b. 1827 Killaine, County Cavan, Ireland. d. 20/08/1901 Romford, Essex.
James Owens (1827-1901) was born in 1827 in Killane, Baileyboro, County Cavan, Ireland. He enlisted with the 49th Regiment of Foot (now Royal Berkshire Regiment). During the Crimean War, he was present at the Battles of Alma, Inkerman and Sebastopol, and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 26th October 1854.
He was engaged in picket (or picquet) duty during the siege of Sebastopol. Picket duty refers to a small group of lookouts placed in an advanced position, in front of their main force, and thus in a highly dangerous position. The commander of the picket patrol that particular day was Lieutenant John Connolly, from County Donegal. The British were soon set upon by Russian troops in a surprise attack. The commander, Connolly, led the fierce resistance, until he was badly wounded, and lost consciousness from a loss of blood. Owens, who was near to his commanding officer, carried Connolly from the scene to a place of safety so his wounds could be tended to.
Owens was one of the first group of men to be gazetted for the Victoria Cross on 24th February 1857 (the list including several Irishmen alongside Owens). The date on Owens’ citation was incorrect stating his action took place on 30th October, when it was four days previous to that. Owens received his medal in person from Queen Victoria at the first investiture in Hyde Park on 26th June 1857. He was later promoted to Sergeant and was also awarded the Crimean Medal with three clasps. He retired from the Army shortly following the Crimea, and later became a warder at the Tower of London.
Owens died on Tuesday 20th August 1901 in Romford, Essex, at the age of 74 and was buried in Lorne Road Cemetery in Brentwood.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: THE RIFLES MUSEUM, SALISBURY, WILTSHIRE.
BURIAL PLACE: LORNE ROAD CEMETERY, BRENTWOOD, ESSEX. SECTION E, GRAVE 146.
Thomas Stewart – Image of Owens VC Medal Group at the Rifles Museum, Salisbury, Wiltshire.