James Langley Dalton VC

b. 1833 London. d. 07/01/1887 Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

James Langley Dalton (1832-1887) was born in December 1832/possibly January 1833 in St Andrew’s Parish, London. He enlisted in 85th Regiment of Foot (later the Buckinghamshire Volunteers) in November 1849 aged 17. He transferred to the Commissariat Corps in 1862 as a Corporal, and was promoted to Sergeant in the following year. Four years later, he became a clerk and a Master-Sergeant. He served with Sir Garnet Wolseley on the Red River Expedition (Canada) in 1870.

James L Dalton VC 2

He retired from the army, with a Long Service & Good Conduct medal in 1871 after 22 years service. By 1877, he was in South Africa and volunteered for service as Acting Assistant Commissary with the British Force. It was largely due to his experience, which made the defence of Rorke’s Drift a success. At first his contribution was not recognised; however reports of his actions finally reached the ears of senior officers and even Queen Victoria.

His recommendation for the Victoria Cross was finally approved and the citation published in the London Gazette on 17th November 1879. During the night of 22nd/23rd January that year, he was actively involved in organising the defences. He was in the front line of defence, when the first Zulu assault was made on the hospital. It was the accurate firing of Dalton and his men which checked the Zulu advance, and he also saved the life of a man from the Army Hospital Corps, by shooting the Zulu who about to stab him with his assegai. Dalton was severely wounded during the fight, but continued to inspire with his courage.

He received his VC from General Hugh Clifford VC at a special parade at Fort Napier on 16 January 1880. He returned to army service being given a permanent commission. He sailed for England in February 1880. He soon returned to South Africa and took part shares in a gold mine. It is thought that he went to stay with his old friend, ex-Sgt John Sherwood Williams, at the Grosvenor Hotel, Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape just before Christmas 1886. After spending the 7th January 1887 in bed, he died suddenly during the night, aged 53. He was buried in Russell Road RC Cemetery, Port Elizabeth. His medals are held by the Royal Logistic Corps Museum, Camberley, Surrey.





Steve Lee www.memorialstovalour.co.uk – Images of James Dalton VC’s grave in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Thomas Stewart – Image of Dalton VC’s medal group at the Royal Logistic Corps Museum, Camberley.