b. 25/05/1829 Pembrokestown, Ireland. d. 14/01/1872 Bruges, Belgium.
Thomas Esmonde (1829-1873) was born in Pembrokestown, County Waterford, Ireland on 25th May 1829, the son of Captain James Esmonde, Royal Navy and of Anna Maria Murphy, of Ringmahon, County Cork. His older brother, Sir John Esmonde, was the 10th Baronet and an MP. Thomas was educated at Clongowes Wood College, Ireland from 1840 to 1846. After leaving school, he joined the 18th Royal Irish Regiment as an Ensign in November 1851, and saw service in India and in the Burmese Campaign of 1852-53, receiving the campaign medal and clasp for Pegu, and was promoted to Lieutenant on 7th June 1853.
Soon afterwards, Lieutenant Esmonde was posted to the Crimean Peninsula where he was mostly involved in the Siege and Capture of Sebastopol between 30th December 1854 and 27th July 1855. He was promoted to Captain on 6th April 1855. During his time in the trenches in front of Sebastopol, he would perform two separate acts of gallantry which would later to see the award of the Victoria Cross. On 18th June 1855, after he had participated in the assault on the Redan, he repeatedly assisted, at great personal risk, in rescuing wounded men from exposed positions. Two days later, he was in command of a covering party when he rushed forward to a spot where a fireball had lodged. He then quickly extinguished the fireball before it could betray the location of his men, thus saving his men from the murderous fire which was immediately opened up where the fireball had fallen.
Captain Esmonde was awarded the Crimean Medal with clasp, Turkish Medal and the Brevet of Major for his service in the Crimea, and on 25th September 1857, it was announced that he would be awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry on 18th and 20th June 1855. Esmonde was awarded his medal by Queen Victoria on 2nd August 1858 at Southsea, Hampshire.
He had been promoted to Major on 29th December 1857, and shortly after the investiture of the VC, in November 1858, he married at Gardiner Street, Dublin, Matilda O’Kelly, daughter of De Pentony O’Kelly, Esquire, of Barrettstown, County Kildare. Thomas and Matilda would have five children: Thomas Louis, Eva Mary, Matilda Mary Josephine, Frances and Georgiana Helen Mary. He became Lieutenant Colonel and Aide de Camp to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on 2nd December 1868, and retired on that date by the sale of his commission. On leaving the service, he was appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, Deputy Inspector General of the Royal Irish Constabulary.
In 1872, Esmonde suffered a riding accident when jumping a thorn fence, he was struck in the eye by a branch. The injured eye became infected, and soon the other eye was also affected. Esmonde never recovered from the accident, and after short illness, he died in Bruges, Belgium on Sunday, 14th January 1872, aged just 45. He was buried in the Town Cemetery in Bruges. Esmonde’s great nephew, Eugene Kingsmill Esmonde would later receive a posthumous Victoria Cross in the Second World War. Esmonde’s medals are on loan from the Esmonde family to the Imperial War Museum and displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: BRUGES CEMETERY, BRUGES, BELGIUM. PLOT 4 GRAVE 55
Kevin Brazier – Grave Image in Bruges, Belgium.