b. 1827 Chelsea, London. d. 20/03/1869 Caen, France.
Thomas James Young (1827-1869) was born in Chelsea, London on 21st April 1826. He entered the Royal Navy as a cadet in circa 1840 and was promoted to mate (midshipman) on 7th December 1848. He took a gunnery course at HMS Excellent in 1850 and was promoted to Lieutenant on 11th April 1851. During the Crimean War, he was mentioned in despatches for his part in the raiding parties that attacked Russian supply bases in the Sea of Azov. He was awarded the Crimean Medal with two clasps for Azov and Sebastopol, Turkish War Medal and the Order of the Medjidie for his service.
At the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny, Thomas Young was the gunnery office on HMS Shannon, under the command of Captain (later Sir) William Peel VC, and on 16th November 1857 during the assault on the Shah Najaf Mosque in Lucknow, he was given the role of supervising the battering of the walls. The gun crews not only had to contend with enemy sharpshooters, but also masonry splinters that were torn from the walls by the roundshot. Lieutenant Young was able assisted by Able Seaman William Hall, in moving from gun to gun. Each of the 24 pounders were manned by six men, and Hall was a No 2 with his gun team. When he saw men shot down at one of the other guns he raced to join the 2 surviving members of the gun team, and their officer, Thomas Young. With the huge loss of gunners, Peel ordered a withdrawal of the guns under the cover of rocket fire, but Young and Hall continued to sponge, load and fire the guns and eventually made a breach in the wall. Several members of the 93rd Regiment peered through the breach and found the enemy wre abandoning the temple. Both Young and Hall were recommended for the VC and their citations appeared in the London Gazette on 1st February 1859.
After the relief of Lucknow, Young was with General Wyndham’s attack on the large fort at Detea, which was taken and blown up. He was involved in the brutal aftermath when six sepoys were blown away from the gun and twenty villagers were hung. With Captain Peel’s death from smallpox at Cawnpore, newly-promoted Young led the last Naval Brigade detachment back to HMS Shannon and returned to Britain. He received his VC from Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace on 8th June 1859. Later that year, he was appointed Inspecting Commander of Coastguard at Kingston, Devon.
He met and married Louisa Mary Boyes at St James’ Church, Paddington on 10th January 1860 and together they had two daughters. His brother-in-law was Duncan Boyes, who would be awarded the VC in Japan in 1863, though sadly he would commit suicide in New Zealand in January 1869. In March 1869, Thomas and his wife were living in London, when for an unknown reason, Thomas travelled to France, where he died on 20th March at Caen. Tragically, Louisa heard about the death of her husband and brother around the same time. Thomas was buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Caen. The grave fell into disrepair and was a victim of vandalism. In 2009, Brian Best of the Victoria Cross Society led an appeal to raise funds for a permanent marker to be placed on Young’s grave. This took place on 9th-10th March 2010. Young’s VC is held and displayed by the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM, GREENWICH, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: CIMITIERE PROTESTANT, CAEN, FRANCE.
Thomas James Young's VC on display at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
Picture courtesy of Kevin Brazier