George Hinckley VC

b. 22/06/1819 Liverpool. d. 31/12/1904 Plymouth, Devon.

George Hinckley (1819-1904) was born in Liverpool on 22nd June 1819, and enlisted with the Royal Navy from a young boy. Hinckley would be awarded the VC for his actions during the Third China War on 9th October 1862 while an Able Seaman aboard HMS Sphinx.

George Hinckley VC

On that day at Fengua, China, Hinckley volunteered to go to the rescue of the assistant master of HMS Sphinx, who was lying in the open badly wounded. He went out under heavy continuous fire and carried the assistant master to the shelter of a jess house 150 yards away. He later rescued a wounded army captain. His citation was published on 6th February 1863. He was presented with his VC on 7th July 1863 by the Commander in Chief of Plymouth, Admiral Sir H Stewart at Devonport. Later that year, whilst attending a funeral, Hinckley lost his VC and requested a replacement medal which was granted.

Hinckley retired from the Navy as a Quartermaster, and he died at his home, 44 North Street in Plymouth on 31st December 1904, aged 85. He was buried in Ford Park Cemetery, Plymouth. His Victoria Cross surfaced when it was sold at auction on the 1st January 1925 for £43, and again on 19th July 1962 when it was bought by the respected medal dealer Baldwin’s, who purchased the VC at a Glendining’s auction for £440. The VC was engraved “GEORGE HINCKLEY, ABLE SEAMAN, 9TH, OCTR, 1862”.

Almost immediately after the sale of Hinckley’s VC at the Glending auction of 19th July 1962, the Royal Naval Barracks in Portsmouth claimed they held the original replacement Victoria Cross, which had been hanging in the Barrack Wardroom for at least forty years. The VC was engraved “G. HINCKLEY, OCT. 9TH. 1862” and was hung from a blue ribbon.

A director of Glendining’s stated “we are satisfied that the medal we sold was genuine after being examined by Hancocks who gave it a clean bill of health”. Glendining’s suggested to the RN Barracks that they also submit their VC to Hancocks for verification, which they did, and after examination was declared an “excellent copy”, but was not genuine.

Following the 19th July sale, and to make matters even more confusing, a third Victoria Cross was taken into Glendining’s office by an anonymous person claiming it was the original Hinckley VC. After examination it was dismissed by Glendining’s and Hancocks as a copy. This VC was engraved “GEO. HINCKLEY A.B., OCTOBER, 9TH, 1962.

The Glendining’s Victoria Cross was next seen at a Sotheby’s auction, held on the 10th November 1988, where it was described in the sale catalogue as “The official replacement ‘Second China War’ Victoria Cross”, engraved as above to, “GEORGE HINCKLEY, ABLE SEAMAN, 9TH, OCTR, 1862”. The Cross was sold to an anonymous buyer for £3,630.

It is known that a fourth George Hinckley Victoria Cross, which is in private hands, was acquired from an unknown source in 1991, the buyer believing it to be the replacement VC issued to Hinckley in November 1863. The engraving on this particular VC, “AB GEO HINCKLEY, 9TH, OCT, 1862”, is what might be expected of a Hancocks produced Cross. However, the provenance of this VC has not yet been proven.





Kevin Brazier – Image of the Hinckley VC headstone in Ford Park Cemetery.