b. 29/10/1825 Monghyr, India. d. 14/02/1880 Thall, India.
John Adam Tytler (1825-1880) was born on 29th October 1825 at Monghyr, Bengal, the third son of John, a Surgeon in the Honourable East India Company, and Anne (nee Gillies). When he was 5, he was sent home to the care of his mother’s sisters until the arrival of his parents in 1835. In 1843, through his father’s old friend, Sir Jeremiah Bryant, a Director in the Honourable East India Company, he received a cadetship into the Company’s Army. He sailed for India in the autumn of 1843 and received his commission as ensign, and was posted to the 66th Bengal Native Infantry in December 1844. The regiment was then involved in the Second Sikh War of 1848-1849, which was regarded by the sepoys as “foreign service”.
The 66th mutinied upon the annexation of the Punjab when foreign duty allowance was discontinued. The rebellion was put down and the regiment marched to Ambala, where it was disbanded by Sir Charles Napier on 27th February 1850. Their colours, arms, stores etc were soon handed over to the 1st Nasiri Battalion, which assumed the title 66th Goorkha Regiment of Native Infantry. In 1861, it became the 1st Goorkha Regiment.
When the sepoys mutinied at Meerut in May 1857 Lieutenant Tytler and his Gurkha men were at the hill station of Haldwani and were not involved in the events on the plains of Oudh. On 17th September 1857, however, 1,000 rebels attacked Haldwani and Tytler, with just 70 defenders, played a major role in defeating them.
The rebels hid in the bleak Kumaun hills and gained reinforcements. On 9th February 1858, a force of 500 men of the 66th, commanded by Captain Ross, 200 cavalry and two 6 pounder guns, surprised a rebel force of between 4-5,000 infantry, more than 1,000 cavalry and four guns at a small village called Charpura.
The following day, Ross led two companies of the 66th against the rebel right flank in the face of heavy grape fire, which staggered the advance. Seeing the men wavering, Tytler set an example to rally them by spurring his horse forward and dashing on ahead. He dashed towards the enemy guns where he engaged in hand to hand combat, until the guns were taken. He had been shot through the left arm, had a spear wound to the chest, and a musket ball right through the sleeve of his coat.
For this act of valour, Tytler was recommended for the VC. When it at last reached the desk of the Duke of Cambridge, he was not overly keen to grant it as a VC action. However, despite his reservations, his VC was approved and appeared in the London Gazette on 24th August 1858. Like a lot of Mutiny recipients, he appears to have received his medal by post.
After a period of recuperation, he rejoined the regiment for the death throes of the Mutiny. In a six -week period, he was involved in four battles in the Kumaon Hills. As part of Brigadier-General Throup’s force, the 66th won victories at Pusayan on 17th October and Mittowlee on 9th November, when they re-occupied the fort.
Tytler went on to take part in the Black Mountain and Lushai Campaigns. At the beginning of the Afghan War in late 1878, newly promoted Brigadier-General Tytler took command of the 2nd Infantry Brigade of the Peshawar Valley Field Force under the command of General Sam Browne VC. After a year’s hard campaigning, an exhausted Tytler succumbed to a bout of pneumonia on 14th February 1880 in Kohat aged just 54. He was buried in the Christian Cemetery, Kohat (now Pakistan). His medals (the first Gurkha VC) are held by The Gurkha Museum, Winchester, Hampshire.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: GURKHA MUSEUM, WINCHESTER, HAMPSHIRE.
BURIAL PLACE: CHRISTIAN CEMETERY, KOHAT, PAKISTAN.
John Adam Tytler's VC and CB on display at the Gurkha Museum, Winchester, Hampshire (August 2012).
St George's Chapel, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Reverse of his VC courtesy of the