b. 16/06/1851 Edinburgh, Scotland. d. 06/01/1900 Ladysmith, South Africa
William Dick-Cunyngham (1851-1900) was born on 16th June 1851, the youngest son of Sir William Hamner Dick-Cunyngham, Baronet, of Prestonfield, Edinburgh, and Susan, 3rd daughter of Major James Alston Stewart, County Perth. He was educated at Trinity College, Glenalmond, and at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was gazetted as an Ensign in the 92nd Highlanders (later Gordon Highlanders) in February 1872, and was promoted to Lieutenant in 1873, and Captain in 1881.
His service in the 92nd Highlanders was mostly in India (1873-1881), during which time he was Adjutant of the Regiment from January 1877 to April 1878. He served over a wide extent of territory and in various capacities throughout the Afghan War. He was detailed in the first instance in the Transport Department of the Quetta Field Force, and took part in the advance of Sir Donald Stewart’s Division on Kandahar. He was present at the actions at Ali Khel, on the 14th October 1879, in the expedition to Mardan in November, and the operations in Kabul in December. It was during an action at Takht-i-Shah that he was awarded the Victoria Cross (18th October 1881).
On 13th December 1879, he was involved in the assault on Takht-i-Shah, when his men were being beaten back, and were wavering at the top of the hill. At this point, in the face of heavy enemy fire, he led by example and rallied the men, and encouraged them forward. After this action, he was Adjutant, he was present at the action at Childukhtean in April 1880, where he was mentioned in despatches. He then took part in the march of General Roberts VC’s Column on Kandahar. In October 1880, he went to South Africa and served with the 92nd in the Transvaal Campaign of 1881.
He was invested with the Victoria Cross on 1st December 1881 at Windsor Castle by Queen Victoria. Following the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899, the now Lieutenant-Colonel Dick-Cunyngham was sent to the front in command of the 2nd Battalion, and led it into action at the Battle of Elandslaagte, where he was wounded in the leg. This wound meant that he missed the early stages of the Siege of Ladysmith. On 6th January 1900, on the first day on which he resumed active duty, he was hit and killed by a chance shot. He was buried in Ladysmith Cemetery. His medals are held by the Gordon Highlanders Museum, Aberdeen.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: GORDON HIGHLANDERS MUSEUM, ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND.
BURIAL PLACE: LADYSMITH CEMETERY, LADYSMITH, SOUTH AFRICA.
William Dick-Cunyngham's medals on display at the Gordon Highlanders Museum, Aberdeen
(Picture - Thomas Stewart).
South Africa War Memorial, Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst
Boer War Memorial, Cheltenham
(Picture - Derek Walker)