John Sullivan VC CGM

b. 19/04/1830 Bantry, County Cork, Ireland. d. 28/06/1884 Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland.

John Sullivan (1830-1884) was born on 19th April 1830 in Bantry, County Cork, Ireland, and from a young age, John was determined to escape the troubles of the Irish Potato Famine and decided to enlist with the Royal Navy. On the outbreak of the Crimean War, Sullivan had reached the rank of Boatswain’s Mate and was serving aboard HMS Rodney. In order to launch an assault onto the Crimean Peninsula, a Naval Brigade was formed, and crew of several royal naval ships including HMS Rodney were selected to take part. Sullivan was one of the men selected.

John Sullivan VC CGM

Sullivan was appointed Captain of one of the guns, and had the honour of making the first breach in the Malakoff Battery, and also of blowing up the magazine at the commencement of the siege of Sebastopol. After attracting the attention of the commanding officer of the Naval Brigade, Sir Stephen Lushington, Sullivan and his crew were, with their gun, removed to the Greenhill Battery.

On 10th April 1855, a volunteer was asked for to take out a flagstaff, and place it on a mound which hid a well-known battery from the view of the sentries. Sullivan, feeling that as captain of the gun any dangerous duty ought to be performed by him, at once offered his services. On reaching the mound, he looked both ways to make sure he was on direct line between the British guns and the Russian battery. He then proceeded to use his hands to make a hole for the flagstaff, and then collect stones and earth to bank it up. During this action, he was exposed to a continuous fire from some Russian sharpshooters posted not too far away. Sullivan decided to stick to his task despite the risks, and completed it.

Sullivan was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry on 24th February 1857. Sullivan was not present at the first investiture at Hyde Park on 26th June 1857. Following his actions in the Crimea, he was decorated with numerous other medals other than the VC, including the Legion of Honour, Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, Sardinian Medal, Royal Humane Society Medal, Turkish Medal and Crimean Medal with two clasps.

Following his service in the Crimea, Sullivan became a boatswain at Portsmouth Dockyard, a job that he did for many years. Tragically, Sullivan fell on hard times, and having returned to Ireland, he committed suicide on 28th June 1884 in Kinsale, County Cork. Recent research completed by Shane McCormack and Fergal Browne has uncovered that Sullivan was buried in an unmarked grave in Nohoval Churchyard, County Cork. With the support of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association, a memorial stone will be placed in the churchyard on 6th July 2024. His medals are not publicly held, but a replica is displayed in the ward room of HMS Nelson in Portsmouth, Hampshire.





Fergal Browne – Image of the new headstone to John Sullivan VC CGM.