George Waller VC

b. 01/06/1827 West Horsley, Surrey. d. 10/01/1877 Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex.

George, the son of Charles Waller (1791 – 1885) and Martha Kitchen (1796 – 1856) was baptised at East Horsley, Surrey on 28th June 1828, although the entry does not give his date of birth. George was one of thirteen children born to Charles and Martha between 1813 and 1841, nine of them were baptised at East Horsley, and all, except one, seems to have survived to adulthood. While we cannot say how George spent his childhood, the 1841 census records him at home in East Horsley aged 14. He was the eldest of the five children then still at home. He enlisted in the 3rd Regiment at Great Bookham on 21/10/1843, when underage, and this was noted on his army papers.

George Waller VC Medal Group Royal Green Jackets Museum

He eventually transferred to the 1st battalion 60th regiment (the Kings Royal Rifle Corps) on 31/06/1844. This would appear to be just after his 16th birthday. He was promoted to corporal on 08/02/1852 and sergeant on 21/03/1855 becoming a colour sergeant on 06/04/1858. He reverted to a sergeant on 07/08/1861 and was then transferred to the 13th Sussex Volunteers, on loan, from 27/12/1861 until 15/07/1865. He completed just over 21 years service and his discharge, with pension, was at his own request. He had served in India from 20/12/1845 until 16/03/1860 when he returned to this country and was billeted in the Dover barracks. His discharge papers are dated 15/02/1865 with his final discharge being at Dublin on 07/03/1865.

There was much unrest in India during George Waller’s 14 year deployment. The East India Company was losing its hold over India with the local populations actively rebelling against their rule. The British army were sent to reinforce the rule of law, however the Indian rebellion in 1857 finally saw the end of the rule of the East India Company. During his time in India George was awarded the Punjab medal with two clasps and the Indian Mutiny medal with a clasp for the action at Delhi. It was during this action at Delhi that he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

He had the honour of being elected by the Non-Commissioned Officers of the Regiment, the only Sussex recipient of the VC to be so honoured. His medals are currently on display at the Royal Green Jackets Museum in Winchester. The citation for his award was published in the London Gazette on 20th January 1860 and the medal was presented to him by Queen Victoria at Windsor on 09/11/1860 during the birthday parade of the Prince of Wales.

While life must have been hard in India, it wasn’t all work. He met widow Elizabeth Sutcliffe, nee Stephenson, and they were married on 26/07/1859 at St Mary’s Benares in the diocese of Calcutta. Elizabeth was the widow of Joseph Sutcliffe. The 1871 census, taken on 02/04/1871, records the family living at 1 Townfield Cottages in Pitt Lane. However later that year George took over the tenancy of The Oak beerhouse in the High Street from James King. George died at home at the Oak on 10/01/1877 from Hematemesis with his wife present. He was just 49. George was clearly highly regarded in the parish, as witness the number of people who attended his funeral, the lengthy newspaper obituary, the entries in the baptismal and burial registers. He ran a business as a beerhouse keeper and he received an army pension. He had sufficient effects for probate to be necessary. He may not have been well off, but he was not a pauper, and while his grave was not marked by a stone this was also not unusual for the period. This was rectified in 2014 when a headstone was placed.