b. 11/04/1832 Stert, Wiltshire. d. 08/05/1907 Bath, Somerset.
George Vincent Fosbery (1832-1907) was born on 11th April 1832 at Stert Cottage near Devizes in Wiltshire. Stert at that time was a small hamlet, part of a rural farming community, and remains little changed today. His father, the Rev. Thomas Vincent Fosbery was the chaplain to Bishop Samuel Wilberforce of Oxford who later became Bishop of Winchester. George Vincent was one of seven children, two of his siblings dying as children.
George was educated at Eton (1846-50). In 1858 he married Emmeline Georgiana, daughter of Captain Percy Hall RN. They had ten children, many of whom later emigrated to Canada. In 1852 George signed up to the Bengal Army where he was promoted to Captain in 1864, Major in 1868 and Lt. Colonel in 1874. During this time, he was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallant conduct during the Umbeyla Campaign in 1863.
The Umbeyla (also spelt as Ambela) campaign was one of the numerous expeditions led by British forces in the border area between the Emirate of Afghanistan and the Punjab Province of British India. This area was formally renamed the North West Frontier Province in 1901 and is known today as the Khyber Pakhtunkwa. This campaign was against local Pashtuns of Yusufzai tribes of the border region between British India and Afghanistan.
The local Pashtuns were vehemently opposed to British Colonial rule and frequently attacked British Forces. In 1858 an expedition led by Sir Sydney Cotton drove the Pashtuns from their base. By 1863, however, they had regrouped around the mountain outpost of Malka. A force led by Neville Bowles Chamberlain planned to destroy Malka. He set up an operational base in the Chamla Valley accessed by the Ambela Pass but they were soon bogged down by a numerically superior local force.
On 30th October 1863 Lieutenant Fosbery led a party of his regiment (4th Bengal) to recapture the Crag Picquet after its garrison had been pinned down by the enemy andsixty of them killed. The approach to the Crag was very narrow but the Lieutenant led his party with great coolness and was the first man to gain the top of the Crag from his side. Subsequently when the commanding officer was wounded, Lieutenant Fosbery assembled a raiding party and pursued the routed enemy inflicting on them further losses. The British had restored peace but at the cost of 1,000 casualties.
Fosbery was awarded the VC on 7th July 1865, and it is unknown when he received his medal. He retired from the Army in 1877, and devoted himself to the perfecting of machine guns, being the first to introduce them to the British Government. He invented the “Paradox Gun” and the automatic revolver which bears his name. He also introduced an explosive bullet, as a means of ascertaining range for infantry and mountain guns. He died aged 75 in Gay Street, Bath whilst visiting his nephew on 8th May 1907, and was buried three days later in St Mary’s Churchyard, Smallcombe, Bath. His medals were purchased at auction on 17th August 1997 in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada by the Ashcroft Collection for $45,000, and is displayed in the Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: ST MARY’S CHURCHYARD, BATH, AVON.
Steve Lee www.memorialstovalour.co.uk – Image of Fosbery VC’s grave in St Mary’s Churchyard, Smallcombe, Bath.