b. 22/09/1817 Hull, Yorkshire. d. 17/12/1884 Padstow, Cornwall.
John Sheppard (1817-1884) was born in Hull, Yorkshire on 22nd September 1817. He joined the Royal Navy from a young age, and by the time the Crimean War had broken out in 1854, John had risen to the rank of Boatswain. He was serving aboard the St Jean d’Acre when the Naval Brigade was formed.
During the early stages of the campaign, Captain William Peel (later VC) had come up with the idea of capturing a Russian men of war. Sheppard had caught onto this plan and devised a scheme involving a small boat to be paddled up to the side of one of the men of war, and an explosive device being fixed to it, and then detonated at a safe distance.
On 15th July 1855, in the harbour of Sebastopol, Sheppard launched his little punt under the protection of the French sentries into Careening Bay, and paddled westwards until he was stopped by a number of boats conveying troops from the inner Harbour to the North side. Sadly, Sheppard had to turn back from the attempt and managed to do so undetected. He made a second attempt on 16th August 1855, but sadly again he was forced to turn back, unsuccessfully being able to lay his explosive device.
Despite the fact his attempts were unsuccessful, his actions were described by Lord Lyons as “a bold one, and gallantly executed”.
He was recommended for the VC by Captain Keppel and was awarded the medal on 24th February 1857. He was unable to attend the first investiture on 26th June 1857 in Hyde Park as he was on active service. He received his medal later that year from his Commanding Officer on HMS Highflyer. Sheppard was also awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal for his actions.
Little is known of his career following the exploits in the Crimea, and following his retirement from the Navy as a Boatswain First Class, he found himself living in Padstow, Cornwall. Sheppard died at the home of John Harris in Padstow on 17th December 1884, aged 67. He was buried in Padstow Cemetery. His medal (though not currently displayed) is held by the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM, GREENWICH.
BURIAL PLACE: PADSTOW CEMETERY, PADSTOW, CORNWALL.
John Sheppard's VC on the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich's website. The medal is not currently on display (January 2015).
Kevin Brazier - May 2016
VC Memorial in Paragon Square, Hull