Edmund Joseph O’Toole VC

b. ? Ireland. d. 1891 Salisbury (now Harare), Zimbabwe.

Edmund O’Toole (?-1891) is a mysterious recipient of the Victoria Cross. His birthdate is unknown, but it is believed he was born in Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland. Some sources disagree with this and believe he hailed from South Africa but it is difficult to be certain. Little is known of his early life, but it is known that by 1879, he was a Sergeant in the Cape Frontier Light Horse during the conflict with the Zulus.

Edmund J O’Toole VC

On the 3rd July 1879, during the Battle of Ulundi, a reconnoitring party was retiring from gaining information on Zulu strength and position, Captain Lord William Beresford of the 9th Lancers, went to the aid of Sergeant Fitzmaurice of the 24th Regiment of Foot, whose horse had fallen and rolled on top of him. The Zulus were approaching rapidly and in great numbers, but Beresford, assisted by O’Toole, managed to mount the injured man behind. O’Toole was using his revolver to shoot approaching Zulus whilst Beresford worked. Fitzmaurice was so disorientated he was struggling to stay on his horse, so O’Toole gave up his carbine so that he could ride alongside, and keep Fitzmaurice steady on Beresford’s horse.

Initially, only Beresford was recommended for the Victoria Cross, but following evidence from Fitzmaurice and Beresford, O’Toole was also included, and was duly gazetted on 9th October 1879. O’Toole received his VC from Sir Garnet Wolseley at an investiture in Pretoria in December 1879. Little is known what happened to O’Toole after his VC except that he rose to the rank of Captain. He died in 1891 in Salisbury (now Harare), Zimbabwe, and his final resting place is not known, though is believed to be somewhere in the city. His medals are not publicly held.