b. 24/09/1820 Forebridge, Staffordshire. d. 12/07/1876 Kirkstall, Victoria, Australia.
Charles Pye (1820-1876) was born in September 1820 and baptised on 24th September in Forebridge, Staffordshire. He had a long and active military career. He enlisted with the 40th Regiment of Foot (Somersetshire) and fought at the Battle of Maharajpur on 29th December 1843. He then transferred to the 21st (Royal Scots) Fusiliers and took part in the battles of the First Sikh War during the Sutlej Campaign of 1845-1846. He then transferred again to the 53rd Regiment of Foot (later King’s Shropshire Light Infantry) in time for the Second Sikh War in the Punjab Campaign of 1848-49 and also took part in the campaign of 1852 against the warring tribes on the North West Frontier.
Charles Pye had risen to the rank of Sergeant-Major by the time of the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny in 1857. He was recommended for the award of the VC (citation, 24th December 1858) by his fellow NCOs for his actions during the Relief of Lucknow on 17th November 1857. During the assault on Lucknow, he showed fearlessness and gallant conduct under heavy fire, when transporting ammunition boxes up to the Mess House and subsequent actions that day.
Pye would also take part in several other major actions of the Mutiny including action of Khujwah, Relief of Lucknow, Battle of Cawnpore, pursuit of the Gwalior Contingent to Serai Ghat, the action of Khodagunge and entry into Futtehghur. The storming and capture of Meangunge, siege and capture of Lucknow, affair of Koorsie, passage of the Goomtee and occupation of Sultanpore.
He received his medal by post sometime in 1859 whilst still serving in India. He was also rewarded with a commission to ensign adjutant and promoted to lieutenant in 1861. He then retired and emigrated with his family to New Zealand in 1862. He was commissioned as inspector and captain in the New Zealand Militia and took part in operations during the Maori Wars. Pye settled in Karaka Hill but on a visit to his father who was living in Australia, he died on 12th July 1876. He was buried in Tower Hill Cemetery, Koroit, Victoria. His medals were held by the family until purchased by a private collector. In June 2001, the private collector chose to donate the medals to the Auckland War Museum, Auckland, New Zealand.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: AUCKLAND WAR MUSEUM, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND.
BURIAL PLACE: TOWER HILL CEMETERY, KOROIT, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA.
Auckland War Museum – Images of the Pye VC Medal Group and of his VC medal.