George Bell Chicken VC

b. 02/03/1833 Wallsend, Northumberland. d. 05/1860 Bay of Bengal.

George Bell Chicken (1833-1860) was born on 2nd March 1833 in Wallsend, Northumberland, and his early career saw him became a Master Mariner at the age of just 20 in 1853. Strictly speaking, he was not in the Royal Navy but he did volunteer for the Indian Naval Brigade and was appointed into the service on 31st July 1858. A few months later he left for Buxar to join No. 3 Detachment of the Naval Brigade, serving in the rough broken country and jungles of Jagdispur in Bengal.

No Image Available

In the action at Suhnejnee, near Peroo on 27th September 1858, he charged with Rattray’s Sikhs and was soon well ahead of the party. He caught up with a party of about twenty rebels and charged them, killing five until he was knocked off his horse and wounded. Fortunately at that moment, the rest of the Sikhs arrived and rescued him. For his determination and gallantry he was recommended for the VC, which was gazetted on 27th April 1860. Unfortunately, George would not live long enough to learn of his award or receive his medal. He was one of only five civilians, and the last, to be awarded the VC. His VC is described as “the only Naval VC to be won on horse-back”.

He had returned to Calcutta on 30th November 1859 and in March 1860 was given command of H.M. Schooner ‘Emily’ which was subsequently lost at sea with all hands in a violent squall off Sandheads in the Bay of Bengal in May 1860. His body was not recovered. His original medal was posted to India, and should have been returned to England following his death. A duplicate but official VC was presented to his father in 1862. The original VC was auctioned on 26th October 2006 at Morton & Eden in London, and was purchased for £48,000 on behalf of the Ashcroft Collection and is now displayed in the Imperial War Museum.