Edward Denman Thornburgh-Cropper DSO AM

b. 23/05/1854 Swaylands, Kent.  d. 29/03/1901 London.

DATE OF AM ACTION: 06/08/1878 San Francisco, California.

Edward D Thornburgh-Cropper DSO AM

Edward Denman Thornburgh Cropper was born at Swaylands, Kent, in 1855, the only son of four children born to Edward and Margaret Cropper (nee Denman). He was educated at Eton and at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Commissioned Sub-Lieutenant in the West Kent Militia on 20 May 1875, he was advanced to Captain on 20 March 1878. Edward married Minnie Virginia Shepherd Thornburgh on 4th June 1874 at Harrison Street, San Francisco, California. They would divorce in 1897 with no children.

In August 1878, Thornburgh Cropper, whilst a passenger on board the 1,077 ton, 3 deck steamship Idaho, two miles from the shore in the Bay of San Francisco, made an unsuccessful attempt to rescue the life of a suicidal crewman who had thrown himself overboard. For his unsuccessful attempt to rescue the crewman, and one where it was considered that the risk of death to Thornburgh Cropper exceeded his chances of survival, he was awarded both the Albert Medal and the Royal Humane Society’s Bronze Medal, the latter being sent to him in February 1879.

Thornburgh Cropper returned from America and served throughout the Zulu War as orderly officer and extra Aide-de-Camp to Sir Evelyn Wood, V.C., and was present at Ulundi and with the flying column. He was Mentioned in Despatches (London Gazette 21 August 1879), in which it is stated that he and Colonel the Hon. R. Needham, as orderly officers, ‘have worked continuously in assisting to get the column transport forward on the line of march’. He retired from the West Kent Militia on 29 January 1881, and was appointed a Captain in the Royal Pembroke Artillery on 29 June of that year. During the First Boer War in 1881 he again served as orderly officer to Sir Evelyn Wood, and was again Mentioned in Despatches. Following his return from South Africa he transferred to the Pembroke Yeomanry as a Lieutenant on 19 August 1885, and was promoted Captain on 15 June 1893.

Having reportedly served in the Spanish-American War in Cuba, Thornburgh Cropper was gazetted a Captain with the 30th (Pembrokeshire) Company, 9th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry, and served during the South African War. He was dangerously wounded near Bethlehem, in the Orange Free State, on 29 December 1900, most likely having fallen victim to the Boer’s isolated but effective guerrilla tactics and dumdum bullets. The following month he was promoted Major and honorary Lieutenant-Colonel in the Pembroke Yeomanry Cavalry.

Mentioned in Lord Roberts’ Despatch (London Gazette 10 September 1901), and created a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order for his services in South Africa, tragically Thornburgh Cropper did not live to receive either award, dying on 29 March 1901 from influenza and pneumonia whilst recuperating in London from an operation, presumably related to the severe wound he had received exactly three months previously. Described by an officer who knew him well, ‘he was an exceedingly popular officer in “club-land”, and also in the county. He has been described as one of the “Dare Devils” in the British Army.



At 11 A.M., on 6th August, 1878, as the steamship “Idaho,” belonging to the Pacific Coast Steamship Company, was in the act of crossing the bar of San Francisco Bay, outward bound, about two miles from the shore, Thomas Nolan, a coloured waiter, threw himself overboard. Immediately there was a cry of “a man overboard,” and Captain CROPPER, a passenger, without a moment’s hesitation, threw off his coat and waistcoat, rushed to the stern, and jumped overboard. Although Captain CROPPER made a most gallant and determined attempt to reach the drowning man, Nolan sank before he was reached. Captain CROPPER was subsequently picked up by the steamer’s lifeboat, after being in the water five-and-twenty minutes. The steamship was going eight knots at the time, and there was a high sea running with a westerly wind.






Dix Noonan Webb – Images of the Thornburgh-Cropper DSO AM Medal Group.