b. 13/04/1837 Cawnpore, India. d. 01/04/1864 Pentonville Prison.
Valentine Bambrick (1837-1864) was born on 13th April 1837 in Cawnpore, India, to a father who was stationed there with the 11th Light Dragoons. Both his father and his uncle, after whom he was named, were troop sergeant majors in the 11th and had seen service at Waterloo to Bhurtpore. His older brother, John, would later join the 11th Hussars, as the 11th Light Dragoons became, and was one of the Gallant Six Hundred who charged down the North Valley at Balaklava.
When Valentine was just 16, he enlisted with the 1/60th Rifles, stationed in India. When the Mutiny broke out in 1857, the regiment was heavily involved at the Siege of Delhi and the hard campaigning that followed as the mutineers were hunted down. It was during the assault on the city of Bareilly, 140 miles east of Delhi, that Bambrick displayed outstanding courage as the British troops charged through the narrow streets and alleyways. A party of Ghazis cornered him and his company commander, Lieutenant Cromer Ashburnham. He managed to cut down one of the Ghazis, and fought off the other two, receiving two wounds in the process.
He received his VC in 1859 but there is no record of an investiture. When the 60th returned to the UK, Bambrick preferred to stay in India and transferred to the 87th (Royal Irish) Fusiliers. When they returned to Ireland, Bambrick took his discharge at Aldershot on 16th November 1863 and celebrated his introduction to civilian life with a night on the town. While he was relaxing in an establishment, he heard the cries of a woman from upstairs. Going to her aid, he found a commissariat sergeant named Russell beating a woman. Bambrick waded in and got the better of the NCO.
Later Russell brought a charge of assault and theft of his medals against Bambrick and was backed up by some of his fellow soldiers. Bambrick, at his own expense, paid for the female victim to stay in a hotel until the trial. When the trial began in Winchester on 3rd December 1863, his only defence witness had disappeared. Russell was able to call on his fellow soldiers as prosecution witnesses and their word was taken. Bambrick was found guilty and jailed for three years in Pentonville Prison.
This was harsh, but worse followed. Under the terms of the Royal Warrant, he was forced to forfeit his VC for the theft of a comrade’s medals. Bambrick tragically couldn’t handle the shame and hanged himself in prison on 1st April 1864. He was buried in an unmarked grave in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery, East Finchley. His medals are not publicly held.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NOT PUBLICLY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: ST PANCRAS CEMETERY, EAST FINCHLEY, LONDON.
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Plaque and Cemetery Map Images
Thomas Stewart – Medal image at Royal Green Jackets Museum, Winchester.