b. 23/12/1833 Stirling, Scotland. d. 01/04/1914 Summer Hill, New South Wales, Australia.
John Paton (1833-1914) was born in Stirling, Scotland, on 23rd December 1833, the son of a soldier. Therefore, John’s career choice was probably inevitable, to follow his father’s footsteps and join the 93rd Regiment of Foot (later Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) in 1854. Paton served in the Crimean War, and saw action at Balaklava where he was quoted as saying “we suffered most hardship, badly fed, badly clothed and badly armed. We were given guns in the Crimea which would not punch a hole through a pound of butter at 50 yards. The Russians used to laugh at us.”
At the end of the Crimean War, Paton’s regiment returned to Scotland but was soon dispatched to China; on their way the Indian Mutiny erupted and they were diverted. Now just 23 years old, he had been promoted to sergeant, and, during a day that saw his regiment in almost constant fighting (16th November 1857), he discovered a way into the Shah Najaf Mosque. He managed to get in alone under extremely heavy fire and discovered a breach. He later led his regiment through the breach and this saw him noticed by his fellow NCOs and they nominated him for the VC.
Paton’s citation was published on 24th December 1858, and he was presented with his medal by Major-General Sir R Garrett at Umbeyla in India on 6th July 1859. After his regiment was recalled to England, and were stationed at Dover, Paton had a curious altercation with the teenage Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII) when he was cleaning his kit at the barracks, when he was repeatedly interrupted by a young lad to whom Paton lost his patience. When told “Do you know who that is?”, Paton’s reply was “I don’t and I don’t care either.” When Paton was told of the young man’s identity, he didn’t have time to apologise, and when Queen Victoria heard of the incident, she decided that her son deserved the rebuke!
Paton decided to leave the Army shortly afterwards in 1861, and he emigrated to Australia. He found employment in the colonial penal system and held senior positions in a variety of prisons including becoming Governor of Goulburn and Berrima Jails. In retirement he moved to Summer Hill, New South Wales in 1896, where he lived with his wife and daughters. He died aged 81 on 1st April 1914, and was buried in Rookwood Cemetery, West Sydney, Australia. His medals are held by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum, Stirling Castle.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ARGYLL/SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS, STIRLING, SCOTLAND.
BURIAL PLACE: ROOKWOOD CEMETERY, SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES, AAA-414
Andy Wright – Image of the Paton VC Medal Group at the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum, Stirling.