b. 1827 Edinburgh, Scotland. d. 20/10/1869 Strand, London.
William Reynolds (1827-1869) was born at 5 Jamaica Street, in the parish of St Stephen’s near Edinburgh, Scotland in 1827. As a trade, William trained to become a mason. He soon decided that the Army might be a better career for him, and on 2nd April 1846, 19 year-old William enlisted with the Scots Fusiliers Regiment of Foot Guards. He was described on his attestation papers as having a fresh complexion, grey eyes and black hair. He was also 5ft 11in tall and had a tattoo of an anchor on his left arm.
Reynolds was posted with his Regiment to the Crimea on the outbreak of War in 1854. He would be present at the three main battles of Alma, Balaklava and Inkerman, and at the siege of Sebastopol. It was at the first major battle of the War at Alma on 20th September 1854, that William would be awarded the Victoria Cross.
The details of his actions which would lead to the award of the VC are quite brief. As a member of No 4 Company, he was ordered to defend the Regimental Colours and Queen’s Colours as they attacked a hillside protected by a Russian artillery battery. Despite coming under very heavy fire, which saw the Queen’s Colours shot completely in half after being hit by 24 bullets, Private Reynolds and his comrades continued to rally the rest of troops and pressed on up the hill.
Reynolds was one of four members of the party to be awarded the VC (London Gazette, 24th February 1857) and was presented with his medal by Queen Victoria at Hyde Park on 26th June 1857. Reynolds remained in the Scots Fusiliers Guards for another ten years, when on his own request, he was discharged on 15th October 1867 to a pension at the age of 40 years and two months. Reynolds intended to move to London having left the Guards.
Reynolds did indeed move to London and became a banker’s messenger, but sadly, he passed away aged just 42 at his home in The Strand on 20th October 1869. He was buried in a common grave in Brookwood Cemetery, marked only with a small metal disc. In 2007, after extensive research by the Scots Guards Association and the military history group The One o’Clock Association, his grave was located, and a new headstone was erected on the site.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: SCOTS GUARDS RHQ, WELLINGTON BARRACKS, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: BROOKWOOD CEMETERY, WOKING, SURREY
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
William Reynolds' medals on display at Scots Guards RHQ, London (Thomas Stewart).