b. 1823 Lambeth, London. d. 04/04/1876 Holborn, London.
James Hollowell (1823-1876) was born in Lambeth, South London in 1823, and as a young man, enlisted into the 78th Regiment of Foot (Seaforth Highlanders), and took part in the Persian War, prior to his involvement in the Indian Mutiny which broke out in 1857. Hollowell’s actions during the Relief of Lucknow on the 26th September 1857 are nicely summed up in an account written by Surgeon Anthony Dickson Home VC who said thus…
“Private Hollowell, a straggler from the 78th Highlanders, was the crack shot of our little band. Whenever the enemy came forward to storm the house, he repeatedly killed the foremost man; and the rest fell back. At last, he had the opportunity of taking a long shot at their chief leader – a vociferous old man with a red beard and turban, and armed with a sword and shield – who died on the spot. After that, most of the enemy went away. And none too soon, as we had only seven rounds left to fire.”
Hollowell was recommended for the VC and his citation dated 18th June 1858 stated his “most admirable manner” as he “directed, encouraged and led others, exposing himself fearlessly” and “prevailed on nine dispirited men to make a successful defence, in a burning house, with the enemy firing through four windows.” He was promoted to Lance-Corporal and was presented with his VC by General Sir James Outram in 1858.
After the Indian Mutiny, Hollowell returned to England, and became a commissionaire outside a gentleman’s outfitter’s in Oxford Street. In 1867, he was approached by Archibald Forbes, a famous war correspondent, who was starting a new journal entitled “The London Scotsman”. In the journal, there was a serialised unpublished novel about the Indian Mutiny, and due to his lack of knowledge about the conflict, he paid Hollowell 5 shillings an interview for giving detailed and colourful descriptions of his experiences, which Forbes put into his story. Hollowell died at 20, Gloucester Street, Queen’s Square, Holborn on 4th April 1876, aged 42. He was buried in Brookwood Cemetery in a Corps of Commissionaires Plot. A new headstone was placed on his grave in 2000. His medals are held by the Queen’s Own Highlanders Museum, Fort George, Inverness-shire.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: QUEENS OWN HIGHLANDERS, FORT GEORGE.
BURIAL PLACE: BROOKWOOD CEMETERY, BROOKWOOD, SURREY.
CORPS OF COMMISSIONAIRES PLOT, GRAVE 70067
Thomas Stewart – Images of the Hollowell VC Medal Group at the Queens Own Highlanders Museum, Fort George, Scotland.