b. 26/09/1827 Boulogne, France. d. 13/02/1907 Southsea, Hampshire.
Sir Henry James Raby (1827-1907) was born on 26th September 1827 in Boulogne, France, the son of Arthur Turnour Raby of Llanelly, Carmarthenshire, Wales. He was educated at Sherborne School and entered the Royal Navy in 1842 as a first class Volunteer on HMS Monarch. In 1848, he was rated Mate, and two years later received his commission as Lieutenant. In this grade he served for some time on HMS Wasp on the west coast of Africa, and on the outbreak of the war with Russia in 1854, he was sent to the Black Sea. There he landed with the Naval Brigade, and served in the trenches from 23rd October 1854 until 16th September 1855.
As Second in Command of a ladder party during the assault on the Redan on 18th June 1855, he would later be awarded the VC, which would be announced on 24th February 1857. During the assault on the Redan, a soldier of the 57th Regiment of Foot was seen calling for assistance having been shot through both legs. Climbing over the breastwork of the advanced sap, Commander Raby and two seamen (Henry Curtis and John Taylor) proceeded over 70 yards of open space towards the salient angle of the Redan, and, in spite of the heavy fire, succeeded in taking the wounded man to a place of safety. All three men were recommended for the award by Captain Stephen Lushington.
As well as the later award of the Victoria Cross, he was awarded the Legion of Honour, the Crimean, Sardinian and Turkish Medals, with clasps for Sebastopol and Inkerman, and the 5th Order of the Medjidie. Commander Raby was the first man to be decorated for the Victoria Cross at the first investiture on 26th June 1857. Raby did suffer at the investiture, as Queen Victoria accidently pinned the medal into Raby’s chest, not just through his uniform. Raby then dutifully stood to attention, despite the pain, whilst the other 61 men were decorated.
Following short spells on HMS Medusa and HMS Weser, Raby was then appointed to command of HMS Alecto on the West Coast of Africa between 1859-1862. During this, he commanded the boats of the squadron at the capture of Fort Nova, when he was wounded, and for this and other services in the suppression of the slave trade, he was repeatedly mentioned in despatches. He received his promotion to the rank of Captain in November 1862, for his services on the West Coast.
In 1862, Captain Raby married Judith, daughter of Colonel Watkin Forster, of Holt Manor, Trowbridge. He next commanded the HMS Adventure on the China Station from 1868 to 1871. He would also receive the thanks of the Foreign Office in 1868 for the conclusion of a treaty with the chiefs of the Old Calabar River. In 1877 he retired from the Active List, and his subsequent promotion to Rear Admiral was gained in retirement in 1878. He had in 1875 been made a Companion of Bath (Military) and was also granted a Good Service pension. Admiral Raby spent his latter days in Southsea, Hampshire, where he took a great interest in the Royal Seamen and Marines’ Orphanage, the Royal Sailors’ Home, and in various other philanthropic institutions in the town. He died on the morning of 13th February 1907 at his residence, 8 Clarence Parade, Southsea.
Raby was buried in Highland Road Cemetery, Portsmouth, and his medals are held in the Ashcroft Collection at the Imperial War Museum, London.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON
BURIAL PLACE: HIGHLAND ROAD CEMETERY, PORTSMOUTH, HAMPSHIRE.
Thomas Stewart – Image of the Raby VC Grave, and the Raby VC Plaque in Llangellie, Wales.
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map.