his Victoria Cross citation, published on 24th February 1857, his action was described as follows: "On 29 May 1855 in the Sea of Azov, Lieutenant Burgoyne of HMS Swallow, with a lieutenant from HMS Miranda and a gunner from HMS Ardent, volunteered to land at a beach where the Russian army were in strength. They were out of covering gunshot range of the ships offshore and met considerable enemy opposition, but managed to set fire to corn stores and ammunition dumps and destroy enemy equipment before embarking again..."

 

Burgoyne was awarded the Victoria Cross alongside the other two men mentioned in the citation, Cecil William Buckley and John Robarts. Burgoyne was invested with his medal at the first investiture held in Hyde Park, London on 27th June 1857, attended by a crowd of 100,000. Burgoyne due to his rank in the Royal Navy, was the third man presented with the medal.

 

Burgoyne was Commander on HMS Ganges under Captain John Fulford during that vessel's service in the waters of the Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia during the fledgling years of the latter colony's establishment. "When the American merchant ship Northern Eagle was burned in Esquimalt Harbour, Captain Burgoyne was highly commended for his efforts to save everything possible from the burning ship. Seamen from the Ganges, Pylades, Tribune, and Plumper also assisted." Burgoyne Bay was named in his honour in 1859.

 

In 1863 he served as second in command of the sloop Pekin, of Sherard Osborne's Chinese squadron. He married Evelyn Laura Wake-Walker, daughter of Admiral Sir Baldwin Wake-Walker, 1st Bt. and Mary Catherine Sinclair Worth, on 25 August 1864, and this was part of a brief return to England from the sea. Shortly afterwards, he was given command of the HMS Wivern, a role he held from 1865 to 1867. In 1868, he was appointed to superintend the building and fitting out of the HMS Captain, an experimental craft of a full-rigged ship with turrets.

 

In August of 1870, the Captain accompanied the Channel fleet as far as Gibraltar, and off Cape Finisterre, Spain, shortly after midnight on the 7th, a squall hit the top heavy craft and she heeled over, capsized, and sank. Over 450 officers and men went down with her; but about eighteen managed to make it into the launch, which had been thrown out when the ship rolled. Burgoyne and a few men were spotted on the keel; and as the launch came near, the men jumped and were picked up. Burgoyne would not or could not jump, however, and was lost. His body was never recovered.

 

Burgoyne's father, John Fox Burgoyne, was still alive when his son was lost at sea, though passed away the following year and was buried in Brompton Cemetery in London. His son Hugh Talbot Burgoyne VC was memorialized on his family's headstone, and two brass mural tablets commemorating the loss of the HMS Captain are displayed in St Paul's Cathedral. Burgoyne's Victoria Cross is in private ownership.

 

LOCATION OF MEDAL: NOT PUBLICLY HELD.

BURIAL PLACE: BROMPTON CEMETERY, LONDON. FAMILY MEMORIAL

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Hugh Talbot Burgoyne VC

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Hugh Burgoyne's memorial headstone in Brompton Cemetery. His body was lost at sea off Cape Finisterre in 1870.

Brompton Cemetery

Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier

(Burgoyne's memorial is on the East Terrace Wall).

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Westminster Abbey stained glass window and its accompanying plaque to the HMS Captain

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St Pauls Cathedral

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NB: The original citation incorrectly named him as John Talbot Burgoyne. It was corrected in the Edinburgh Gazette, 17th March 1857

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Naval Medal Roll for the Boscawen - Burgoyne is the 2nd man down

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Will and Probate Document for Hugh Talbot Burgoyne (courtesy of Mark Sanders)

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HMS CAPTAIN

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August 2018