b. 1828 Portsmouth, Hampshire. d. 04/08/1862 Portsea, Hampshire.
Thomas Reeves (1828-1862) was born at 50 Kings Street in Portsmouth in 1828. He was a baker’s apprentice from an early age before he decided to join the Navy in 1846 at the age of 18. By September 1850, he was recorded as an Ordinary Seaman aboard HMS Albion. He later became a Gunner’s Mate and on the outbreak of the Crimean conflict Reeves was part of the crew of the HMS Albion that became part of the Anglo-French fleet that blockaded Sebastopol from October 1854 onwards.
On 5th November 1854, the Battle of Inkerman began in dense, thick fog and the Right Lancaster Battery began to be heavily assaulted by the enemy. Many of the men who were manning the guns were wounded or killed, and it seemed the position was hopeless and the guns would fall into the hands of the Russians. Seeing the desperate situation, Seaman Thomas Reeves, along with four other men including James Gorman and Mark Scholefield (also awarded the VC for this action), mounted the defence work banquette and under withering fire from the enemy, kept up a rapid fire from the guns. Sadly, the other two men were killed and due to this were not recommended for the VC as at the time posthumous awards were not given. Their muskets were re-loaded for them by the wounded soldiers under the parapet that they were protecting and eventually the enemy fell back.
In 1856, Reeves was promoted to Captain of the Foretop of the HMS Albion and also volunteered for another 10 years’ service. On 24th February 1857, the announcement appeared in the London Gazette of his Victoria Cross, and later that year, on 26th June 1857, Thomas stood 10th in line to receive his medal from Queen Victoria in Hyde Park.
Thomas then transferred to HMS Excellent and began to take a gunnery course. Sadly, he was forced to be discharged from the Navy at the age of 32 due to infirmity in 1860 with a pension of £25 a year. The reason was his discharge was consumption which would affect him for the next three years, and he died on 4th August 1862, aged just 34 leaving a young widow. He was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave in Portsea Island General Cemetery. Sadly, in the 1970s, Portsmouth’s Ferry Port was expanded and approximately 6,000 bodies were moved to Portsmouth’s Kingston Cemetery. Sadly, records indicate Thomas’ remains were not amongst them and it is believed he is still buried under the car park at the Ferry Port. There is a plaque at the site of his grave.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: INTERNATIONAL FERRY PORT, PORTSEA, HAMPSHIRE
(PORTSEA CEMETERY NOW DEFUNCT BURIED UNDER THE FERRY PORT).
NO IMAGE AVAILABLE
A plaque to Thomas Reeves in the International Ferry Port.
Thomas Reeves' VC at the Lord Ashcroft Collection Gallery (Thomas Stewart November 2015)