b. 16/05/1834 Trichinopoly, India. d. 22/01/1872 Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Valentine Mumbee McMaster (1834-1872) was born in Trichinopoly, India on 16th May 1834 and graduated from Edinburgh Medical School. He then enlisted with the 78th Regiment of Foot (later Seaforth Highlanders) as they took part in the Persian War of 1857. His VC recommendation came through the ballot method and was almost a last measure. General Havelock called for recommendations for the Victoria Cross and the only regiment not to forward one was the 78th. When asked why, they stated that no one of their number had more particularly distinguished himself than another. When further pressed, they sent in the name of one of their medical officers, Assistant Surgeon Valentine McMaster.
He had supported Surgeon Joseph Jee VC with attending the wounded throughout the day, night and following morning of the 25th-26th September 1857 during the Relief of the Lucknow Residency. McMaster was gazetted for the VC on 18th June 1858, and duly received his medal from Lieutenant General Henry Somerset in Bombay later that year.
He went on to serve in the 1863 Umbeleya Campaign and in 1869, he and the 78th were posted to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he became involved in the city’s social life. He met and fell in love with Eleanor Burmester, 15 years younger than him. They were married in June 1870 and had a son. The new family were soon on the move when the 78th was posted to Belfast, Ireland in November 1871. Tragedy struck when McMaster died on 22nd January 1872 from heart disease aged just 38. He was buried in Belfast City Cemetery where his widow erected a cross over his grave.
Eleanor, who was expecting their second child, returned her family to Halifax to give birth to their second son. She met another surgeon, Canadian-born Campbell Mellis Douglas VC of the Royal Artillery, and married him on 10th August 1874. Uniquely she had married two surgeons and two recipients of the VC. McMaster’s medals are held by the National War Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NATIONAL WAR MUSEUM, EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND.
BURIAL PLACE: BELFAST CITY CEMETERY, BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND
Valentine McMaster's medals including VC on display at the National War Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle, Scotland. (Picture courtesy of Thomas Stewart).
McMaster VC is buried in Section I, Grave 318
Valentine McMaster Memorial
at National Memorial Arboretum