b. 26/08/1838 Mortlake, Surrey. d. 15/04/1893 Lambeth, London.
Edmund Henry Lenon (1838-1893) was born on 26th August 1838 in Mortlake, Surrey. He enlisted with the 67th Regiment of Foot (later Hampshire Regiment) and served in the China Campaign in 1860.
When, in 1860, the Chinese emperor declined to reply to a note demanding an apology for firing on British ships and his government’s failure to act on the provisions of the Treaty of Tientsin, a combined Anglo-French task force was sent to enforce compliance. The aim of the expedition was to force the Chinese from the Taku Forts positioned at the mouth of the Pei-ho river. In overall command of the assault was Major General Sir Robert Napier whose task was to expel the Chinese from the well defended Small North Fort.
At 06:00 on 21 August 1860, Napier gave the signal for the asault to begin. The attackers surged forward crossing a dry ditch and pouring through the abatis that had been smashed by the artillery. Two wet ditches were then crossed with great difficulty and upon reaching the fort’s wall the French erected ladders only to have them thrown down by the defenders. The troops, whose units had inevitably become intermingled, were crowded together at the base of the wall, being pelted with grenades, cannon shot, jars of quicklime and ‘stinkpots’ that gave off clouds of smoke. Desperate measures were needed urgently if the assault was to succeed. Close to the gate was Lieutenant Nathaniel Burslem and an Irishman, Private Thomas Lane, both of the 67th Regiment, who scrambled up to a narrow embrasure which they proceeded to widen, both sustaining serious wounds.
Not far away were Lieutenant Robert Rogers and Private John McDougall of the 44th Regiment who had swum the wet ditches, together with Lieutenant Edmund Lenon and Ensign John Chaplin both of the 67th, the latter carring the Queen’s Colour of the regiment. Lenon pushed his sword deep into the mud wall, supporting the hilt while Rogers used it as a step, fighting his way into the embrasure above. More men pushed their bayonets into the wall, creating a ladder up which Lenon, Chaplin and McDougall and others clambered up to join Rogers. At about the same time Burslem and Lane broke through their embrasure on to the ramparts. Men from both regiments then swarmed through the embrasures fighting their way at the point of the bayonet up the tower’s ramp enabling Chaplin to plant his Colour on the summit. The will of the Chinese, who until this point had fought stubbornly, suddenly collapsed and it was estimated that of the fort’s 500-strong garrison, 400 were either killed or wounded.
Lenon was recommended alongside Burslem, Lane, Rogers, McDougall and Chaplin for the VC, and his citation was published in London Gazette on 13th August 1861. Edmund Lenon was invested with his Victoria Cross by GOC Ireland, General Sir George Brown, at Kilmainham, Ireland, on 19 August 1862. After his retirement from the Army in 1869, he went on the London Stock Exchange where he made a considerable amount of money. Unfortunately, he later lost all of it in unlucky speculation and to raise some money pawned his VC and China War medal in 1886 for the princely sum of 10/- (50p)!
Edmund died in St Thomas’ Hospital, London aged 54 on 15th April 1893. He was buried in a pauper’s grave in Kensal Green Cemetery, London. He lay in the unmarked grave until 19th May 2007, when following the work of the Royal Hampshire Regiment and the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association they funded a new headstone to mark Edmund Lenon’s final resting place. With regard to his medals, they were rescued from the pawn shop, and eventually found their way into the hands of the Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum, Winchester.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT MUSEUM, WINCHESTER, HAMPSHIRE
BURIAL PLACE: KENSAL GREEN CEMETERY, LONDON.
SQUARE 154/2, GRAVE 34010
Kevin Brazier – Kensal Green Cemetery Map.